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Heaven sent? Gold soars, Taiwan statues gain value

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The soaring gold price might seem like a gift from the gods for the Taiwanese temples that used the precious metal to build giant statues of deities years ago.

In 2003, Chen Lan Temple in Da Jia in central Taiwan built a 267 kilogram (588 pound) statue of the sea goddess Matsu — arguably the largest on the island.

The United Daily News estimated the statue’s value at 340 million New Taiwan dollars ($15.5 million) at the current gold price — 180 percent of the original value. The refined artwork, showed in the flowing gown and hair, adds to the value, the paper said.

Gold was changing hands at $1,283 per troy ounce (31.1 grams) on Friday, up from about $300 in 2002.

Taiwanese have traditionally valued gold and many have presented solid gold plates to temples as the highest sign of worship. Using the gold donations, at least dozens of Buddhist and Taoist temples have built deities of various sizes.

Temples on the island have reinforced security around their gold statues against possible theft, the Taiwanese newspaper said.

But Nantien Temple in Ilan in northeastern Taiwan says it is not worried about losing its 203-kilogram (446-pound) Matsu statue built 16 years ago.

“One would have difficulty hoisting the heavy statue even with a crane,” said temple official Chen Cheng-nan.

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