The Race to Build the Tallest Buddha Statues in Vietnam

“For every high mountain, there is an even higher mountain” is an outdated proverb. “For every Buddha statue, there is an even taller Buddha statue” is a more appropriate statement in Vietnam today.

The Race to Build the Tallest Buddha Statues in Vietnam

This article was published in Luat Khoa Magazine on June 8, 2023. Lee Nguyen translated this into English.

In 2021, a 73-meter tall statue of the Buddha was erected in the Phat Quoc Van Thanh Pagoda in Binh Phuoc Province. This massive figure is one meter more elevated than the Buddha statue at the Khai Nguyen Pagoda in Hanoi.  This made the Phat Quoc Van Thanh Pagoda statue the tallest one in Vietnam. [1] [2]

The Minh Duc Pagoda plans to construct an even more enormous statue in 2023 that will reach a height of 125 meters, making it the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam and the world. [3]

The prevailing trend has ignited fierce competition among Buddhist monks, provincial authorities, and the business community within the country, further exacerbating concerns. This competition poses a significant challenge to environmental preservation in Vietnam, as the nation's precious jungles bear the brunt of exploitation, supplying the essential materials for these revered statues.

In December 2022, the Tan Hoang Minh Group began constructing a spiritual project on Phu Quoc Island that would feature a 189-meter tall Avalokiteśvara statue made of pure copper and gold plating. Upon completion, this sculpture is expected to become the tallest Buddha statue in the world. [4]

How many Buddha statues in Vietnam are competing to claim the title of the tallest? Why is building gigantic Buddha statues a trend?

The Race to Build Buddha Statues

In Vietnam, there are many gigantic Buddha statues. Almost every province and city strives to erect at least one to establish a record and attract visitors.

The general trend is that each subsequent Buddha sculpture is taller and grander than the previous one. If not, it must be made of more expensive materials, or multiple Buddha statues must be in the province.

The construction of Buddha statues has also expanded beyond the confines of temple spaces, and some are even being built in parks, cemeteries, and private factories.

For example, Tan Hue Vien, a pía cake-making establishment in Soc Trang Province, is currently building a 19-ton statue of the Medicine Buddha, which is planned to be covered with 88 taels of gold, intending to "pray for everyone's well-being." [5] There are also cases where Buddha statues are carved directly into mountains, such as the 81-meter tall statue in An Giang Province and a 65-meter tall statue in Da Nang. [6] [7]

Buddha statues are being built everywhere, from rural areas to urban areas, from hills and mountains to plains, and from forested lands to residential areas.

The race to build Buddha statues in Vietnam is a highly competitive and controversial enterprise.

Below are 10 Buddha statues about to break various records in the three regions of Vietnam.

The Buddha Statue in Binh Phuoc Province

Height: 73 meters

Year completed: 2021

Title: The tallest Buddha statue in Southeast Asia at present

Location: Phat Quoc Van Thanh Pagoda, Hung Chien Ward, Binh Long Town, Binh Phuoc Province

Area: Mountainous forest region
Photo: Thế Trung/ Tuoi Tre News.

Dai Tuong Phat (The Giant Buddha statue in Hanoi city)

Height: 72 meters

Year completed: 2023

Title: Currently the tallest Buddha statue in northern Vietnam

Location: Khai Nguyen Pagoda, Son Dong Commune, Son Tay Town, Hanoi

Area: Rural residential area
Photo: Tran Thang/ Thanh Nien Newspaper.

The Maitreya Buddha Statue on the Top of Cam Mountain (An Giang Province) [8]

Height: 33.6 meters

Year completed: 2005

Title: In 2013, it was named the Tallest Maitreya Buddha Statue on a mountain peak in Asia.

Location: Cam Mountain, Tinh Bien District, An Giang Province

Area: Hilly/mountainous region
Photo: Luc Tung/ Lao Động Newspaper.

