A company behind a statue under construction on top of the holy Sam Mountain in the southern province of An Giang is sparking fury for attempting to replicate a ‘sacred’ statue of a local goddess without public knowledge.
The original statue is of Ba Chua Xu (Holy Mother of the Realm), a prosperity goddess in local folk religion who is a tutelary of business, health, and a protector of the Vietnamese border.
She is rumored to be responsive to loyal followers, and is worshipped in her shrine located at the foot of the mountain.
Legend has it that her statue once sat at atop Sam Mountain, before being relocated to the current location in the early 18th century.
Both popular tourist attractions in An Giang, the Sam Mountain and the shrine of Ba Chua Xu welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, especially during a three-day festival held in the goddess’ honor every year beginning on the twenty-third day of the fourth lunar month.
Locals in An Giang were therefore surprised to learn only recently that another statue of Ba Chua Xu was being constructed on top of the Sam Mountain, where the original sculpture used to sit, without prior public announcement.
“It’s not only a copyright violation but also infringes upon a national relic,” said Nguyen Van Dong, deputy director of the management board of Sam Mountain relics.
According to Dong, he had not been informed of any ongoing construction of a Ba Chua Xu statue on the Sam Mountain, and only discovered the fact himself as workers began to put together the statue’s face.
|The under-construction replica of the statue of Ba Chua Xu at the top of the Sam Mountain in Chau Doc City, An Giang Province in southern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
‘Convenience for visitors’
MGA Vietnam Ltd, which oversees the statue’s construction, is also developing a cable car system leading to the top of the mountain.
The cable car is part of an over VND1.5 trillion (US$66.08 million) project by the company to develop a religious tourism compound at the Sam Mountain, which also includes a five-star hotel, a massive square, a 117-meter tower among other construction items.
Nguyen Phi Tien, director of MGA Vietnam, said the new statue would serve future visitors who take the cable car to the mountaintop, allowing them to pay worship to Ba Chua Xu without queuing for her shrine at the foot of the mountain.
According to Tien, all the construction items including the statue of Ba Chua Xu had been approved by the provincial administration and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
However, these authorities did not consult experts or call for public feedback before approving the project due to “time pressure”, said Tran Quoc Tuan, deputy chairman of Chau Doc City in An Giang.
The administration of An Giang on Friday announced that it has requested an immediate halt in the construction of the statue to await further permission from capable authorities.
Nguyen Van Len, deputy director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said a plan to welcome public feedback on the project will be available in the coming days, and construction would not resume until overwhelming approval is reach.
“If the idea fails to get approved, we will advise the company to remove the statue or replace it with another statue to avoid infringing upon the local folk religion,” Len said.