Giac Vien pagoda (address: 161/85/20 Lac Long Quan street, ward 3, district11, Ho Chi Minh City) has been so decayed that it could collapse at any time.
“(it’s) repeatedly said to rebuild the pagoda but nothing has been done for ten years”
The roof of the main worshipping hall was very old, degraded and depleted as its tiles broke and laid in disorder. According to the monks in the pagoda, as the roof was no longer able to prevent raining water from coming down and falling inside the building, all wooden statues and furniture deteriorated quickly.
Other parts in the architectural structure of the pagoda also degraded badly; some columns and beams were so decayed that some Buddhist devotees have reinforced its structure by just temporary and simple materials in order to prevent its instant collapse. “Such reinforcement is very dangerous, as the pagoda can fall down, especially when facing strong wind or heavy rain”, said a monk. Besides, main doors of the pagoda were all rotten and some of these doors can not be opened and closed properly.
There are 153 statues in the pagoda and most of them were made of wood in early 19 century. Amongst them, some rare and precious statues such as statutes of the Buddha Amitabha, arhats… were deteriorating by weather and other reasons.
Ladder and wood column were temporarily used for preventing a structure from collapsing
Most Venerable Thích Huệ Thạnh, Abbot of Giac Vien pagoda shared: “Representatives from Department of Culture, Sport and Tourism said to rebuild the pagoda but nothing has been done for ten years. In the rainy season, the pagoda is flooded and the rain often comes inside the main worshipping hall. The People’s Committee of District 11 sent people to survey and take photos for preparing a report but nothing comes forth. Not long ago, leaders from Ho Chi Minh City’s People Committee’s came to learn about the current situation of the pagoda and promised to restore the pagoda this year, although not saying the exact time. I think the City’s leaders do care about the serious degrade of the heritage and put forward many solutions for repair and restoration, but not knowing why it takes so long, from one year to another. I am afraid that with this situation the heritage will collapse in the coming time”.
Not knowing when the restoration comes
Talking to the Youth Newspaper, Mr. Lê Tôn Thanh, Deputy Director of the Culture, Sport and Tourism Department of Ho Chi Minh City said: “Currently, leaders of Ho Chi Minh city, District 11 and the Department have developed a plan for the restoration. All projects have been considered. However, it’s necessary to strengthen the pagoda’s management board before embarking on the restoration”.
About the slow restoration of Giac Vien pagoda, Mr. Trương Kim Quân, Director of the Center for Preservation of Heritage of Ho Chi Minh City explained: “Previously the fund provided by the Central Agency for restoration of each heritage was just several billion VND, but when coming to make survey and plan for the restoration of Giac Vien pagoda, the estimated cost of restoring the pagoda reached tens of billions of VND, because the degrade of the heritage is too serious and can not be fixed by small repairs. Therefore, due to much higher cost for restoration, the application for the restoration of Giac Vien pagoda can hardy be approved. Up to now, the Culture Sport and Tourism Department of Ho Chi Minh City has developed a plan for a major repair with the cost of 20 billion VND and submitted to Ho Chi Minh City’s People Committee for approval. However, when City’s leaders came to the pagoda and saw the real situation of the pagoda degrade, they decided to restore the entire pagoda, thus the cost of the restoration now reaches even higher, of about 50 billion VND. The Culture, Sport and Tourism Department is preparing documents for submission to the Ho Chi Minh City’s People Committee. At the moment, it’s not sure if the restoration can be started this year”.
For more than ten years, Giac Vien pagoda has been waiting each day for the rescue of the precious cultural heritage of the City from collapsing.
Giac Vien pagoda has been regarded as one of the oldest pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City, closely associating with the process of formation and development of Sai Gon. The pagoda was built on the ground of a small temple worshipping the Buddhist Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara in 17 century. In 1798, the entire pagoda was restored. In the history of nearly 300 years, Giac Vien pagoda has been through major restorations in 1899 and 1908, and the most recent upgrade was in 1991. The most outstanding value of Giac Vien pagoda is the system of a rather comprehensive Buddhist architecture of a Southern pagoda preserved until today. Worshipping articles and furniture have unique religious and cultural values of designs in late 18 and early 19 centuries.
Đỗ Tuấn - Bảo Ngọc (Youth Newspaper Online)