9th century nat'l heritage disintegrates in central Vietnam

By Hoang Son, Thanh Nien News

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A national heritage recognition hasn't done much to protect a massive 9th century monastery that's rapidly decaying in central Vietnam.
People in Quang Nam Province's Thang Binh District are hoping that an application submitted in February for a “special” national heritage recognition will bring more actual efforts to preserve it.
The former site of the monastery was first recognized as a heritage site 14 years ago.
During a recent visit, however, nearly all of the buildings had been consumed by trees and shrubs.
Many sandstone relics, some of which may be as much as 1,000 years old, had been charred by local trash fires.
Historical documents show that the Khmer king Indravarman II had a Buddhist monastery built in 875  to worship the god Laksmindra Lokesvara Svabhayada.
It was excavated by French architect and archeologist H.Parmentier in 1902 and was named Dong Duong, after a local village.
Numerous valuable sculptures were discovered in the main temple structure which occupied a rectangular area of 326x155 meters and once featured numerous towers.
Tra Tan Thanh, a Party leader of Binh Dinh Commune, said only parts of a tower called Sang remained, and they're getting worse every day.
Thanh said thieves have taken many items from the site.
“Most recently, in 2012, a stranger took an engraved stone stele and was about to sell it when local residents found out,” he said.
The stele has been kept at the commune government office since.
Tran Xuan Vinh, deputy head of Quang Nam's legislature, said he has been receiving complaints from the residents about poor preservation work.
Vinh said the province’s legislators asked the ministry of culture to take urgent measures to protect the monastery early this year.
But the ministry replied that they are focusing funds on bigger and more urgent projects and suggested that the province ask for the Prime Minister’s help.
“The ministry didn’t recognize its responsibility and didn't really show us any light at the end of the tunnel,” Vinh said.
He said action must be taken this year or the building will collapse and a lot of value will be lost.

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