Tran Quoc Pagoda
One of the best places to relax and spend free time in Hanoi is West Lake. It is the site of this pagoda that is included in most Vietnam travel packages that start in the Country’s capital, Hanoi. A causeway links two lakes together, West and Truc Bach and this is a favourite spot for young Vietnamese courting couples.
The pagoda took for years to complete and was finished at the beginning of the reign of king Ly Nam De in 545. At that time it was situated where West Lake met the Red River but in the early 17th Century it was moved on the instructions of the then King, Le Kinh Tong because the river bank was crumbling. It was then that its name changed from Khai Quoc to Tran Quoc.
There are many beautiful pagodas in Hanoi but this one is regarded by the local people as a cultural symbol. The Vietnamese are Buddhist in general but many other religions have a role in Vietnamese life. This pagoda is the oldest in the City and has many intricate features.
Visitors will see many valuable statues in the pagoda including Sakyamouni, a red statue trimmed with gold. Parinirvana is a masterpiece while Nguyen Xuan Chinh made a stele in 1639 that records the history of the pagoda. The lotus flower statues are symbolic. They represent the purity of speech, mind and body. There are also lotus flower carvings on the walls that intend to represent the natural beauty of Vietnam.
Tran Quoc Pagoda has needed some renovation over the years; the last significant repairs were done in 1815 when work was done on the posterior hall, the reception hall and the sanctuary.
Sunset is a great time to visit this lovely setting. The towers of the pagoda rise above the Lake and there is real significance of the Bodhi tree, a gift from the Indian Prime Minister, Razendia Prasat back in 1959, just a few years after North Vietnam independence. The tree was grafted from one where Sakyamouni has meditated over 20 centuries before in India. It now provides great shade in part of the yard.
Monks have lived at the pagoda for many centuries, teaching anyone that wants to listen. Prayers are held across the grounds before visitors arrive in the morning. Worshippers are invited to pray at different shrines around the temple and the 1st Lunar month is especially popular.
It is open every day but visitors must remember to dress appropriately if they intend to visit. That means that men should wear long trousers and shoulders should be covered. Tourists can burn incense, offer money or food, but not meat because the monks are vegetarian; they are gifts for god and seek good luck. There is no admission cost involved and a Hanoi travel agent will be happy to include a visit to the pagoda in a tour of the City.
You may visit many pagodas during your Vietnam holiday; make sure Tran Quoc is one of them.
One Pillar Pagoda
Together with the Perfume Pagoda, One Pillar is regarded as the most important of Vietnam’s temples. It dates back to the time of Emperor Ly Thai Tong in the 11th Century. He was childless but legend has it that he was given a baby son whilst sitting on a lotus flower. Subsequently, he married a peasant girl and they had a further son together. In gratitude, he built the Pagoda in 1049 on the advice of Thien Tue, a local monk, erecting a single pillar in the centre of a lotus pond. Thien Tue had had a dream and this is what he ‘’saw.’’
There are many legends, superstitions and folk tales that you will come across during your Vietnam holiday. Even if your Vietnam travel package does not include One Pillar Pagoda, you will have free time and the pagoda’s location in Hanoi makes it easy to visit; a Hanoi travel agency can easily make the arrangements and you will only have a short distance to travel from your hotel.
The temple is wooden and the pillar stone, 1.25m in diameter. It is meant to represent a lotus blossom that is closely associated with Buddhism. Its habitat is often muddy ponds so it is a symbol of purity.
Prayers were said before the pagoda opened, seeking a long life for the Emperor. Every year afterwards, there was a ceremony on the birthday of Gautama Buddha, Vesak. Ordinary people as well as monks attended.
It needed renovation early in the 12th Century and one of the projects was to raise a bell. It was too heavy, and therefore had to be left on the ground. It was given the name, Quy Dien Chung, ‘’Bell of the Turtle Farmland’’ because the area was the home of many turtles. Unfortunately, the bell was smelted down by the Chinese in the Ming Dynasty. They had invaded Vietnam but when they were being repelled they decided to use the copper to make weapons.
Another people, this time then French, destroyed the pagoda as they left Vietnam in 1954 and so it needed to be rebuilt. A replica has also been built down in Ho Chi Minh City.
Today, One Pillar Pagoda has become a major tourist attraction. Visitor numbers are increasing year on year so it seems that more and more people will visit this wonderful site in the years to come.
Any tourist remotely interested in religion and visiting the most important sites during their Vietnam travel must surely go to the Huong Tich Mountains to see the complex of shrines and pagodas. They are close to Hanoi in My Duc District and with so many Vietnam tour packages starting in Hanoi, they are a great introduction to the country. The highlight is certainly the Perfume Temple within Huong Tich Cave.
