"This is a unique item, only one of them in the world," said Simone Brinkmann-Robinson, a member of Kim Quang Buddhist Temple on Alta Arden Expressway.
The incense holder was stolen in pieces recently. Thieves came on three separate occasions, taking parts off the religious artifact, estimated to weigh half a ton.
First they came to the grounds of the gated and fenced temple and took the lid and the base. The second time they took the handles that resembled dragons. Finally, last week, either Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, thieves took the heavy bowl.
It appears that to take the bowl they used a small temple wagon to take it to a fence that was broken. From there, it was transferred on the other side of the broken fence to another wheeled conveyance before taking it away, Brinkmann-Robinson said.
"The material worth is about $15,000," she said. "But it is really priceless because of its history. It was imported from Viet Nam."
Originally, the incense burner was made for a festival staged by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, (UNESCO), she said. The holder is from Hue.
"It is supposed to be a museum piece but the temple decided to purchase it because the temple is mainly Vietnamese so it is a cultural connection," she said. "Apart from the Buddhist practices we use it for, it is also an emotional piece for a lot of people."
Members of the temple come from the Bay area and the Sacramento region.
"We are afraid they are going to come back," said Brinkman-Robinson, who said the monks on the property did not hear the burglars take the incense burner.
She said the incense burner was purchased by the members of the temple.
"When something like this is taken, it affects everybody," she said.