Thieves take risk to steal antiques in Saigon
Invaluable antiques at historical sites in HCM City have been stolen recently.
The rare green enameled ball in the ancient sculptural work called "two dragons fight for a ball" at Thuong Cong Temple has just been recovered by the authorities after being stolen. (Photo: Nguyen Son)
Stealing the ball on top of a stele at Thuong Cong Temple
Regarding the theft of the ball at Le Van Duyet Tomb (also called Thuong Cong Temple) in Binh Thanh district, the police recently found the ball and handed it over to the Management Board of the relic. However, the incident has raised concerns over the theft of valuable antiques at historical relics.
Before handing over the stolen ball, the authorities assessed the true value of the ball, which showed that the ball is made from earthenware, enameled, worth up to VND350 million ($17,000).
Ms. Lam Thi Hoang Oanh, Head of the Management Board of Le Van Duyet Tomb, said that on September 2, the relic manager detected that the ball on the roof of the stele house in front of the tomb had disappeared. The case was immediately reported to the police for investigation.
The ball is nearly 100 years old and part of the painting featuring two dragons competing for a ball on the roof of the stele house. Regarding the value of stolen ball, Oanh said it is made from pottery, and is not a gemstone.
This artifact has 3 parts with a height of nearly 1m including: the base, body and top. This object is nearly 100 years old but it is still intact from color to shape. This proves that the quality of the ceramic and enamel materials in the past was very good.
This is a precious artifact with cultural and historical value. (Photo: Nguyen Son)
According to Oanh, the artifacts in the relic area were strictly protected by the management board. The relic campus was equipped with security cameras and security guards were on duty 24/7. They patrolled the site once every hour. However, thieves still broke in and stole the antique.
Previously, thieves broke in the relic several times to take away other valuable artifacts. In 1995, they stole the pair of reliefs named the Sun and the Moon. In 2010, the thief continued to steal an ancient ceramic plate. In 2012, two young lion reliefs at the gate of the mausoleum were stolen.
Most recently, during a restoration that took place in 2018, seven reliefs were stolen.
“Thuong Cong” temple is the tomb of General Le Van Duyet (1764-1832) and his wife. Duyet was a general who helped Lord Nguyen Anh - the future Emperor Gia Long - to establish the Nguyen Dynasty. Since the mausoleum is adjacent to Ba Chieu (Lady Chieu) Market, many people mistake that this is the mausoleum of Mr. and Mrs. Chieu.
Precious relics stolen from Linh Tay communal house
A relief worth over VND10 billion (nearly $500,000) at Linh Tay communal house has been stolen. (Photo: Nguyen Son)
Linh Tay communal house in Thu Duc district in Ho Chi Minh City was classified as a municipal-level relic in 2003. Despite the communal house management board’s strict protection measures, the large enameled relief at the main gate was chiseled and damaged by thieves. At present, the remains of this relief are several pieces of beautiful green glazed ceramic on the ceramic floor.
Mr. Nguyen Van Hung, an officer at the Cultural Department of Linh Tay ward, said the relief was created in very olden times. This type of glaze has almost disappeared, so the relief is very rare.
Pointing towards the roof of the communal house, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Tung, the keeper of Linh Tay communal house, said thieves climbed to the roof to chisel and steal one of the five ancient ceramic reliefs on the roof.
Decorative reliefs at Linh Tay communal house have been stolen. (Photo: Nguyen Son)
However, the most valuable antique of the communal house that was stolen by thieves was the one in front of the main altar, which is worth up to tens of billion VND. This item was stolen in June 2019 and it has not been found. The stolen relief was embossed with four spiritual animals, with the size of 80cm x 50cm x 15cm, weighing about 50kg.
Researchers said the stolen relief is extremely rare as it is made from ancient ceramic glaze that no longer exists.
These cases have caused sadness and frustrated among the people. It is time to have cooperation between the community and agencies to protect antiques with cultural and historical value at relic sites.
There have been 26 antiques stolen from four communal houses and pagodas in Hanoi during the past month.
Dinh Van Dan is known as the "King of Antiques" in the northern province of Ninh Binh. His antique collection is worth hundreds of billion VND (millions of USD).