But the bell and its hand-carved wooden frame - together 12 feet tall - disappeared sometime between Jan. 18 and Monday, said Thich Phuoc Toan, the abbot at the temple, who was attending a gathering in Florida.
The bell and frame were suspended from the heavy beams of an open-sided meditation pavilion.
"I think the people who stole it wanted to make money, but they never thought about the significance of it and how important it is in the practice of Buddhism," Toan said, speaking with the help of an interpreter.
Tacoma police investigated the theft and made a report, but Toan said he does not have much hope they will find it. Last month, a 500-pound statue was stolen from the temple grounds.
Toan said the bell was used only rarely, on special occasions. When struck with a mallet, it produced a clear, sustained tone intended to call disciples to worship.
"It is meant to awaken the soul and empty the mind of all impurities," he said.
Toan said the value of the bell cast in Vietnam was impossible to calculate.