It is thought that the first temple on the site was built in the 15th Century when Le Thanh Tong was the ruler. It is a legend that claims the immediate area was found by a monk who was meditating there many centuries before that. He gave it the name of the mountain in Tibet where Buddha was known to have lived.
A stone states that the terrace, steps and kim Dung shrine were built in 1686 in the time of Le Hy Tong. Time has resulted in damage but restoration work has been done. The original statues of Buddha and Quan Am were made in 1767 but almost immediately replaced by the ones you can see today. Both the Wars against the French and the Americans caused further damage but that has also been rectified.
Huong Tich Cave is the central part of the Complex. Before you reach there you will come across Den Trien, a shrine that honours a general from the Hung kings. Two kneeling elephant statues are either side of the entrance before you go inside. Further along there is a pond, well and streams before you reach the highlight of the visit, Huong Cave and its contents.
The mouth has been compared to a dragon’s mouth and there are characters carved into the wall at the entrance. The carvings are dated at 1770 and describe the cave as the most important around. Once inside you will see plenty of statues in green stone, as well as stalactites and stalagmites.
Huong is a site that many pilgrims visit throughout the year and if you take a day to visit during your Vietnam holiday, you are unlikely to be alone. It is thought that Buddha actually visited the site, hence its importance to pilgrims. Some come to seek forgiveness, others to pray for good luck; couples come in the hope of having a child.
There is a festival here each year and it is the longest in the country. While it starts in February on the lunar calendar, pilgrims can come a month earlier and others arrive right until mid-March. There are offerings made throughout these weeks and restaurants kill and prepare wildlife for this special occasion.
Vietnam offers so much. Its friendly people, religious and cultural sites and the natural environment each deserve some time if you decide to travel there. You will not regret it with Hanoi and many other attractions enough to spend days in the North. One of those days should be in the Huong Tich Mountains visiting this important religious site.
Thay Pagoda, literally ‘’the Master’s Pagoda’’, also known as the ‘’Pagoda of the Heavenly Blessing’’ is in Quoc Oai District. It was built in the 11th Century and dedicated to Tu Dao Hanh, a Thien master. He was a monk who was an expert in water puppetry as well as being a mystic and medical man. There are additional dedications to the king at that time, and to Gautama Buddha.
This is the time of Ly Nhan Tong of the Ly Dynasty. It is a pagoda that is especially popular during Tet, Vietnamese New Year. As one of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam, it is certainly a place that visitors on a Vietnam holiday should consider visiting. A Hanoi travel agent will be happy to arrange for you to visit a pagoda that is cared for by monks. It is just 30 kilometres from Hanoi, sitting on the side of an artificial lake beneath the Sai Son Mountains.
There are three parts to the pagoda that is typical of Vietnamese architectural style. The prayer hall is the first, at the entrance. It has almost 100 images covering different times in history. There are two huge paper-mache and clay images dating back to the 7th Century; they each weigh a ton and few others match their size anywhere in Vietnam.
The middle chamber has several Buddha images and demons, most dated from the 16th Century. There is plenty of colour; red is the dominant colour of the clothes though the 13th Century statue of a man sitting on a lotus throne is wooden, and primarily yellow. The man is Tu Dao Hanh and next to him is a reincarnation of the Ly King, Thanh Tong. The third section is filled with statues of monks.
Over the years, the temple has needed regular renovation, especially the small shrine first constructed in 1132. Two bridges, Sun and Moon connect to the pagoda. One goes to a small island on which there is a small Taoist temple; remember there are many religious strands within Vietnamese life even though Buddhism is very much the dominant belief. The other bridge goes to a hill up which Dao Hanh walked on day in his later years. He entered a cave on the hill and disappeared.
Each year there is a festival in honour of Tu Dao Hanh. It is held between the 5th and 7th days of the 3rd lunar month. The open-air theatre hosts water puppet shows and people come from villages all around to enjoy the celebrations. If you are lucky enough to be in the area at that time, then Thay Pagoda is a great option.
Hanoi’s tourists’ numbers are increasing year on year. There are many things to see and do within the City and the immediate vicinity. The Country’s capital is a good base for days within a Vietnam travel package. This pagoda offers you the chance to get away into the countryside and see the daily lives of villagers tending the fields.
Tay Phuong Pagoda
Pagodas are one of the highlights of a Vietnam holiday. Tay Phuong is just 30 km from Hanoi, a popular starting point for a Vietnam travel package. It is known for its wonderful sculptures and engravings. It was built in the 8th Century but has needed restoration several times since. It was rebuilt in 1632 in line with the typical layout of pagodas in China and Vietnam; an upper sanctuary, palace and entrance rooms.
