Master Thich Nguyen Thao put the wheels in motion for this Buddha six years ago, when the jade from North Vancouver was shipped to Thailand for carving. (Roxanne Hooper/Langley Advance)

Iconic jade Buddha unveiled at future Langley home

A 16,500-pound, 11-foot tall sculpture, six years in the making, was revealed in Aldergrove today.

After six years of work, what started as a 16-tons rock discovered in North Vancouver has returned from Thailand transformed into an 11-foot tall jade Sakyamuni Buddha.

The caws of roosters, bahs of lambs, and clucks of chicks served as background sounds during a morning of chanting and speeches where the new Buddha was unveiled at the new Hoa Nghiem Monestary in Aldergrove Sunday morning.

A few hundred members of the Lower Mainland Vietnamese community, a few dozen local dignitaries, and a number of venerable reverends from the various Buddha temples across the continent came together for the revealing of the three-piece statue, explained Buddhist follower Tony Vuu.

This Buddha – a symbol of peace and happiness – is the first jade sculpture of this magnitude in Canada, and only the second in the world.

Creating this one was the brainchild of Master (Thich Nguyen) Thao, the abbot reverend at the local monastery.

“He’s the one who’s gathered everyone together, their contributions, their time, their money, to make it happen… he’s the master of the project,” Vuu said, noting the project not only took half a dozen years to realize, but cost close to $2 million.

The unveiling ceremony Sunday kicked off a two-week celebration called the Vu Lan Festival – that will conclude on Aug. 26.

“People come and go… I expect the most crowded today and the ending ceremony on the (Aug.) 26th,” Vuu said, knowing many of his faith are anxious to see the momentous icon up close.

The statue was carved in Thailand, and is considered special not only because of the subject matter but the value of the B.C. jade it’s carved in, and the amount of labour and love that went into creating it.

A few of those involved in the creation process came all the way from Thailand to attend the ceremony.

“It’s not easy,” Vuu said of its making. “It took a group of 40 people to masterfully craft it in Thailand.”

Representatives of the Township and the Langley RCMP were among the dignitaries invited to attend and participate in the ceremony – each given a small sliver from the jade carving.

• Click here to see a photo gallery of the event

“This is a very significant piece,” said acting mayor Blair Whitmarsh.

“It is a great symbol for our community. We know it’s a symbol of good luck. It’s a symbol of happiness. And it’s a symbol of peace, and those are things that are really important to us in Langley, that we would have peace and happiness together,” he elaborated.

“One of the things that makes Langley such a great community is diversity. Lots of different people from lots of different walks of life. Langley is very open to including very many people from around the world, and here today we’re welcoming and celebrating the Vietnamese community and the Buddha, that is a really great symbol for Langley.”

Head of the local RCMP, Supt. Murray Power, was on hand with Langley RCMP Sgt. Loi Ly – a Buddha practitioner – as his translator.

“One of the things we really always strive to achieve is inclusiveness in all of our community. People need to feel free to express their religious and faith beliefs anywhere in the community,” he added, honoured to be invited to participate in such a special ceremony for Langley’s Vietnamese and Buddhist community.

A similar sentiment of acceptance and love was shared by Master Thao, through a translator.

“The jade Buddha represents compassion and wisdom, they are the foundation of peace and happiness. If we are to love and understand each other, then peace and happiness are the shadows that will always follow us,” he said.

While this statue will ultimately be an “historical landmark” in Aldergrove, Vuu explained that it has some miles to clock before that happens.

“This jade Buddha is going to roll around the country, and do all the temples around the U.S. and Canada, and after probably a year or a couple years , it will stay here permanently as a landmark of the Township,” Vuu said.

At that point, it will become a permanent fixture at the monastery which was purchased about a year ago by the master, in the 2000-block of 248th Street.

• Video to come

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Master Thich Nguyen Thao put the wheels in motion for this Buddha six years ago, when the jade from North Vancouver was shipped to Thailand for carving. (Roxanne Hooper/Langley Advance)

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