VIETNAMESE 'S FAMOUS PAGODAS
Vo Van Tuong - Huynh Nhu Phuong
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan, Thuy Duong and Nguyen Van Nghe
Art Publisher - 1995
By the Most Venerable Thich Thien Sieu
In the long way history of Buddhism, an ancient and profound religion which has been constantly developing and modernising, Buddhist architecture has been changing increasingly both in form and content. From small buts for some monks in early times, they have gradually become large monasteries or Pagodas for a community of monks, together with dome-shaped or multi-faceted stupas enshrining holy Buddhist relics, subordinate structures, stele houses, statues, religious decorations and musical instruments….Today, one can see in a typical pagoda a harmonious and original combination of various characteristic of Buddhist architecture.
Once Buddhism has taken root in any new land, it makes its penetration into all aspects of life there. Take Vietnamese Buddhism for instance, since its very beginning, it has been closely connected with the country for over two thousand years, and Buddhist pagodas have witnessed the ups and downs of the nation’s fortune, as well as the Vietnamese cultural and religious activities through the ages.
Several research works on Buddhist Pagodas that have been issued recently arouse interest both in the Vietnamese culture and Buddist culture.
"45 Famous Pagodas In Vietnam"edited by Messrs Vo Van Tuong an Huynh Nhu Phuong is a praiseworthy contribution to that significant effort.
Through pictures and stories of those famous pagodas, the two authors have made a particular attempt to present different ways of living, patterns of behaviour and mental attitudes of several Buddhist scholars or historical figures, and even personal feelings or the delicacy of distinguished men of letters or skilful craftsman relating to folktales, songs and poems of the time, thus creating a vivid panorama of Vietnamese history coloured with diverse traditional ways and customs, now realistic, now romantic.
Despite their careful study of historical documents, the authors do not intend to lay emphasis on scientific research, but they merely aim at revealing the originality in Vietnamese sculptural and architectural designs tinted with a touch of nostalgia.
Statistically there are more than 14,000 pagodas scattered all over the country. In fact, each of them more or less enhanced the charm of natural scenery with its own attractiveness. The term "Danh lam thang canh" is a popular Vietnamese expression in which celebrated pagodas and beauty-spots go in pairs, suggesting that the beauty of pagodas is part of the beauties of nature and vice versa.
Yet in a bustling city, the presence of a pagoda can bring a sense of relief from the discomfort of the busy atmosphere or even the superficiality of modern life.
In this sense, the authors are faced with a difficult choice from such a wide variety of pagoda patterns.
But what has influenced them most in their selection of these 45 pagodas ?
It is obvious that within the format of this book, priority is given to pagodas which, to some extent, represent the development of Vietnamese Buddhism and the growth of various Buddhist sects and also special features of some local areas throughout the country.
The reader may not agree with the authors about the matter preference because of its limitations. However, this selection conveys to the reader their true attempt to give a general view of our Vietnamese cultural heritage and in particular, their deep admiration for Vietnamese Buddhism, a religion of compassion and wisdom which has long been invigorating the national life, but at the same time it has been imbued with national vigour itself.
Altogether, I think this is a valuable book which I highly recommend the reader.
Tu Dam Pagoda,
Bhikkhu Thich Thien Sieu
(Translated by Tran Phuong Lan)
For a long time, many pagodas in Vietnam have been places where values are preserved as part of the national heritage. A study of Vietnamese Pagodas consists not only in learning about the development of Vietnamese Buddhism, but also in exploring various aspects of the Vietnamese culture. All this will help us to intensify our national pride and our sense of responsibility for preserving our worthy cultural heritage handed down from earlier generations.
In the changing situation of our country, many pieces of research on Vietnamese Pagodas have been published, contributing to the trend of restoring and preserving our national culture. In editing "45 Famous Pagodas In Vietnam", a modest contribution of ours to the trend, we hope to present a general survey of Vietnamese history alongside traditional festivals, literary works, monastic architectural and sculptural designs concerning the 45 famous pagodas scattered all over the country. In our opinion, they are more or less symbols of the development of Vietnamese Buddhism, the growth of different Buddhist sects and the main features of some well-known areas throughout the country. Next too pieces of writing are photographs of diverse monastic sculptural and architectural shapes. Of course, there are many other pagodas which we have not been able to present to the reader on account of the limitations of our writing material and the format of this book. We hope the reader will overlook any shortcomings which may remain in our book.
In preparing the book, we have made use of historical or literary documents about Vietnamese Buddhism gathered by previous researchers. In addition, the facts we have found from our trips to many local areas have helped us to compare and contrast all material to complete our pieces of writing.