You will find a good Hanoi travel agent happy to arrange a trip to the Pagoda though you must expect to do some walking to be able to enjoy the interior. There are almost 250 well-worn stone steps up to the gate that bears its name; the translation of Tay Phuong Co Tu means ‘’Ancient Pagoda of the West’’. The stone at the site mentions two other names; Sung Phuc Tu and Hoang Son Thieu Lam Tu.
It was further revived in 1794 during the Tay Son regime and that is the design you will see today; the Hall of Prostration followed by the Main Shrine and finally the Sanctuary.
The central piece is the highest; it is regarded as Heaven with the rear, Earth. The double-tiered roof finds a balance between ying and yang. The roof slopes on all sides to represent stars, deities, sun and moon, the elements of heaven.
The wooden features of the pagoda are especially impressive. They include carvings of lotus flowers, dragon and phoenix. The statues are arguably even more special, also wood, with the Buddhas the highlight. There is Arhats, La Han the saint, and Sakyamouni meditating below Tuyet Son, the Snow Mountain.
Every spring there is a festival at the Tay Phuong Pagoda. There are puppet performances, chess with the pieces being human, tug of war and many other forms of entertainment. The most important part of the Festival is on the 6th day of the 3rd lunar month. The ceremony is known as Sam Hoi and its aim is to get men to be charitable and compassionate.
The Pagoda is also very popular around New Year (Tet) because of its beautiful setting. The attraction of Vietnam includes the people and lovely natural environment as well as the religious and historical structures. Tay Phuong Pagoda wins on several counts and visitors based in Hanoi should make every effort to go there during their time in North Vietnam.
Researchers claim the Dau Pagoda in Thuan Thanh is the oldest Buddhist pagoda in the world. It is just an hour’s drive from the Old Quarter of Hanoi where many Vietnam travel packages begin. While the pagoda is essentially Buddhist, the Goddesses of the Rains and the Clouds are also worshipped at the pagoda as well.
If it is not on the itinerary you have booked, you should use some of the fre time you have in your Vietnam holiday to see it. You can escape the bustle of Hanoi one morning and be finished just after lunchtime to see or do something else.
Years ago, the site of Dau Pagoda was the capital of Giao Chi, an important cultural and economic centre in Vietnam. Khau Da La, an Indian missionary monk, founded a Buddhist centre called Luy Lau here 1,800 years ago. At the time there were many citadels, markets and pagodas and Dau was among them.
Many things have changed since then and fortunately Dao is one of the things that has survived. It was expanded and includes two 17th Century mummified bodies of Vu Khac Minh and Vu Khac Truong that were rediscovered in the 80s. One is covered in gold and paint, the other in silver and paint.
Hoa Phong is a 3 storey tower in front of the pagoda; it was once 6 storeys high but it suffered some damage. The tower contains a number of artifacts including a bell from 1793, a gong from 1817 and several statues of Buddhist legend. The rear is a place of calm with many benches shaded by the trees. There are ponds and streams that add to the lovely atmosphere. The seven stone lotus flowers, the steps across the pond, represent the initial seven steps a baby Buddha makes.
While the pagoda is usually a fairly quiet place, there is an annual festival on 8th April based on the lunar calendar. That means its actual date on the international calendar changes each year. It is the biggest Buddhist festival in North Vietnam. Offerings are made to Buddha and there are many traditional musical performances entertain the crowds. They come from all over the Red River Delta and there are refreshments on sale to quench your thirst.
Those interested in Vietnamese culture must surely visit this pagoda as part of their Vietnam travels and it is an essential entry on any Buddhist’s ‘’things to see.’’
But Thap Pagoda
The most notable feature of the But Thap Pagoda near the Duong River close to Hanoi is the stunning statue with one thousand arms and one thousand eyes. It is not the only thing that has made this pagoda famous but it certainly makes it stand out as one to see while on a Vietnam holiday and travelling in the north. Many tourists begin their Vietnam travel in Hanoi so it is a fairly simple procedure to get a Vietnam travel agent to add it to the itinerary.
The Pagoda was built during the rule of Tran Thanh Tong. There are many statues and ancient artifacts inside the Pagoda; there are excellent 17th Century carved wooden pieces and around the times they were carved the current Zen master Chuyet Chuyet helped the fame of the pagoda to spread. There are ten buildings overall with a gate of three entrances to the bell tower, there are several houses in the central area and the back house itself. Included in more than 50 statues are Maniusri seated on a blue lion, Triad Buddha and Samantabhadra astride a white elephant. All the monuments face south in line with tradition with trees, flora and fauna a popular subject for carvings.
This pagoda is arguably the most impressive example of 17th century art in Vietnam. Two lines of steles run the length of the pagoda. There is a five-room house in honour of Chuyet Chuyet, who incidentally was Chinese. There are several towers; the Bao Nghiem Tower seems to dominate the immediate skyline. It is 5 storeys high and topped off with blue marble. Another tower is Tich Thien, 9 storeys and 8 sides with lovely carvings of Buddhas and folk tales.
