Tho has more than 700 antiques of various kinds (Photo:VNA)

Can Tho (VNA/VNS) -
Antique collectors in the Mekong Delta City of Can Tho have dubbed Ta Hoa Tho, 57, “an owner of Oc Eo Culture’s Treasure” for his passion for collecting antiques belonging to the ancient culture.

Oc Eo is the name of an archaeological site in Thoai Son District in southern An Giang Province in the Mekong River Delta. Based on the artifacts unearthed, archaeologists guessed that the area used to be a busy port of the kingdom of Phu Nam between the first and seventh centuries. They used the term "Oc Eo Culture" to refer to the ancient material culture of the Mekong Delta region.

Born in the southern province of Dong Thap, Tho was interested in archaeology but did not have the means to pursue it academically.

Thirty years ago, during his visit to temples in the Bay Nui and Ba The regions of An Giang Province, Tho met a local farmer who had unearthed a 1.1m-high bronze Kuan Yin statue with 10 heads and 20 arms.

After making certain that the statue dated back to the 13th century, Tho became determined to buy it. The statue was the first ancient object that he purchased.

"That night, I was too excited to fall asleep,” he recalled. “I thought it was my destiny to collect Oc Eo antiques throughout my life.”

His wife is also interested in Oc Eo antiques and is as willing as him to sell all their property in exchange for rare antiques to preserve the Oc Eo heritage and display them to the public, instead of selling them for profit.

In the past 30 years, Tho has travelled to various localities, including Dong Thap, An Giang, Kien Giang and even Cambodia, to hunt for antiques.

“Whenever I hear of antiques such as stone, wooden or bronze statues unearthed somewhere, I rush to the site,” he said.

He has also collected material on the Oc Eo and Phu Nam cultures to understand the subject, in addition to seeking more knowledge from experts.

So far, Tho has gathered more than 700 antiques of various kinds, including valued objects such as a set of weapons made from stone; a stone statue of Hari Hara, which is 1.5m in height and 90kg in weight dating back to the 12th century; a stone statue of Vishnu; and other rare objects made of bronze, terracotta and wood.

Tho plans to move his collection to his daughter’s house in HCM City and open a private museum focusing on the Oc Eo Culture, as he is getting weak due to heart disease.

“I have collected Oc Eo antiques to preserve them for future generations,” he said. “I haven’t sold any objects I bought, even a single small piece.”

“Yet, I’m willing to lend my ‘treasure’ to museums for exhibitions, so that more people know about the ancient culture,” he said.-VNA