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Ministry curbs use of foreign cultural symbols

Update: August, 15/2014 - 14:43
Fierce-looking stone lions and kylins guard the gate of Van Ho Pagoda in downtown Ha Noi. — Photo tuoitre.vn

HA NOI (VNS) — The Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry has promulgated a document warning agencies and individuals not to exhibit or use symbols or objects unsuited to Vietnamese customs and culture.

The document is issued because a number of foreign objects and symbols such as stone lions and kylins are being put at office gates, historical sites, pagodas and temples.

The ministry also urges localities to step up vigilance at public places and cultural sites to prevent the use of as well as to remove foreign symbols and objects.

Truong Minh Tien, deputy head of Ha Noi Culture, Sports and Tourism Department, admitted that many foreign objects have been placed at various historical sites in Ha Noi.

For example, at the Van Ho Pagoda, a three-door gate such as those used in China has been built. Several stone lions and kylins with fierce faces, sharp teeth and nails have been placed at the site.

"The use of foreign objects stems from people's lack of awareness," said Vi Kien Thanh, head of the ministry's Fine Arts, Photography and Exhibition Department. "They don't understand the meaning of these objects. I think people simply think that fierce-looking animal figures can guard the places." Thanh confirmed that the exhibition of stone lions and kylins had become a popular trend in the society, reflecting the public mindset to show off wealth.

Thanh said there are less fierce-looking Vietnamese-style stone lions and kylins, which express the simplicity of the Vietnamese people.

According to researcher Tran Hau Yen The, Vietnamese-style stone lions appear in Buddhist structures such as pagodas. Gemstones are often placed near the legs of the lion figures; their mouths do not contain sharp teeth and often have a large gemstone placed inside.

Vietnamese-style stone lions are often placed on low platforms rather than on high platforms, as with Chinese-style stone lions.

According the ministry's study, stone lions and kylins are mainly carved in the northern province of Ninh Binh and the central city of Da Nang. The ministry plans to ask workshops to produce Vietnamese-style stone lions and kylins instead of the present foreign-style ones.

Experts said the new objects introduced at temples also included metal horses, metal whips and metal armour placed recently at Phu Dong Temple in Gia Lam District of Ha Noi.

Ha Noi plans to check nearly 6,000 historical sites to remove the foreign symbols and objects following the directive from the ministry.

The ministry could apply the Law on Heritage to remove foreign symbols and objects from recognised historical sites and encourage private enterprises to do the same. — VNS

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