On the occasion of the publication of the book, we would like to convey our sincere thanks to all Venerable Elders of the above-mentioned Pagodas and Monasteries for their assistance in collecting documents necessary for our work.
+ We are greatly indebted to the authors of the book listed in the bibliography for their useful references.
+ We wish to express our special appreciation to Messrs. Nguyen Thai Hoa, Tran Tuan Man and Truong Ngoc Tuong for giving us their proper suggestions and comments.
+ Above all, we would like to express our deep gratitude to the Most Venerable Thich Thien Sieu, Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the V.B.S Executive Council and Head of the Department of Monastic Education for his kindness in contributing a delightful foreword to our book, our English Translators Messrs
Nguyen Van Nghe, Chau Van Thuan and the Poet Thuy Duong for their translation of the first part of the book concerning 19 pagodas in North Vietnam and Mme Tran Phuong Lan for her version of the second part covering 26 pagodas in Central and South Vietnam.
And finally we extend our thanks to the Directorate of My Thuat Publisher for providing favourable conditions for the publication of this book.
Ho Chi Minh City, December 1993
Vo Van Tuong - Huynh Nhu Phuong
(Translated by Tran Phuong Lan)
This is our English version of "The 45 Famous Pagodas in Vietnam" edited by Messrs.Vo Van Tuong and Huynh Nhu Phuong as a brief survey of the Vietnamese Buddhist culture through pictures and stories.
A large number of these pieces of research are a mixture of prose and verse. Since I undertake the task of translating Part II (Pagodas in Central and South Vietnam), which contains numerous poems, odes and parallel sentences composed by well-known Chinese or Vietnamese poets, kings and Ch'an Masters throughout nearly ten centuries, I think that it is impossible to interpret the spirit and reproduce the beauty of the original stanzas concerning Buddhism especially Ch'an (Dhyana) Buddhism, into a prose translation. Moreover, it is extremely difficult to understand thee true feelings conveyed in the verses uttered by Ch'an Masters and above all, Ch'an Patriarchs.
Before doing the time-consuming translation of these many poems, I have consulted only the original Chinese texts and some Vietnamese versions without any available English ones. Therefore, I have tried hard to offer the reader a fair rendering of the authors' words and not to deviate from the time-honoured traditional interpretation of Ch'an poetry.
Being fully aware of my limitations in languages as well as Buddhism, in particular Ch'an Buddhism, I would like to say that this is but a modest attempt of mine to present a prose translation of a number of Ch'an poems to those who cannot read the original. In spite of all my efforts, there might still oversights and misinterpretations in my work.
I sincerely hope to receive valuable suggestions from advanced scholars and readers who will kindly help me to revise and improve my version for the next edition.
Tran Phuong Lan
(The Vietnamese Institute of Advanced Buddhist Studies Ho Chi Minh City)
(PHAP VAN PAGODA)
THANH KHUONG, THUAN THANH, HA BAC PROVINCE
Traveller! Wherever you are going
Come back when you see the tower of Dau Pagoda.
Among hundreds of trades whichever you are doing
Don't fail to join the Dau Festival on the eighth together!
The above popular verses evoke the memory of a pagoda which is among the earliest temples of our country. Built in the beginning of the third century, the temple was located in centre of the ancient capital Luy Lau, now part of Khuong Tu hamlet, Thanh Khuong village, Thuan Thanh district, Ha Bac province, 30 km from Ha Noi. It is now the Dau pagoda or Phap Van Temple, which bore the name of Co Chau in the Ly Dynasty, Thien Dinh in the Tran and Dien Ung in the Le.
During the early centuries of the Christian era, the Dau pagoda already witnessed the development of a prosperous commercial area around the crossing of the main roads of olden times, whose trace is now no more than the ruin of Luy Lau lying on the Thuan Thanh crossroads (Ha Bac), joining the two highways: One northward to Dong Trieu-Pha Lai, the other Southward to Khoai Chau-Hai Hung.
The history of the Dau pagoda was associated with the mythical story of Man Nuong, a virgin from the Man Xa village lying on the bank on the Duong river. Since the age of twelve, Man Nuong used to cross the river from the south to north bank to receive religious teaching from Master Khau-Da-La, an Indian bonze in Linh Quang Pagoda (Phat Tich village, Tien Son). Khau-Da-La was a Ch'an Master who had associated the preaching of Tantraim (Buddhism in the Esoteric sect) with local popular beliefs, thus crating a major influence on the population of Luy Lau. But the religious pursuit of Man Nuong was unachieved since one day, while she was lying asleep on the floor, Master Khau-Da-La, coming out from his worship hour, accidentally stepped over her body. She then got pregnant and 14 months later, gave birth to a baby-girl which she then returned to her master. Khau-Da-La carried the in his arm to the century-old banian-tree by the river side. He said the incantation, then using his holy struck at the lower part of the tree, which split open right away.