The Avalokiteśvara Statue on Thian Ma Mountain (Quang Ngai Province) [9]

Height: 125 meters

Year completed: 2023 (expected)

Title: The tallest Avalokiteśvara statue in Vietnam

Location: Minh Duc Pagoda, Thien Ma Mountain, Tinh Long Commune, Son Tinh District, Quang Ngai Province

Area: Hilly/mountainous region
Photo: Pham Linh/ VnExpress.

The Tay Bo Đa Son Lady Buddha Statue - 170 tons of copper (Tay Ninh Province) [10]

Height: 72 meters

Year completed: 2022

Title: The tallest copper Lady Buddha statue in Asia, situated on a mountain peak

Location: Ba Den Mountain, Tay Ninh City, Tay Ninh Province

Area: Hilly/mountainous region
Photo: Ngo Tran Hai An.

The Shakyamuni Buddha Statue Carved into a Rocky Mountain (An Giang Province) [11]

Height: 81 meters

Year completed: 2025

Title: The tallest Shakyamuni Buddha statue carved into a rocky mountain in Vietnam

Location: NNi Sam Cultural Park, Nui Sam Ward, Chau Doc City, An Giang Province

Area: Hilly/mountainous region
Photo: Lang thang An Giang.

The Most Gigantic Reclining Buddha Statue in Nirvana status (Soc Trang Province) [12]

Height: 22.5 meters

Length: 63 meters

Year of basic completion: 2023

Title: The most gigantic reclining Buddha Statue in Vietnam

Location: Som Rong Pagoda, Ward 5, Soc Trang City, Soc Trang Province

Area: Urban/residential area
Photo: Bach Cuc/ Lao Dong Newspaper.

The Avalokiteśvara statue (Long An Province) [13]

Height: 70 meters

Year completed: 2024

Title: The Tallest Lady Buddha Statue in Southwestern Vietnam

Location: Long Phuoc Pagoda, Ward 3, Tan An City, Long An Province

Area: Urban/residential area
The stone-laying ceremony marked the beginning of the construction of a 70 meters high statue of The Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva on the campus of Long Phuoc Pagoda. Photo: Giac Ngo Online.

The Shakyamuni Buddha Statue in the Ho Nui Coc National Tourist Area (Thai Nguyen Province) [14]

Height: 35.4 meters

Year completed: 2011

Title: The gigantic seated Buddha statue on a lotus platform.

Location: The Ho Nui Coc National Tourist Area, Tan Thai Commune, Dai Tu District, Thai Nguyen Province

Area: Hilly/mountainous region
Photo: Du lich Ho Nui Coc.

The Reclining Buddha Statue is Made of 15 Tons of Solid Rosewood (Hai Phong Province) [15]

Length: 7.85 meters

Height: 1.85 meters

Year completed: 2018

Title: The gigantic reclining wooden Buddha statue, in Nirvana status.

Location: Thang Phuc Pagoda, Tien Thang Commune, Tien Lang District, Hai Phong City
Photo: Luong Ha/ Lao Đong Newspaper.

In addition, there are more than 10 significant ongoing Buddha statue construction projects in other provinces and cities, such as the four-faced Avalokiteśvara statue in Thanh Hoa Province, the most enormous seated Buddha statue in Southeast Asia in Binh Dinh Province, and the giant bronze Maitreya Buddha statue in Southeast Asia that is being built in the Bai Dinh Pagoda in Ninh Binh Province. [16] [17] [18]

The Reasons Behind the Construction of Giant Buddha Statues

The construction of these colossal Buddha statues is frequently attributed to the profound spiritual needs of the public.

However, according to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam, only 4.6 million Buddhists are in the country, accounting for just 4.78% of the total population. [19]

In reality, these statues are built one after the other to pique the curiosity of the masses rather than being dedicated to devout Buddhist followers.

The influx of tourists visiting these sites dramatically benefits local governments and investors by boosting the local economy through ticket sales, cable cars, dining services, accommodations, etc. Of course, there are also hidden benefits for local officials and religious dignitaries.

On the other hand, these Buddha statues are often built indiscriminately, without considering the local indigenous population's landscape and spiritual elements.

