Intending to charge fee for Yen Tu Buddhist site

In Uong Bi City of Quang Ninh province, People’s Committee has recently proposed a plan to issue tickets to visitors of its famous Yen Tu Mountain, Buddhism’s holiest site in Vietnam.

At a meeting of local government on discussing methods to improve the management, preservation and restoration of the historic Yen Tu Mountain, Nguyen Thanh Pho, chairman of Uong Bi City People’s Committee, explained that the admission fees will create a source of capital for the site’s management and operation.

He suggested that the province give financial assistance to the site’s managing board since they have faced problems working in the tough conditions of the mountainous area.

While the plan is still awaiting approval from the provincial committee, it has met opposition from people who say that implementing an admission fee to a spiritual place is not reasonable.

In fact, the locality has previously charged fees for entrance to the mountain. However, the fee seemed to limit the number of visitors. Since 2006, when local authorities decided to stop charging for admission, the number of people flocking to the site has increased sharply, from 100,000 in 2006 to 2 million in 2011. Meanwhile, Buddhist works in the area have also been better-preserved thanks to visitors’ donations.

According to statistics from the committee, since 1997 the government has funded in total VND142 billion (US$6.8 million) to restore 41 works in Yen Tu Mountain, however, since 2007, the locality has spent VND402 billion (USD 19.2 million) donated by local residents and visitors for restoring 12 works, including repairing the Dong Pagoda, building a statue of Buddha King Tran Nhan Tong, and constructing a road from the Yen Tu foothills to the Dong Pagoda.

“When people sincerely donate to restore pagodas, they will preserve them with their hearts,” a Buddhist said.

Thich Khai Bi, vice head of Yen Tu relic’s restoration board, also expressed his opposition to the plan.

“This is not only a spiritual place, but also where people towards their roots. I, along with many monks, think that the admission fee is not reasonable,” he said.

“Think deeply, who will have to buy tickets, while authorities will always get invitations to come here? So the poor have to spend money for the tickets,” he added.

“It’s unacceptable when you have to pay money to visit Buddha and your ancestors,” another Buddhist in Hanoi opined.

Protesters also said that there isn’t a single pagoda that charges admission in the whole country, even in the touristy city of Hue, which has around 500 pagodas.

“ Yen Tu is considered a meditation place for the Vietnamese spirit. It would be disappointing if there are barriers and ticket counters at a Buddhit land,” a visitor said when hearing about the proposal.

Source: Tuoitre

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