Vietnam finishes first jade statute of Buddhist king

TN News

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Vietnamese Buddhists Monday presented the first jade statue of King Tran Nhan Tong (1258-1308), considered the founder of Vietnamese Zen Buddhism, in the southern province of Dong Nai.

The two-ton statue depicts the king with a gilded face seated 1.6 meters tall on a lotus petal of white marble.

It took four months to construct using a nephrite jade block of more than 4.5 tons from Canada, the same material as the one used to make the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace, which is in India for November and December.

The jade had been consecrated in various rituals by famous monks around the country and abroad before it was bought to Vinh Nghiem, a major pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, for the sculpture.

Followers believe a jade statue of Tran Nhan Tong, praised as one of the fairest and smartest kings in Vietnamese history who established a long period of peace after defeating Mongol invaders in 1279, would help bolster the country's solidarity and national pride.

The statue will be displayed in Long Thanh District, Dong Nai, for several days.

Then it will be delivered to Hanoi for the Vietnam Buddhism Festival on November 22, and is expected to travel to several major pagodas around the country after that.

Jade debris from the sculpture was used to make around 1,000 royal seal copies of the Tran Dynasty (12251400). There is an annual festival in Nam Dinh Province in northern Vietnam where people have fabrics stamped with the seal, believing that it will bring them luck.

The two best ones will be gifted to the Vietnam Central Father Front Committee, the umbrella organization of public groups, which will auction them for charity at a live music show on December 31.

Part of the jade will also be sculpted into 100 sets of replications of the nine seal designs of the Tran Dynasty, it added.

Tran Nhan Tong chose to become a monk in 1293 after a 15-year reign, setting up a Vietnamese sect of Zen Buddhism called Truc Lam, which is now based in Da Lat in the Central Highlands.

His religious path earned him the title "Phat Hoang" (Royal Buddha) among the Vietnamese while the voluntary abdication earned him the title "Grand Emperor" until his death in 1308.

He is also admired by foreign scholars, who have joined Vietnamese experts to set up the Tran Nhan Tong Academy in Massachusetts, US, last April, which is devoted to advancing the king's legacy of reconciliation and compassion.

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