TAMPA — It sits almost 10 feet tall and weighs about four tons. The rare translucent jade, carved in the shape of Buddha, is said to bring harmony wherever it goes.
In Vietnam, more than 4 million people descended on temples to see it. In San Diego, more than 10,000 viewed the sculpture on its first day.
It is now in Town 'N Country.
The world's largest jade Buddha, sculpted from a single piece of gem-quality jade, will be unveiled at a Vietnamese temple here Saturday as part of its Tampa Bay stop on a global tour for harmony.
Called the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace, the statue will be on display at the Minh Dang Quang Monastery through March 14.
"Wherever (the jade Buddha) goes, it brings peace and happiness with it," said Larry Nguyen, event organizer for the local temple stop.
The jade has amassed a wide following since its discovery in 2000 south of the Yukon border in Canada. Valued at $5 million, the gem was carved by master sculptors in Thailand's oldest jade factory.
After it was completed in December 2008, the statue, sitting on alabaster stone, embarked on the peace tour, having appeared so far in Vietnam and Australia and in a few cities in the United States.
The statue was named by Zopa Rinpoche, a lama from a village in the Khumbu region of Nepal. He believed the jade carving would illuminate the world with peace.
An Australian Buddhist organization, the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion, came to own the jade after its chairman learned of the gem's discovery.
The chairman, Ian Green, raised money to purchase the boulder, according to the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion. Skilled sculptors in Thailand created four prototypes in clay and fiberglass before sawing into the jade. It took two years to complete. Jade chippings are sold on the tour.
The statue arrived this week after a stop in Orlando. Workers used a forklift and crane to assemble it at the temple this week.
The monastery is expecting about 5,000 visitors a day, but is bracing for more. About 100 volunteers have been preparing six months for the 10-day event, which will include free vegetarian meals, prayer and performances.
Nguyen said international Buddhist temple associations are funding the tour. The price to transport the statue to Tampa is about $15,000.
"The main reason for bringing the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace here is for prayer for our city and our town," Nguyen said. "We invite the public to come out and see it, to share in the luck and the belief that it brings peace where ever it goes."
Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813)909-4613 or firstname.lastname@example.org.