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More funds for That Luang Restoration

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The Vientiane authority is continuing efforts to mobilise additional funds and gold for the fourth That Luang Stupa restoration project in the capital to bring the revered monument back to its traditional glory in readiness for its 450th anniversary.Director of the Vientiane Information, Culture and Tourism Department Mr. Khampadith Khemmanith told a press conference on Monday that the That Luang restoration project will commence with an opening ceremony in the evening of September 4.

The project would then be completed before the That Luang festival celebration in November 14.

The restoration is set to concentrate on restoring the structure and its appearance, improving surrounding gardens, drainage, electrical systems and repairing and repla cing any breakages.

More than 10 kilogrammes of gold will be used by authorities to restore the stunning golden facade associated with the stupa.

The project is expected to cost about 8-10 billion kip.

Authorities have currently collected 10 kilograms of donated gold.

They also collected cash sourced from the government and private donors including some 21,719,500 kip, 2,036,240 Thai baht, US$244 and 500 Chinese Yuan.

The That Luang stupa was originally built during the ancient Khmer civilisation, when Vientiane was inhabited by people known as the Cham.

Researchers believe the structure was originally a four-sided stone obelisk.

The site was built as a place for people to worship and pray to idols. The structure was renovated on the orders of King Xaysetthathirath in the 16th century when the original site was covered with a bigger stupa.

From then on the monument took the name That Luang, or Grand Stupa.

The Cham period saw the second wave of Buddhism in Laos.

Under the patronage of Emperor Ashokka of India, the venerable monks Sona and Outala and five scholars brought what believers understand to be pieces of the pelvic bone of Lord Buddha to Vientiane in the Buddhist calendar year 218 (BCE), where they were interred at Phou Luang hill.

The ruler of Vientiane at that time, Lord Chanthabouly Phasitthisack, had a stupa built over the obelisk in 236 BCE.

The sacred site was then named Pha Chedi Lokachulamany.

According to the legend of That Phanom Stupa, also known as Tamnan Oulangkhathat, Emperor Ashokka authorised the relics to be placed inside the That Luang stupa in Vientiane .

The same legend claims the remains of Lord Buddha were distributed to all corners of the globe where there were Buddhist followers and his ashes were put inside 84,000 stupas.

This number corresponds to the 84,000 points that believers are required to study in the tripitaka (Buddhist scriptures).

Source: Vientiane Times