The baby was put in and the opening shut up automatically, leaving a nice fragrance exhaling in the air . The last souvenir that Man Nuong received from her Master was his holy stick.
On his recommendation, wherever came a drought, as the soil was getting dry and likely to cause crop failures, Man Nuong would plant the stick into the soil and say prayers…Then miracle would happen: heavy rains would pour down. One stormy night, the old banian-tree wherein Man Nuong's baby-girl had been confided, was suddenly beaten down, fell into the river and floated down streams to the Dau village. The villagers gathered and tried to drag it out of the river, but their efforts were in the vain. Fortunately, Man Nuong, by using her pink brassier ribbons was able to pull the old tree up to the river bank . That night, in their dreams, the villagers were advised by a deity to carve statues out of the wood of the banian tree for worship. Thence came into existence four statues in adoration of the four goddesses of Cloud, Rain, Thunder, Lightning, which were named as follows:
Phap Van (or Lady Dau adored in Thien Dinh pagoda)
Phap Vu (or Lady Dau adored in Thanh Dao pagoda)
Phap Loi (or Lady Tuong adored in Phi Tuong pagoda)
Phap Dien (or Lady adored in Phuong Quang pagoda)
The legend of Man Nuong, the virgin mother who had become the Holy Mother of the four goddesses, has been commemorated every year on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month. On this day, Buddhist monks and worshipers from all parts come back to the Dau Pagoda to join the Festival as said in popular serves mentioned above. The Dau Festival is an occasion for Buddhists not only to go on a pilgrimage to the pagoda, but also to participate in the cultural and traditional celebrations and performances of the agricultural inhabitants. The Festival is celebrated all over the district with hilarious processions (comprising greeting procession, welcoming procession and leave-taking procession). The statues of Lady Dau, Lady Tuong and Lady Dan are "invited" to
come and meet with their eldest sister Lady Dau at Dien Ung pagoda. After the ceremonies of water dance, water offering, stick dance, the 4 statues are escorted to Man Xa pagoda to pay homage to their mother Man Nuong. Also on this festival day, on the Dau pagoda terrace, one can watch dragon dances "tortoise and crane" dance, drummer dance, wrestling, human chess (where the 32 chessmen are real beautiful young girls and handsome young boys).
Situated on a wide terrace near the Dau river a branch of the Duong river-Phap Van pagoda has once been a famous Buddhist centre well known to the whole, country, This very spot used to be the monastery and preaching tribune of many famous Ch'an masters such as Vinitaruci (a south Indian bonze who came to Vietnam in 580 and translated the set of canon, Mahayanist Dharanis), Phap Hien, Quan Duyen, Tri Bat, Dinh Khong, Thien Hoi…The book Thien Uyen Tap Anh (The brilliant Stars of The Ch'an Garden) has recorded the peculiar meeting with heart-to-heart communication between Vinitaruci and Phap Hien at the Dau pagoda, marking the initial appearance of Ch'an Buddhism in the cultural life of the Vietnamese people.
The Dau pagoda, formerly named Phap Van was repaired and renovated many times: in the middle of the 12th in the Ly period, in the late 13th century and the 14th century in the Tran, in the 18th century in the Le, then in the late 19th century in the Nguyen. Now the pagoda still bears many archicultural signs of the posterior Le. Mac Dinh Chi made extensive renovation in 1313 as recorded in the Dai Nam Nhat Thong Chi. In the Tran dynasty Mac Dinh Chi built a pagoda of a hundred compartments, a nine-storeyed tower and a nine-spanned bridge whose foundations can still be seen nowadays. "the pagoda was built in the particular style of". I - shaped interior shaped exterior, going past a brickyard, with the Hoa Phong tower, in the middle, one arrives at the Great worship. Hall and the Buddha shrine, the Back Hall at the rear. All are surrounded by four rows of house forming the shape of the Chinese character. In the Buddha shrine, the statues of Phap Van, of two meters in height was set on a lotus pedestal in the middle compartment. Closely on both sides of the Buddha shrine are the statues of Kim Dong and Ngoc Nu, each one 1m57 high, which bear the characteristic features of sculptural art of the 17th- 18th centuries.
