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Viet Nam's Dau pagoda statues under restoration (April 24, 2003)

Monk Vu Khac Truong
HA TAY — Restoration has started on two ancient statues built up from the corpses of monks at Dau Pagoda, Ha Tay Province.

The monks, Vu Khac Minh and Vu Khac Truong, were uncle and nephew. Under the Buddhist names of Tu Dao Chan and Tu Dao Tam, they were head monks at the pagoda in the middle of the 17th century.

They died meditating in a cross-legged position and, 100 days after their death, their bodies were preserved in this position using a kind of local paint. Other materials, including a mixture of sand and honey, were built up over the bodies to create statues.

Time and climate damage have now decayed the statues. The body of Vu Khac Truong has a large hole in the chest, cracks in the stomach and loose finger and spinal bones.

"Scientists have to act quickly to preserve the bodies, or they will collapse after the next rainy season," said archaeologist Nguyen Lan Cuong from the Viet Nam Archaeology Institute.

He explained that the restoration process, which may take up to six months and cost more than VND350 million, would be carried out inside the pagoda, so that tourists may still visit and worship could still take place in the outer part.

Plaster versions of the statues will replace the originals during this period.

According to Cuong, specialists from various research agencies, including the History Museum of Viet Nam and the Fine Arts University, have seized the opportunity to restore these unique and historically-significant exhibits. —VNS

Reprinted with permission from Nhan Dan Newspaper


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