4,000 tons of gold buried in Vietnam: myth or reality?

By Kim Thuy, Tu Huynh   April 13, 2016 | 02:28 am PT
4,000 tons of gold buried in Vietnam: myth or reality?
The old well near the beach where Hoang Van Doi believes that the gold was buried. Photo by Tu Huynh
Rumors about a secret looted treasure of Yamashi Tomoyuki, an Imperial Japanese Army General buried deep into a mountain in the southern Binh Thuan province, has intrigued many for decades, but the search for the hidden treasue have so far proved fruitless.

The intriguing myth

Legend has it that during World War II, the Japanese government plundered masses of treasure such as ancient artifacts, art work, gold, diamonds and platinum from Southeast Asian countries to fund its war efforts.

On their way back to Japan, the ships were confronted by American patrol vessels, making it too difficult to ship the treasures to Japan.

General Yamashi Tomoyuki, nicknamed “the Tiger of Malaya”, decided to hide the treasure in caves, tunnels and mountains along the coast, so when the war ended, Japanese forces would be able to retrieve the treasure.

The general was later executed for war crimes and did not disclose any details about the looted treasure.

Common belief says that treasure was mostly buried in the Philippines, but here in Vietnam, we have a story to tell.

The story goes that the Japanese General was chased by American forces and stopped at Ca Na Bay in Thuan Hai province.

Around 4,000 tons of gold was rumored to have been buried in Tau Mountain near the beach. Soldiers and other servicemen who knew the secret were all buried alive with the treasure.

People in the province believed that after World War II, the Japanese would return to search for the buried treasure.

The legend was fuelled again when in 1976, a Japanese warship was found the sea-bed three nautical miles away from Tau Mountain.

The empty warship reinforced the belief that the treasure from the ship was buried somewhere near the beach.

The hunting for treasure

The treasure has lured many to go on the hunt.

101-year-old Tran Van Tiep, who claimed to own the only secret map of the burial site left by the Japanese forces, has chased the legendary treasure for 20 years, but to no avail.

He believes that the 4,000 tons of gold along with masses of other valuable jewelry are worth $100 billion.

He began the hunt in 2012 when his exploration was licensed by local authorities, and spent millions of dong to hire mining, geological engineers and even psychics to search for the gold.


Tau Mountain, where the treasure is rumored to be buried. Photo by Tu Huynh

Many times, Tiep found tunnel doors, but his hopes were soon dashed when his searches ended empty-handed.

However, his belief in the existence of the treasure was strengthened when he found an old Japanese sword, a 10,000-yen coin and a broken metal hookah during an excavation on the east side of the mountain.

Tiep insisted on continuing his search even though local authorities tried to stop him for causing damage to the environment.

In 2014, it was estimated that nearly 2,000 kilograms of explosives were used.

Like Tiep, Hoang Van Doi, a local, also strongly believes in the existence of the treasure. Doi has spent five years researching the burial site.

In March this year, Doi filed a document to the authorities to prove that the treasure was not buried on the mountain but in an old well near the beach.

Time called on treasure hunt

Nguyen Ngoc Hai, chairman of the provincial People’s Committee signed a paper on April 12 ordering an end to all excavation activities, and said any requests related to the treasure would not receive an answer from authorities.

Nguyen Van Hanh, a state officer who was in charge of supervising excavation activities for decades, said the evidence provided by treasure hunters had no scientific basis.

“I think it is time we end the myth of the treasure as well as public fuss in order to ensure social safety and order in the province,” Hanh said.

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