With regard to the architectural art of the Dau pagoda, one could not overlook the Hoa Phong tower which rising from the brown stilled roofs, emerges prominently in the sky and verdant bamboos' shades. Established by Ch'an Master Phap Hien in the late 6th century to preserve the Buddhish relics, it originally had 9 storeys, but through the destruction of time, now only 3 storeys remain, with 17m in height, The base storey is of square shape of 7m each side, with thick walls opening 4 vaulted doors. The two main doors facing the east and the other two facing west all have flights of stairs in front. On either side of each flight are two stone squirrels lying in the crawling position-a style very similar to the ancient sculptural of Champa in the 13th-14th centuries and the animal symbolic sculpture in the architecture of imperial tombs in the Tuy period. The Hoa Phong tower was renovated in 1737 in the Le period. Inside the tower, there are the great bell cast in the Canh Thinh reign and the big bronze gong cast in 1837 under the reign of King Minh Mang.
Built with plain bricks of large size, the former Hoa Phong tower, with its original lofty height, stood high up as a stone pillar to block up the karma current coming up from the unenlightened world.
Thuy Duong and Nguyen Van Nghe
(VAN PHUC PAGODA)
PHUONG HOANG, TIEN SSON, HA BAC PROVINCE)
Phat Tich Pagoda or Van Phuc Pagoda originally named Thien Phuc Tu - is situated on the side of Lan Kha mountain, Phat Tich village, Tien Du district, presently Phuong Hoang village, Tien Son district, Ha Bac province.
Tourists from Ha Hoi who want to visit the pagoda can take either of the two routes: the first one will take you along the left bank of the Duong river. Go along the dyke for 15km, turn left and go on 1km further down the road you will reach the pagoda. You may also take the other route by passing Mountain Lim. Then turn right and go on for about 15km, you will arrive at Phat Tich village, looking out on the Duong river, just about 1km from the dyke.
As recorded in the historical stele "Van Phuc Dai Thien Tu bi" set up in the 7th Chinh Hoa year (1686) , "King Ly Thanh Tong(the 3rd king of the Ly dynasty) in the Long Thuy Thai Binh 4th year (1057), built an exquisite tower of one hundred truong* in height, set up a gilded statue 6 thuoc ** high. He also granted over a hundred plots of rice field, built over a hundred temples"
This recording stele also praised the beautiful sight of the pagoda: "Let's watch the beautiful spot of Tien Du : the famous mountain of Phat Tich is surrounded in the south by the Phuong Linh mountain (Phoenix mountain), on the left by the Thanh Long (blue dragon) winding stream, on the right by the Bach Ho (white tiger) mountain. On the summit there stands a stone table"
In 1071, King Ly Thanh Tong, on his visit to the pagoda, wrote himself the Chinese character meaning :"Buddha" 6.44m long and had it engraved on a stone stele to be set up in front of the pagoda. Next, in the Tran dynasty the pagoda was renamed Van Phuc. King Tran Nghe Tong ordered to establish the Bao Hoa Buddha shrine and the library Lan Kha near the pagoda. It was recorded in the "Dai Nam Nhat Thong Chi" that in 1384, the King held the Examination "Thai hoc sinh" in this pagoda to select bright scholars for the service of the country.
In the Chinh Hoa 7th year, under King Le Hy Tong's reign (1686), the pagoda was rebuilt on an enormous scale and brought up to a high value of art. This reconstruction owed its main support to Princess Tran Ngoc Am, the first royal maid of Lord Thanh Do Vuong Trinh Trang, when she had left the imperial palace to become a nun in this pagoda. The stele "Van Phuc Dai Thien Tu Bi" has recorded: "On the mountain summit, stands a stone building as splendid ass glittering gem… On the front veranda are displayed 10 animal statues. In the rear are wide ponds. High storeys are adorned with painted images of phoenixes and twinkling bright stars and the Moon palace embellished with colourful flowers…"
The pagoda was built in the shaped interior, shaped exterior" model with over one hundred compartments. In front of it, stands the "cloud-reaching tower" as described in the poem "Tien Du Van PhucTu" by Nguyen Xuong. In the rear are stone houses which are used as lecture rooms. Close to the pagoda is the Queen Fairy shrine for the worship of Lady Tran Ngoc Am, in which we can see a pair of parallel sentences written to honour the lady's good deeds.
