The burning Buddhist monk (June 11, 1963) - History Key

The burning Buddhist monk (June 11, 1963)

The event was captured on a historical photo which created emotions in the entire world. Thich Quang Duc burned himself to death in a populated intersection in Saigon. The monk died, but he didn’t scream or move during the sacrifice. The odd thing is that his heart remained intact and didn’t burn. His heart is placed in a glass chalice at Xa Loi Pagoda, Vietnam.

The heart relic of Quảng Đức
The heart relic of Quảng Đức © Image Source: Wikipedia

Form of Protest

The self-immolation was a protest against the pro-Catholic regime of South Vietnam which discriminated the Buddhist. More exactly the protest was a response to outlawing the Buddhist flag. Therefore the Buddhists felt that they religion will be banned sooner or later under Diem. We must have in mind that at that time the Buddhists made up to 80% of Vietnam’s population.

Before Thich Quang Duc became a martyr, a large crowd of Buddhists protested the ban of their flag, defying the government by waving Buddhist flags while marching. As a response, the government forces fired into the crowd which led to nine deaths.

The day before the sacrifice, journalists from the US were informed that “something” important will happen near the Cambodian embassy in Saigon. On June 11, 1963 Duc was one of the protesters among the 350 monks and nuns that marched. When the crowd arrived at the intersection between Phan Phuong Boulevard and Le Van Duyet Street, the martyr emerged from the car along with other monks.

Buddhist Martyr

One of the monks placed a pillow on the road and the other one brought a petrol can. Most part of the protesters formed a circle around Duc while he sat down on the pillow very calmly in the lotus position. Another monk emptied the petrol can over Duc body. Few moments before his ignition, Duc recited the words “homage to Buddha”. The flames grew in seconds and burned his clothes and flesh.

Thích Quảng Đức's self-immolation during the Buddhist crisis in Vietnam.
Thích Quảng Đức’s self-immolation during the Buddhist crisis in Vietnam © Malcolm Browne/ Image Source: Wikipedia

The spectators remained silent the entire process while most of them started praying. However a monk repeated into a microphone: “A Buddhist priest becomes a martyr”. After 10 minutes, Duc’s body was fully burned and the monks covered the corpse with yellow ropes.

Phan Đình Phùng (now Nguyễn Đình Chiểu) Street and Lê Văn Duyệt (now Cach Mạng Thang Tam) Street
Phan Đình Phùng (now Nguyễn Đình Chiểu) Street and Lê Văn Duyệt (now Cach Mạng Thang Tam) Street © Phusa12/ CC BY-SA 4.0/Image Source: Wikipedia

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