The Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva statue (Source: vtv.vn)
Hung Yen (VNA) - A 19-century Buddhist statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva with a thousand hands and a thousand eyes - a treasure of the Me So Pagoda in the northern province of Hung Yen’s Me So Commune, Van Giang District, was stolen on October 1.

With exactly 1,113 eyes and 1,113 hands, the statue is known for having the most in Vietnam. It also has been praised as the most refined and beautiful statue among three masterpieces of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva in the country.

Security camera footage shows a masked man wearing gloves, breaking into the pagoda to access the statue, which was placed on an altar platform on the second floor of the pagoda.

The burglar then used a shirt to cover the camera.

Head nun of the pagoda, Thich Dam Lan, said the burglary might have been orchestrated by a group of four or five people, who seemed to know the pagoda’s layout.

“According to ancient documents, the 1.93m-high statue made from jackfruit wood, weighs more than 100kg, so a sole burglar couldn’t have done this,” she said.

Head of Me So Hamlet, Le Tuan Anh, said the burglary happened at about 2am on October 1 but was only discovered at 6.15am, when nuns woke up and realised that the lock on the entrance was broken.

Anh believes the burglar group used a rope to remove the statue from the second floor.

“In October, 1988, the statue was stolen, but luckily, it was found. Now, it once again has been abducted,” Anh said.

As well as the statue, the thief also took a pair of valuable bronze candle holders.

Talking with Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper, Chairman of Van Giang District said the burglary is a big loss for the region and the local people because “the statue is their pride and their belief.”

He also said that the case is now under investigation by local police and relevant agencies.

Commenting on the burglary, an expert on ancient art, Bui Hoai Mai, said antique theft and smuggling, which has been occurring for decades, is partly caused by loose cultural management.

“Lack of knowledge on antiques of Vietnamese customs is another reason contributing to the antique smuggling,” he told Vietnam News.

He also said that the awareness of most Vietnamese people on antique protection is still limiting.

Built in the Le dynasty (1427-1789), the Me So pagoda was recognised as a national historical and cultural relic in 1988. Alongside the stolen Buddha statue, the pagoda also has a 0.95cm-long bronze bell, which was cast in 1822.-VNA