First imperial maid back to Buddha land
Thirteenth royal court lady to Fairy village
In the war against the French invasion, Van Phuc pagoda was destroyed by the foreign invaders. The remains are now the ruined foundations of 3 floors cut in the mountain side, of rectangular shapes, each one about 60m in length and 33m in width. Here, by the years 1940-11941, archaeologists found large bricks with the dates of Long Thuy Thai Binh 4th year (1057) and Chuong Thanh Gia Khanh 7th year (1065) clearly inscribed on them. Among the remaining sculptural masterpieces were found 5 pairs of animal statues: lion, rhinoceroses, elephants, buffaloes, horses, lying on lotus pedestals carved out of large stones, slabs about 2m in height. There were also wall stones, pedestals… with carved images of dragons, musicians, dancers…
The name of Phat Tich Pagoda was associated with the Buddha statue - a famous sculptural masterpiece which is now worshipped in the small pagoda built subsequently. A legend has it that once the tower of the pagoda suddenly collapsed and the statue came out amid the ruin. Since then, Hoa Ke hamlet located by the side of the pagoda was renamed Phat Tich Hamlet. This statue, carved out of stone, is 1.85m high, or 3m high including the pedestal. The statue represents Buddha sitting in a meditation posture on a lotus throne. The pedestal is adorned with, images of dragons, flowers and leaves. The face of the statue has refined features with an air of serenity and compassion. The fineness of the carving shows an excellent workmanship.
Translated by Thuy Duong and Nguyen van Nghe
(NINH PHUC PAGODA)
DINH TO, THUAN THANH, HA BAC PROVINE
If you go across the Doung bridge and the along the dyke on the left bank of the river or take a left turn at Phu Thuy railway station on the way to Hai - Phong and then go on for about 15 km you will arrive at Dinh To village, Thuan Thanh district, Ha Bac province - formerly A Lu hamlet, Nhan Thanp village, Sieu Loai district - where But Thap Pagoda can be seen in the middle of the field, facing south. The pagoda has another name - Ninh Phuc Tu (´ ) . When Ch'an Master Huyen Quang first came to stay here, he began to build a nine-storeyed stone tower decorated with lotus flower patterns. But this tower no longer exists today. The present Bao Nghiem tower in shape of a huge writing brush rising high up in the sky as it is seen now, was built in 1547 by Ch'an Master Minh-Hanh(1596-1659). In 1876, this tower was renamed But Thap by King Tu Duc. Since then the pagoda was called But Thap pagoda. The tower was built with adjoined stone, with 5 storeys, in octagonal shape, 113.05 m in height. The top has the shape of a wint decanter, Between storeys are bent-up-edged roofs. The base storey is 3m wide each side, surrounded by two walls. Inside the base storey is the statue of Ch'an Master Chuyet Cong (1590-1644), a Chinese bonze from Phuc Kien province who came to Vietnam in 1633 and stayed as Head monk of the pagoda. Before passing away, in is last minutes he read to his disciples his last poem as follows:
Thin bamboos and high pines are dropping fragrant dew
While fresh breezes and young moon cool the night
Who are the West High Land dwellers ? Anyone knew ?
Every sunset the bell resounds, chasing off twilight.
(Translated by Thuy Duong)
King Le Chan Tong then bestowed on Most Venerable Chuyet Cong the title "Minh Viet Pho Giac Quang Te Dai Duc Thien Su".
Later on, the Queen Mother Trinh Thi Ngoc Truc, of Buddist name Phap Tanh, from A Lu village, requested her father Lord Thanh Do vuong Trinh Trang to have But Thap Pagoda in their native village renovated. She herself worked together with Ch'an Master Minh Hanh in the renovation of the pagoda and after King Le Than Tong's decease, she withdrew to stay and practice here religious beliefs as a nun in the pagoda.
The architectural style of the posterior Le period is manifested clearly in the structure of But Thap pagoda. Built on the the " shaped interior, shaped (2) exterior model like Dau Pagoda, But Thap Pagoda is an architectural complex comprising the three-entrance gate, the bell tower, the front hall, the incense burning house, the upper shrine, the stone bridge, the nine-staged lotus flower shrine (Tich Thien Am), the middle hall, the worship hall and the rear hall. All of those ten buildings are arranged along an axis of over 100m in length. On the left side of the pagoda are the Patriarch house and the Bao Nghiem tower. Further in the back stands the Ton Duc tower. Surrounding the upper shrine hall is the stone balcony consisting of 36 stone slabs resignedly carved with beautiful landscapes of nature, with images of flying cranes over lotus ponds, swimming fishes, water-buffalo tenders and other mythical creatures and legends such as dragon-fish, the four sacred animals (dragon, unicorn, tortoise, phoenix), the journey to India by the Tang Bonze in request for the Conan books.
