Millions of dollars needed to save Tây Phương Pagoda

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Tây Phương Pagoda’s statues suffer from peeling paint, while termites have attacked many pillars. Photo kenh14.vn

HÀ NỘI — Time waits for no man — and it seems pagodas are no different.

The Tây Phương Pagoda, a national heritage site in Thạch Thất District, Hà Nội, has been severely degraded over time and there is a real risk of collapse, which could damage the centuries-old statues inside.

Tây Phương is a combination of three pagodas Hạ, Trung and Thượng, all built in 17th century.

After many years without restoration or proper care, the pagoda’s main features have deteriorated. At the Trung and Thượng pagodas columns and pillars have termite damage while part of Hạ Pagoda’s tile roof has skewed and leaks when it rains.

The entrance’s laterite stone to the temple was broken, a trip hazard for visitors.

Many ancient statues have flaking paint or broken bases.

The problems will get worse if there are no activities to repair the pagoda in time. At the moment, many columns and pillars have been seriously spoiled by termites, which have attacked from the foot of the pillars to its joints with the beams,” nun Thích Đàm Thủy was quoted as saying on tuoitre.vn.

“Part of the construction may collapse while termite problem will spread to other areas, destroying the pagoda architecture and its wooden structure.”

In order to temporarily control the situation, the pagoda nuns have placed termite-baiting boxes at the foot of the pillars. To some columns which are badly damaged, holes have been drilled and filled with termiticide.

A base of a pillar is eaten by termite. — Photo cand.com.vn

“We were informed about Tây Phương Pagoda’s degradation and have taken action,” said Cấn Việt Hùng, deputy director of Thạch Thất District’s culture authority.

“We have reported to Hà Nội City’s leaders. The city’s Department of Culture and Sports is assigned to work with us to submit our restoration plan to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism for approval.

“The project has an estimated budget of VNĐ150 billion (US$6.56 million). Our decision is that the pagoda will be wholly repaired, preserving ancient features. We will not make it new,” he said, adding that the pagoda’s latest restoration was in 1990.

If the plan is approved, works on Tây Phương Pagoda will kick off in 2023 and are expected to be finished by 2025.

Tây Phương Pagoda is 40km northwest of Hà Nội centre. It is home to many masterpieces of Vietnamese Buddhist sculptures of the 18th century.

Among 64 statues are 18 Arhats date back nearly 300 years. The most impressive one is the statue of Guanyin Buddha with one thousand eyes and one thousand hands.

The pagoda is listed as the national special heritage site in 2014. A year later, a collection of more than 70 Buddha and Arhats statues were recognised as national treasures. — VNS

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