There is a stone bridge leading from Tich Thien over a pond filled with lotuses.
Visitors comes in their numbers for a variety of reasons; some are students of architecture, others are pilgrims and many are just tourists in Vietnam who want to see the highlights of the northern region. The whole setting is wonderful; the Pagoda, the Duong River and the Mountains, Tam Dao and Phat Tich combine to offer great photographs for visitors.
The festival in the spring is a great time to visit when locals come to celebrate and tourists are welcome to observe the festivities. It is a place not to miss, among a host of highlights that Vietnam has to offer.
Phat Tich Pagoda
The Ly Dynasty played an important role in Vietnamese history and culture; it left a legacy of pagodas of which Phat Tich is one. It was built sometime between the 7th and 10th Centuries so it is one of the oldest Buddhist sites in North Vietnam. Phat Tich means ‘’Buddha’s Trace’’ and the Pagoda is in the District of Tien Du in Bac Ninh Province. It is easily accessible from Hanoi if you are enjoying a Vietnam holiday.
There have been many changes and renovations over time; the first was in 1057 when King Ly Thanh Tong had a tower and golden statue added. It was then increased in size in the 1600s but was severely damaged during the struggle for independence in 1947. It was rebuilt a decade later and the Pagoda that tourists on a Vietnam travel itinerary will see today is the 1991 reconstruction using the original architectural designs. The columns are beautifully carved with both lotus flowers and musicians playing a variety of instruments.
Not everything from ancient times has been lost; the Amitabha Buddha Stone dates back to at the least the 11th Century and is highly treasured.
It seems that during the ly Dynasty many ceremonies and festivals were celebrated at the Pagoda. Prayers were regularly said for good fortune, a bountiful harvest and protection from enemies. Buddhist monks were trained here as well.
There was the largest and heaviest Buddhist Gem statue here; it was made in 2009 and stands 3.5 metres tall, weighing 4.5 tons. The intention behind the statue made of Nephrite was to promote world peace. The statue did a comprehensive tour of Vietnam, including Ho Cho Minh City before going abroad to places such as the USA before finding a home in the Peace Tower in New South Wales in Australia.
There is now a statue 27 metres tall, weighing over 3,000 tons, amongst the biggest in the whole of South East Asia. It follows the design from the Ly Dynasty and is a highlight of any Vietnam tour package for overseas visitors. It took many artisans to do the work; this Province has many villages that have unique skills. The stoneworkers live in a village called Ninh Van. It took then four years to complete; the rocks were transport up Phat Tich Mountain by rail and it sits at over 100 metres above sea level, a prominent position. When you visit you cannot be other than extremely impressed by their work.
Bo Da Pagoda
This 11th Century Pagoda in Viet Yen District was built during the Ly Dynasty and is somewhat different from other pagodas in the North. It is in Bac Giang Province whose Administration was recently delighted to announce its inclusion in Vietnam’s list of Special National Relics. It merits inclusion in a Vietnam tour itinerary. Tourists who begin their Vietnam holiday in Hanoi will find that a Hanoi travel agent can easily make the arrangements for you.
It is a spiritual site combining three of Vietnam’s traditional beliefs; Buddhism obviously, but also Confucianism and Taoism.
It is not the only building on the site; there is also Tu An Tu and Am Tu Duc pagodas and a temple in honour of General Thach Tuong who defended the region from foreign invasion in the 16th Century.
There are many impressive statues and sculptures that are extremely rare. Ancient texts are hosed in the Pagoda, engraved on wooden blocks hundreds of years old. There are over 2,000 of them, dating back to the 18th Century. They are light but certainly durable because they remain in good condition despite the absence of preservatives.
The whole site has a feeling of age; that applies to the soil walls that are a distinctive shade of brown, the tiles following the principles of ying and yang, the wooden fences and large water jars.
Over the years, Bo Da has needed renovation and rebuilding. The Pagoda you see today is in the style of the Nguyen Dynasty, Vietnam’s last, that ruled during the time of French colonial occupation. There are almost 100 old compartments that open into one another, a layout typical of the Chinese. It gives the external impression of being closed yet once inside, visitors are likely to think they are in a maze. Many pray in the sanctuary or simply meditate and take in the lovely atmosphere of the garden outside.
You will be seeing the largest tower garden in Vietnam; 97 towers that contain the cremated remains of over 1,200 monks and nuns of Lam Te Buddhism. The birth dates and death dates of all are inscribed outside.
There are just two monks living here these days but that does not mean the pagoda is not regarded as important. Each year there is a festival in the lunar month of February when thousands of monks, local Buddhists and tourists arrive to enjoy the occasion, including prayer and folk music performances.