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Questions hang over fate of removed lion statues

Update: August, 28/2014 - 09:43
A pair of Chinese-style stone lions. — Photo xaluan

HA NOI  (VNS) — A pair of Chinese-style stone lions was removed from Gia Quat Pagoda in Long Bien District, Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Ho Anh Tuan said on Tuesday.

After the ministry promulgated a document prohibiting historical relics from using symbols unsuited to Vietnamese culture, deputy minister Dang Bich Lien led a group of cultural managers and inspectors to several sites in the capital in efforts to raise awareness about the policy. One such inspection prompted the Gia Quat Pagoda management board to return the Chinese-style stone lions guarding the gates to their donor.

Nong Quoc Thanh, vice director of the Heritage Department (under the ministry), said people donated such objects to pagodas and temples to express their faith and pray for safety. They were not aware that their foreign style rendered them unsuitable for Vietnamese historical relics and that exhibiting these objects at recognised sites violated the heritage law.

Following the ministry's guidelines, he recommended that the objects be sent back to donors as was done at the pagoda in Long Bien.

"We encourage the relic keepers and object donors to voluntarily remove the objects by the end of this year," he said. "Early next year, the ministry will send inspectors to relics to look for foreign-style objects."

However, when sending them back to the donors is not an option, figuring out what to do with the objects is not easy. The two lions guarding the gates of Mo Lao Pagoda in the capital's Ha Dong District arrived there over a decade ago; their owners will be difficult to track down.

"In our cramped quarters, I don't know where to place them," said Bach Ngoc Thuy, head of the managing board. "Even if we could find the donors, in my opinion, no one wants to exhibit these objects in their private houses, especially if they have been located at a spiritual place."

Experts offered various suggestions for dealing with this problem. History professor Tran Lam Bien suggested that sculptors turn the unsuitable objects into Vietnamese-style ones following samples issued by the Department of Fine Arts, Photography and Exhibition, while researcher Tran Hau Yen The proposed that they be placed in parks to mark the period when Vietnamese people borrowed from foreign culture.

Even deputy minister Tuan confessed that handling the large number of foreign lion statues throughout the country was complicated, saying that the ministry would co-operate with related agencies to find the most appropriate method. — VNS

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