For example, a giant Buddha sculpture is being built there despite Ba Den Mountain having a stronger connection to indigenous spiritual beliefs and having no direct link to traditional Buddhism.

The emphasis on Buddhist elements may stem more from political reasons, as the current government wants people to follow Buddhist teachings under the leadership of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha– a state-controlled organization.

In contrast, Catholicism tends to act independently from the government, while Protestantism tends to split into smaller congregations that operate independently. These religions do not align with the Vietnamese state's interests.

The government can approve all procedures for establishing and constructing religious structures and monuments. The continuous construction of Buddha statues exposes the invisible hand of state promotion. Buddhist monks affiliated with the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha are always given special privileges.

Despite the government's support for these construction projects, the state does not want people to practice the actual teachings of Buddhism freely. The government only uses religion to manipulate and direct the community's consciousness and thinking towards values desired by the state. These giant Buddha statues are necessary to fulfill this need.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh once remarked, "They [the Vietnamese authorities] only desire a Buddhism of piousness, of worship; they do not want a Buddhism capable of providing spiritual, cultural and ethical leadership to the nation." [20]

The Construction of Giant Buddha Statues in Other Countries

In Japan, people also build many giant Buddha statues. However, these are often erected for specific religious reasons and have existed for a long time. [21] The tallest and newest Buddha statue in Japan, standing at 120 meters tall, was built in 1992. The number of Buddhist followers in Japan is estimated at 84.8 million, accounting for 68% of the total population. [22]

Taiwan also has gigantic Buddha statues. However, these are usually placed in major Buddhist centers, such as the Fo Guang Shan, which houses a 40-meter-tall Buddha statue (excluding the pedestal), making it the tallest in the country. [23] There are also particular reasons for the Taiwanese to build Buddha statues, such as a 22-meter-tall Buddha statue constructed in 1962 to commemorate those who sacrificed their lives during Japan's invasion of Taiwan. [24]

The tallest Buddha sculpture in South Korea is only 21 meters tall (excluding the pedestal). [25]

Generally, the Buddha statues in these three countries, which share the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, possess aesthetic beauty and harmonize with the surrounding space.

In contrast, the Vietnamese government allows the rampant construction of large-scale Buddhist structures, often without significant differentiation in purpose. This situation even affects the landscape and the environment in Vietnam. Mountains, forests, and natural resources are exploited to build even taller Buddha statues than the ones before.

Pro-government Monks Are Left to Manage Large Religious Properties

In places where giant Buddha statues are built, the monks often have close ties with the Vietnamese government. These monks also hold high positions within the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha.

For example, at Soc Trang, the Som Rong Pagoda accommodates one of the enormous reclining Buddhas in Vietnam and is led by Venerable Ly Duc as its abbot. Ly Duc is a member of the Communist Party of Vietnam and also a representative of the National Assembly for the 14th and 15th terms (2021-2026). [26]

Finding figures like Venerable Ly Duc among the temples with giant Buddha statues is not difficult.

For instance, Most Venerable Thich Thanh Quyet, the abbot of the Yen Tu Buddhist Relic Area, where another enormous bronze statue of Buddhist Emperor Tran Nhan Tong was erected in 2013, has served as a consecutive representative of the National Assembly for the 13th, 14th, and 15th terms. He is the Head of the Central Buddhist Education Committee of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha. [27]

Currently, the two most prominent temples in northern Vietnam are Bai Dinh and Tam Chuc, led by Most Venerable Thich Thanh Nhieu as the abbot, with Venerable Thich Minh Quang as the deputy abbot. [28] The first mentioned individual is the vice chairman of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha's Executive Council. The latter is a member of the Standing Committee of the Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha Executive Council. Likewise, he concurrently serves as the head of the provincial Executive Council in Ninh Binh and is a member of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Committee in Ninh Binh.

Through their appointments, we can observe a mechanism the Vietnamese government creates that rewards and favors the monks who have gained the government's support. This allows these monks to manage the Buddhist establishments where record-breaking Buddhist statues exist and bring in substantial financial support from tourists.


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27. See [26]

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