Inside the Upper Shrine Hall, one could feel a strong impression of a marvellous workmanship while standing before the famous sculptural masterpiece: the statue of one-thousand-arm and one-thousand-eye Avalokitesvara. This statue is 3.70m high, made of excellent wood covered with paint, carved by an artist named Truong in 1656. The statue has 11 faces, 994 arms with 994 eyes - each eye resting on the palm of a hand. Under the lotus flower hat, the main front face looks sedate and mild, on both cheeks are still two other faces. In addition, on the top eight other small heads are piled up in a tower shape with 3 storeys, on top of which is a small statue. In front of the chest, two arms are joined; on the back 40 other arms are extending harmoniously like a lotus leaf. Outer are 952 other arms carrying 952 eyes forming a halo circle. On top of the statue stands a pair of mythical birds with human heads, spreading their broad wings pressing against each other. The statue is sitting on a lotus pedestal supported by the head of a dragon rising from the water surface. In the 4 corners are 4 statue of athletes with strong bodies trying to support the statue pedestal.
Through centuries, Avalokitesvara has been sitting here, with her thousand eyes perceiving every misfortune of the world, and her thousand arms always ready to save poor living creatures.
Contemplating the statue with reverence, on had the feeling that Avalokitesvara Boddhisatva can hear all the living world's echoes and is transmitting to man her compassion and leniency as well as peace in soul.
Translated by Thuy Duong and Nguyen Van Nghe
(TRAN BAC PAGODA)
BA DINH, HANOI CITY
From the Botanical Garden, passing through Hoang Hoa Tham street, you will come to one of the most romantic roads of the capital city of Ha Noi: Co Ngu street, presently Thanh Nien Street, lying between two rows of trees and two lakes with tranquil green wter. These two lakes were formerly only one, called by several names: Xac Cao, Kim Nguu (Golden Buffalo) , Lang Bac (High Waves), Dam Dam (Foggy Pond). Four hundred years ago, a road was built across the lake and given the name Co Ngu (which means "trying to hold"). Later it was pronounced with slight deviation as Co Ngu. This road cut the lake in two: the smaller part is Truc Bach lake, the large one os Tay lake.
With its area of 466 ha and its perimeter of 17km , and many temples and beautiful landscapes in the surroundings, Tay lake has been a source of inspiration for many poets. In the 17th century Nguyen Duc Quy had this nice poem to describe Tay lake:
The boat embraces the moon palace, as bright as snow.
The temple’s covered with flowers and leaves so dampened with dew
Green lotuses wavered the moon through bamboos’ shadow
Fresh apricot flowers are sending out their hight perfume
(Translated by Thuy Duong)
Also, the description of Tay lake in the poetic essay "Phu Tung Tay Ho" by Nguyen Huy Luong was a marvelous piece of literary prose, enriched with the national cultural tradition and his own poetical inspiration, praising the heroic spirit of the Tay Son dynasty, which mingled in his impression on the beautiful sight of Tay lake.
Trinh Cong son, a music composer, by an autumn late afternoon in Ha Noi, in the twilight on Tay lake has caught sight of " the golden water surface wavering faraway from the other edge, calling up remote memories. Through the nostalgic veil of mist, a flock of small cranes are flapping their wings under the fading sun…..", thus composing a nice song.
From the Co Ngu road, there is a path leading to an islet close to the edge of Tay lake. Having the shape of a tortoise, it was called Bai Rua (Tortoise Terrace). It also had another name Kim Ngu terrace (Golden Fish terrace). On this very islet, the kings of Ly dynasty built the Thuy Hoa palace (Palace of Beautiful Flowers) where they could enjoy fresh air. Later, in the Tran dynasty, the Kings also established the Ham Nguyen palace here where they could spend their time contemplating the beautiful scenery, The foundations of these former palaces are now the very place where stands the pagoda which is one of the oldest temples of our country : Tran Quoc pagoda.
Originally, this pagoda was a temple name Khai Quoc (Establishing the Nation) which was first built during the reign of King Ly Nam De (544 – 548 AD). It was located on a terrace near the Hong Ha river, north east of Yen Hoa ward – presently Yen Phu, near Long Bien bridge. At this Khai Quoc Pagoda, in the Ly Nhan Tong’s reign, Queen Y Lan once treated venerable bronzes to elaborate vegetarian meals. She also frequented the pagoda to have religious talks with the bonzes.
