Devotees and tourists are slowly destroying hundreds of statues of the Buddha in Bai Dinh Pagoda, Ninh Binh Province, as the touch them for good fortune.
Bai Dinh Pagoda is the biggest pagoda in Vietnam, with more than 300,000 visitors over the Tet holiday. The Vietnam Book of Records names the Bai Dinh Pagoda as one of the top 10 spiritual destinations in Vietnam.
But the huge number of visitors and over-stretched security has made it difficult to protect them.
Its 3km hallway has 500 Arhat statues made of stone, each 2-2.5m high and weighing four tonnes.
Visitors often walk the hallway and touch all statues as they go, in hope of luck and prosperity. The statues are now worn and crumbling from the body oils and sweat of excessive human contact.
“I have to touch the statues to let them know my devotion and my wish for a lucky year. I have to touch all statues, not missing a single one because it will not be sincere,” said a visitor, Nguyen Thi Hoa.
Most Venerable Thich Tho Lac, management chief of National Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, which administers the pagoda, said touching the statues is not part of Buddhism.
“No pagoda will encourage visitors to do so because such action borders on disrespect and damages the statues, but still they do it,” he said.