Viet Nam News
A 19-century Buddhist statue, a treasure of the Mễ Sở Pagoda in Hưng Yên Province’s Mễ Sở Commune, Văn Giang District, was stolen earlier this month.
The statute was retrieved on October 8, but the thieves haven’t been caught yet.
The statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva with 1,113 eyes and 1,113 hands is known for having the most eyes and hands in Việt Nam. It also has been praised as the most refined and beautiful statue among the three masterpieces of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva in the country.
Architect Lê Thành Vinh, rector of the Relics Preservation Institute, shares his views on protecting antiques in current times:
What do you think about the recent theft of the valuable statue?
I think it’s a distressing problem. Although we are sparing no efforts to preserve historical relics and traditional cultural heritage, we have been bogged down by several obstacles in the process.
The theft of antiques from relic sites has resulted in the disappearance of valuable historic objects, and material traces of traditional culture, which are irreplaceable.
What do you think has led to the increasing burglaries at relic sites? What do you think about the present protection of relics and antiques in localities?
Under the present system, there are sufficient management levels -- from central agencies to local authorities. Yet, the system seems to be just a formal administration without any concrete measures, and no clear mention of the rights and responsibilities of concerned individuals and organisations. That’s why there have been more and more cases of encroachment on relic sites and burglares of antiques.
I know that at many relic sites, only elders or head monks at the temples or pagodas are responsible for protecting the antiques using simple tools. Hence thieves have almost no difficulties if they are really determined to steal the antiques.
In fact, no one has taken responsibility for the many burglares and fires occurring at relic sites due to inefficiency of the management system.
If the concerned people are assigned proper responsibilities, things would be much more improved. If they consider national antiques as their property, they would care far more about their protection.
The case at Mễ Sở Pagoda has raised an alarm on the seriousness of the problem, as the statue was very large and heavy and not easy to move.
What measures do you think should be implemented to solve the problem?
I think at first we should define management rules, designed more clearly by the state, for each level, agency and individual in the system engaged in protecting relic sites. In other words, the management system needs to be more effective.
Concerned agencies should care about protecting and preserving relic sites each day. The job of protecting antiques should be given as much importance as the tasks of upgrading and exploiting the relic sites for tourism.
Concerned agencies should list antiques based on their value, which will help determine their risk of being stolen, based on that they can identify adequate protection and preservation measures.
Documents with guidelines on protecting antiques should be sent to local authorities for implementation.
Modern equipment and technical devices are available for guarding and preventing fires at relic sites.
Of course, it will be complicated to use these devices at relic sites. Still, depending on the relics site and the value of antiques, we should apply proper measures. — VNS