During the reign of King Le Thanh Tong, (1434-1442) the pagoda was renamed An Quoc (Pacifying the Nation). Every year, the Hong Ha river tide rose up, eroded and and crumbled the terrace. Therefore in 1615, under King Le Kinh Tong’s reign, the villagers of Yen Phu moved the pagoda to the Kim Ngu terrace. And it was not until King Le Hy Tong’s reign (1767-1705) that the pagoda was renamed Tran Quoc (Defending the Nation). The ornamental signed-board bearing the characters "Tran Quoc Tu" which is presently hung in the main worship hall was made at that time. In the Le-Trinh period, this beautiful sot was selected as Tran Quoc journey palace reserved for Kings and Lords to have relaxations when they take walks on Tay lake area. In 1842, King Thieu Tri, on his visit to the pagoda renamed it as Tran Bac. Still, people are used to calling the temple by its old named: Tran Quoc pagoda.
The Tran Quoc Pagoda can be proud not only of being one of the oldest pagodas, but also of the venerable bonzes and famous persons who have been associated with the temple. In fact, this pagoda has been the monastary of many Ch’an Masters and vererabled monks such as Van Phong, Khuong Viet, thao Duong, Thong Bien, Vien Hoc, Tinh Khong, Tran Tu Uyen. In the year 580 AD, Ch’an Master Viitaruci from Indiam on his journey to Vietnam, had a long stay in this pagoda.
In 1069, King Ly Thanh Tong led an attack upon Champa, captured the Champa King Che Cu and a number of prisoners. Among the prisoners, there was a monk who had a wide knowledge of Buddhist canon . Having discovered his identity, they revealed that he was Ch’an Master Thao Duong. King Ly Thanh Tong then granted him the titled Quoc Su (Nation’s Patriarch) and invited him to stay as Head of the Khai Quoc pagoda. Thence opened the Thao Duong Ch’an school in our country. Also, the pagoda was the Head Temple of the Tao Dong Ch;an school which was propagated in Vietnam in the Posterior Le Period.
Since it was moved to the Golden Fish terrace, Tran Quoc pagoda has been rebuilt and renovated many times. In 1624, under King Le Thanh Tong’s reign, the Buddha shrine, the incense burning house and the front hall were built . In 1639, the three-entrance gate, the rear hall and the two lateral corridors were added. On the left of the main hall, still remains a stele was set up by Prime doctoral graduate Nguyen Xuan Chinh.
After having been devastated by the war for a long time- as recorded in the stele set up in 1815 by Doctor Pham Quy Thich- again Tran Quoc pagoda was subjected to restoration from 1813 to 1815, carried out by the Head Bonze Khoan Nhan. This time, the main hall, the incense burning house, the front hall, the corridors, the bell tower and the rear hall were renovated. Also in the reconstruction, the Buddha statue and the great bell were cast. Particularly Tran Quoc Pagoda is one of a very few temples in North that has the gilded wooden statue of Sakyamuni entering Nirvana.
Right on the front gate, one could see a pair of parallel sentences which read:
Resounding in the ears, horse carriages pass on worldly roads
Opening to the face, the river leads to Buddha gate.
Also, on both sides of the front door, another pair of parallel sentences which read as follows:
Despite the ravages of rain and wind coming from different skies
The Heaven Pillar of Tran Quoc Pagoda still proudly stands high
Here one can live a carefree life in this pagoda over looking Tay lake
Simply with the pleasure of leading a secluded life seeking the enlightenment way.
In the temple garden, among the luxuriant old trees spreading ample shadows, there is a bodhi-tree grafted from the original bodhi-tree where 25 centuries ago, Sakyamuni Buddha achieved complete enlightenment. This bodhi-tree was offered to Tran Quoc Pagoda by President R. Prasat of India upon his visit to Vietnam in 1958.
The quiet natural scenery surrounding the pagoda in the lotus blossoming season, with white and pink lotus flowers blooming on Tay lake, evokes in visitors memorable things of the past…Ba Huyen Thanh Quan, a famous poetess in the Le Dynasty, on her stopping over the pagoda had the following poem will known to almost every Vietnamese:
Tran Bac journey palace looks abandoned among withered grass
Twisting the hearts of travellers while looking the past Lotus flowers seem sending out imperial perfume
Five-coloured clouds recall the former royal costumes…..
Thuy Duong and Nguyen Van Nghe
(DIEN HUU PAGODA)
BA DINH, HA NOI CITY
One-Pillar Pagoda is located in the central of Ha Noi capital city. The pagoda owes its existence to a nice dream of King Ly Thai Tong (1028-1054). A story goes that one night in the year 1049, the King saw in his dream Kwan Yin led him to a lotus shine…Walking up, he consulted his officials about the dream Among these officials, there were Buddhist-monks who were highly cultivated and respectable.
A monk named Thien Tue advised the king to establish a pagoda by building a stone pillar amidst a pond and settling the Buddha shrine on top of the pillar as the king had seen in his dream.
