Friday, August 31, 2012

New Buddha statue is rock solid

Our main local commercial newspaper Houston Chronicle featured the story of the new Chua Phap Nguyen (Dharma Spring Temple) Buddha statue yesterday.  That wonderful piece of news reporting focused on the development and positioning of the statue from existential and cultural perspectives.

The series of photographs accompanying the Chron article hinted at the extraordinary amount of work involved just in the delivery of the statue to this Pearland temple (never mind its initial skilled production and pending assembly).  This statue is fundamentally different from most western Buddha statues (and most religious statues in general) in one key respect: it was carved from solid granite.  Many modern-day American statues are instead fabricated from fiberglass (examples here and here) and thus are much easier to create, and far less costly to transport and erect because of the resulting lower weights and reduced labor requirements. 

This series of photographs below shows in additional detail just how much manpower and equipment were required simply to unload the statue segments from the intermodal containers in which they were shipped from Asia (all photos courtesy of Chua Phap Nguyen/A. Dunn). 
Initial staging of the delivery containers on the Chua Phap Nguyen property.
Close-up of a few "boxes".  When dealing with dense substances such as granite and other stone materials, the transportation-limiting factor becomes the mass of the resulting pieces rather than their volumes.  These half-empty-appearing boxes could not have been packed with additional materials because they would have become too heavy to be hauled over public roads. 
The general procedure for larger pieces was to align a flat-bed truck with the opening of each container and first pull the statue sections onto the flatbed using heavy equipment.
Some sections of the statue could then be craned directly off the flatbed and placed on the ground.
Other sections proved to be just too heavy for the crane...
...and instead had to be coaxed onto the ground using the assistance of gravity.
Even many of the smallest peripheral pieces required heavy equipment to move.
We look forward to the final assembly and unveiling of this extraordinary one-of-a-kind statue on the Phap Nguyen site.  The installation of the statue is expected to be complete within the next few months. 

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