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Originally published Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 8:42 PM

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Jade Buddha from B.C., via Australia and Thailand, welcomed to Seattle

Co Lam Pagoda unveiled the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace — a nearly 9-foot-high Buddha carved entirely out of one block of jade, that will be at the temple through Aug. 29.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Jade Buddha for Universal Peace

On view 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 21-29, Co Lam Pagoda, 3503 S. Graham St., Seattle; 206-723-4741; free and open to the public.

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With a procession of monks and nuns, and chants and prayers, a couple hundred people gathered on the grounds of the Co Lam Pagoda for the unveiling Thursday of a most striking Buddha statue: one that's nearly 9 feet high, weighs about 4 tons and was carved entirely out of one block of jade.

It's called the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace. And Co Lam Pagoda, a Vietnamese Buddhist temple near the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and South Graham Street, is its latest stop in an ongoing worldwide tour.

The block of jade was discovered in British Columbia in 2000. An Australian couple, Ian and Judy Green, who are both Buddhists, purchased it and hired carvers in Thailand to turn it into a Buddha statue. Since then, the Jade Buddha has toured Vietnam, Australia, Canada and the United States.

In Seattle, the Jade Buddha will be on exhibit at Co Lam Pagoda until Aug. 29. The official opening ceremony Saturday is expected to draw at least 5,000 people, with as many as 15,000 people coming to view the statue through the opening weekend.

"This is once in my lifetime to have the opportunity to worship with the Jade Buddha," said Nghia Do, a systems engineer at the University of Washington and part of the temple committee that worked to bring the statue here.

The statue is considered special because some believe it's reportedly the largest existing jade Buddha statue in the world. Even the Buddha's head and the begging bowl he's holding are jade — though painted gold to make the features stand out.

Jade is considered precious to many Vietnamese and other Asians, who believe it protects them from harm, bad luck and evil.

It's also modeled after a Buddha statue in Bodh Gaya, India, where Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, was said to have attained enlightenment. Bodh Gaya is considered a holy site for Buddhists.

Looking at the Jade Buddha "reminds me of that statue at a very holy place," Do said. "I feel closer to Buddha."

The Greens, both 64, raised the money to buy the jade stone from Canada and have it carved.

The Australian couple, who live near Melbourne, own an advertising agency and are in Seattle for the duration of the statue's time at Co Lam Pagoda. They've been Buddhists, in the Tibetan tradition, for 35 years.

They plan to tour the Jade Buddha for about five years, they say, because they want people around the world, irrespective of religion, to reflect upon peace and to follow a peaceful path.

The tours also help raise funds for their plans to build a stupa — a sacred monument — in Bendigo, Australia, where the Jade Buddha will eventually be set. At each stop, they sell small items — jewelry or small Buddha statues — carved from the same block of jade as the Jade Buddha.

Phuc Le, an art designer in Seattle and a temple member, said he felt fortunate to be one of the first ones to see the Jade Buddha in Seattle. Praying before the Buddha, he said, helps him "focus my mind on the Buddha."

Gazing on the proceedings at his temple Thursday, Master Nguyen Kim, who teaches Buddhism, said: "This is a very special occasion."

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or jtu@seattletimes.com

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