Over 60 years of making Cham statues

by Son Tung01 September 2015 Last updated at 20:00 PM

The area where Ben displays his Cham statues and sculptures
The area where Ben displays his Cham statues and sculptures

VTV.vn - If they want to know who the most famous artisan is in Non Nuoc Stone Sculpture village in the central coast city of Danang, visitors will be certainly introduced to Le Ben as he has spent 65 years reproducing ancient Cham statues.

Ben is the owner of Vung Ben sculpture workshop at 71 Huyen Tran Cong Chua Street, Hoa Hai Ward in Ngu Hanh Son District. With his long white beard, the 82-year-old guides us around the area where he displays his artworks.

The display area looks like a small Champa museum with hundreds of statues and sculptures in different sizes and shapes, which are in between bonsai plants creating a harmonious painting between trees and stones. There are stone statues of Hindu Gods such as Siva beside the statues of Nadin cow and Garuda bird, Yoni and Linga, and sculptures of women dancers.

The artworks remind us of the culture and the history of Champa and bring our imagination to My Son sanctuary where visitors can find ancient towers, statues and sculptures.

Pointing at his Cham statues, Ben says: “My purpose of creating these artworks is not to earn money but to preserve and promote the culture and tradition of Cham people. The tradition of making Cham statues has passed down through four generations of my family.”

The old artisan says he cannot remember how many artworks he had made since he started the job decades ago. But one thing he knows for sure is that he had sold Cham sculptures and statues to those having good knowledge of Cham culture and wanting to preserve it.

Ben used to teach many people to make statues of Champa but most of them quit. Luckily, his three sons have followed in Ben’s footsteps to keep the art of making Cham statues alive.

Non Nuoc Stone Sculpture village has some 500 workshops with more than 3,000 artisans and workers, but only Ben’s produces Cham statues.

 


Artisan Le Ben sits by his artworks - PHOTOS: TUNG SON

Artisan Le Ben sits by his artworks - PHOTOS: TUNG SON

According to other artisans in the village, to make statues of Champa, the artisan should use sandstone in Quang Nam Province but it is his skills that give a statue a soul.

To comprehend the beauty of ancient Cham statues, Ben usually visited My Son sanctuary in his young age and fell in love with each and every part of the site, from the mountain and the paddy field to the damaged towers and statues. That is why he has been able to create so many sculptures and artworks that carry the soul of Champa.

People in Non Nuoc village said Ben used to work as a sculpture instructor at Art-Culture Pre Intermediate School of Danang and participated in projects to restore ancient statues in Hue and several other parts.

The biggest statue Ben has made is of Nguyen Duy Hieu, a scholar who joined the Can Vuong (Aid the King) movement in 1885-1889 to fight the French domination. The sandstone statue is five meters high and is put on a stone base which is 10 meters high.

On September 1 he sometimes walks to his “museum” of Cham statues and spends hours there only watching them.

“It looks as if they were talking, smiling and even thinking,” Ben says of those statues.

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