The Golden Bridge is supported by two enormous hands in the hills of Vietnam. Credit: Suicasmo / Wikimedia Commons

The mysteries behind the world's largest hands

Hands not only represent our ability to shape the world around us. They can also convey universal messages: from unity and harmony to peace, power and protection. What do the world's largest hand sculptures symbolise?



From the Hand of the Desert in Atacama, Chile to the Hands of Harmony in South Korea, or the hands of the Golden Bridge in Vietnam—all these sculptures feature the same body part, but each has its own story. Why have so many artists found inspiration in the human hand? We investigate the mysteries behind the largest hands on the planet.


A hand in the middle of the desert


In the heart of the Atacama Desert in Chile, a giant hand 11 metres high juts out of the arid sand, its fingers pointing skywards. The reinforced concrete sculpture was created in 1992 by the Chilean artist and sculptor Mario Irarrázabal. Located about 75 kilometres north-west of the city of Antofagasta, it has become one of the main tourist attractions in the area. But it is not the only hand that Irarrazábal has created. There are also other versions on the Playa Brava beach in Punta del Este, Uruguay, and in the Juan Carlos I Park in Madrid.

The sculptor was commissioned by the cement company Melón Hormigones to make Hand of the Desert for the entrance to their plant in Los Andes." Irarrazábal recounts: "It would have looked terrible. Luckily, Melón was going through a huge financial crisis at the time and they told me to forget about it." He showed the project to an engineer from Antofagasta, who asked him to let him talk to his friends, who were "mining engineers and very technical people." These people, above all, "loved the desert." "Let's do it," they replied.


Hand of the Desert is one of Chile's most iconic sculptures Credit: PxHere


The engineers didn't even ask about the meaning of the hand. Each visitor can give it their own interpretation, says its creator. While some believe it is the city saying farewell to the traveller, others claim it represents the victims of injustice and torture during Chile’s military dictatorship from 1973 to 1990. Today, many people come here to observe the starry sky. "Here, you can see the plane of the Milky Way, the Southern Cross and the Magellanic Clouds, as well as a large number of bright stars, such as Antares, Altair and Alpha Centauri, among many others," says astronomer Maximiliano Moyano D'Angelo.


Hands supporting bridges or emerging from water


In the hills of Vietnam, other giant concrete hands cradle a 152-metre-long pedestrian bridge suspended almost 1,400 metres above sea level. The bridge is known as Cau Vang (Golden Bridge) and was designed to make visitors feel like they are taking a stroll on a shimmering thread stretched across the hands of God.

This megastructure is part of a 1.7 billion euro project to attract tourism to the Thien Thai gardens at the Bà Nà Hills Resort. And it worked. Thousands of tourists have flocked to the area and pictures of it have gone viral on social media. "We’re proud that our product has been shared by people all over the world," TA Landscape Architecture's principal designer and founder Vu Viet Anh told AFP.


The Golden Bridge has gone viral on social media. Credit: Amazing Things in Vietnam


A pair of similar looking hands can be found in Homigot, South Korea. These imposing steel hands face each other (about 100 metres apart) and represent coexistence and harmony. They are known as the Hands of Harmony. One of them rises from the sea and offers a unique view at sunrise, while the other is on land at the Homigot Sunrise Plaza. Located at the easternmost tip of South Korea, Homigot is the first place in the country to see the rising sun. In fact, a sunrise festival is held here every New Year’s.

These are just some of the most striking giant hands on the planet, but there are many more. Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn designed six pairs of monumental stone hands for the 2019 Venice Art Biennale, which come together to symbolise "six of humanity’s universal values: friendship, faith, help, love, hope and wisdom." Other sculptures include the Praying Hands in Tulsa, Oklahoma; the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach, Florida; and the Caring Hand in Glarus, SwitzerlandTheir ability to convey universal meaning and their powerful visual impact have made these giant hands a magnet for millions of tourists around the world.


Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation.

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