Statue sought for temple
The group plans a 49-foot-tall statue of a Buddhist goddess.

By KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Published: 3/9/2009  2:20 AM
Last Modified: 3/9/2009  3:09 AM

The church steeples that rise into the sky throughout Tulsa could soon have company.

Plans are under way to erect a 49-foot-tall granite statue of the Buddhist goddess Quan Am on the grounds of the Tam-Bao Buddhist Temple, 16933 E. 21st St. The statue will stand on an 8-foot foundation.

The only thing standing in the way is the Board of Adjustment's approval of the temple's application to amend its previously approved site plan. The case will be heard March 24.

"It is our wish to have the statue put on the land, not only to benefit the Buddhist members but to attract more Americans who are interested in Buddhism, and it will beautify the city as well," said temple member Xuan Pham.

Pham said Quan Am, which is the Vietnamese name for the Buddhist goddess known as Kuan Yin in Chinese, is considered a mother figure and is a symbol of love, compassion, understanding and listening. Statues of Quan Am are common at Vietnamese and Chinese Buddhist temples, she said.

"Whenever we cry for help, she will be there with a listening ear, a compassionate heart, love and understanding to provide us with comfort," Pham said.

" Just like the Catholics. They pray to Mother Mary. It's similar to that."

Generally speaking, places of worship in Tulsa are required to get a special exception from the Board of Adjustment unless they are to be located in commercially zoned areas.

The Tam-Bao Buddhist Temple received its special exception in 1993.

It is now
going back to the board seeking a minor special exception to amend its previously approved site plan.

Duane Cuthbertson, the Board of Adjustment's planner, said the decision to require the temple to obtain a minor special exception was made by the city permitting department in consultation with the board's staff.

Cuthbertson said such decisions are judgment calls based on whether the structure in question could "potentially impact the public realm such that public input or review is necessary."

A minor special exception was deemed appropriate, Cuthbertson said, because the Quan Am statue would not alter the floor space of the temple itself or represent a significant alteration in the use of the property.

Height requirements for structures within Tulsa are determined by the zoning district.

The Tam-Bao temple is located in an area zoned agriculture, which has no height requirement.

Cuthbertson noted, however, that the Board of Adjustment can place restrictions on the height of the proposed statue when it hears the case.

But for Pham and the hundreds of other members of the temple, a five-story statue makes sense.

"It is our long-term goal for the next five years, we will probably build a bigger temple, so this will go better with a new temple," she said.

"It's the ultimate goal of the temple."

Kevin Canfield 581-8313

About the statue

“Kuan Yin, or Quan Am, is the Bodhisattva of Compassion. She is the embodiment of the loving kindness. As the Bodhisattva of Compassion, she hears the cries of all beings. The compassionate love of Quan Am Bodhisattva gives human beings more strength to eliminate suffering, to live with understanding and love to benefit ourselves and others.”

Venerable Thich Duc Tri, Abbot of Tam-Bao Buddhist Temple

By KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer