Vietnam carving world's largest jade Buddha

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Vietnam will soon be home to the world's largest jade Buddha as sculptors began chiseling a 35-ton block of jadeite jade in the northern province of Hai Duong this week.

The Hanoi-based Than Chau Ngoc Viet Gems and Jewelry Company began sculpting the precious stone on Monday during a ceremony at its factory in Hai Duong's Cam Giang District. The company had bought the jade at a gemstone fair in Myanmar for VND60 billion (US$3.25 million)

The complete jade Buddha statue is expected to weigh 16 tons, measuring three meters high, two meters wide and one meter deep. The measurements do not include a 9-ton throne, 2.1 square meters and 60 centimeters high.

About 50 local and foreign sculptors have been hired to carve the statue of Great Buddha Sakyamuni, slated for completion in 2010.

Dao Trong Cuong, director of Than Chau Ngoc Viet, said the company would register the statue with the Guinness Book of World Records.

Dorzong Rinpoche, of the Indian Buddhist Sangha, attended the ceremony Monday and handed over a sacred Buddhist relic to be installed into the statue.

President Nguyen Minh Triet, who removed the seal from the jade block along with the patriarch of the Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha, Thich Pho Tue, hailed Than Chau Ngoc Viet for its efforts.

"The completed statue will not only be a unique and precious masterpiece for Buddhism but also for mankind. It will be here for generations of our descendants," he said.

The Jade Buddha for Universal Peace, which is currently considered the world's largest Buddha carved from gemstone quality jade, is 2.5 meters high and weighs 3.9 tons. It sits on an alabaster throne 1.4 meters high.

Completed in December 2008 in Thailand, the statue has toured Asia, including Vietnam, and is currently traveling Australia before being installed at the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion in Bendigo.

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