The pagoda was built with only one hall called Lien Hoa Dai (Lotus Flower Shrine), lying on top of a stone pillar in the middle of a small lake called Linh Chieu lake. That is why it was named Nhat Tru Pagoda (One-Pillar Pagoda). A stele recording this fact was found in Long Doi Pagoda (Nam Ha) with these inscription lines: "The Linh Chieu lake was dug, in the middle rose a stone pillar, on top of which open a thousand-petal lotus flower, on which was set up a green shrine. In the shrine the statue of Kwan Yin adored. Surrounding the lake is lateral corridor. Another pond, Bich Tri, was dug, with rainbow-shaped bridge joining two opposite sides. On the front platform of the bridge, there were gem towers built on both sides."
The pagoda was located in the garden Tay Cam, Thach Bao hamlet, Vinh Thuan district, Thang Long capital city. On the inauguration day, the bonzes organised a ceremony wit vegetarian meals, recited prayers praying for the King’s longevity. Therefore the pagoda had another name, Dien Huu (which means prolonged blessing days).
Every year, on the eighth of the fourth lunar month, the King came to the pagoda to celebrate the ceremony of Buddha Bathing, was the ceremony of life-liberation. The King, standing on a high shrine in front of the pagoda, released one bird which flew away. Following him, the people tossed other birds which flew up, flapping their wings among the joyful shouts of a festival day.
In 1105, King Ly Nhan Tong ordered renovation work on the pagoda. This time, an exquisite tower was built in the front yard. In 1108, Queen Y Lan had a very big bell cast. This bell weighed 12000 can (equivalent to 7200kg) and was named "Giac The Chung" (the bell that awakens people in the world). It was considered one of Four Most Precious Objects of our country at the time, which were: the Bao Nghiem tower, the Quy Dien bell, the Pho Minh cauldron and the Quynh Lam statue. Upon inauguration, "Giac The Chung" was too heavy to be hung up, and on the ground it didn’t sound when struck. Finally they had to drop it tint a deep rice-field near the pagoda. Later. They found many tortoises gathered in this rice-field. That is why the bell was given the name "Quy Dien Chung" (Tortoise-field bell). In the 15th century, the Ming invader troops attacked our country and took over the Dong Quan citadel (Ha Noi).
In 1426, Le Loi leading the Lam Son revolutionary troops, rushed out and immediately besieged the citadel. Lacking weapons and ammunition, the Ming General Vuong Thong had the Quy Dien bell broken up to get the bonze. Finally, the Ming troops were defeated, our country and peopled again rejoiced over peace and prosperity, yet Quy Dien bell no longer existed.
The One-Pillar Pagoda was renovated in the years between 1840 and 1850, then in 1922. The Lotus Flower Shrine as we see now was rebuilt in 1955. It is in square shape, 3km each side, with bent up roofs, set up on top of a pillar 1m in height and 1.20m in diameter. This pillar consists of two stone cylinders piled up one over the other and jointed in one block. The upper floor consists of a strong wooden frame supporting the shrine with tiled roofs bend up at four corners, on top of which is a pair of dragons greeting the moon. The pagoda has the shape of a lotus flower emerging from a square pond surrounded by an alley paved with green enamelled tiles. Followings a narrow passage paved with bricks over the pond. You will come to a staircase leading up to the Buddha Shrine, in front of which is a sigh bearing the Chinese characters read in Sino-Vietnamese as Lien Hoa Sai (Lotus Flower Shrine).
Ch’an Master Huyen Quang had the following poem to describe the sight of Dien Huu temple or One-Pillar pagoda:
The temple bell sounds fading away in autumn night
Wavering water now quiets down under the moonlight
Reversed birds’ images impressed on cold water mirror
Doubled tower’s shape in silver moon looks clearer
(Translated by Thuy Duong)
The lotus flower, upon blooming, already shows its "fruit" and "seeds", which symbolises the doctrine of Buddhism *. Lotus flowers are also a kind of pure flowers which, growing amidst the world, are not infected with worldly troubles. The One-Pillar Pagoda is thus a symbol of the "untroubled" and "unworried" world. Closely attached to the history of the capital city, the pagoda is also a symbol of the one-thousand year cultured Ha Noi.
Thuy Duong And Nguyen Van Nghe
* "seeds" symbolises the causes and "fruits’ the consequences. The Buddhist doctrine reminds us that "seed" and "fruits" are always linked, which makes an unbreakable chain of causes and consequences-known as "karma". It is clear that bad seeds never give good fruits.
(CHIEU THIEN PAGODA)
LANG THUONG, DONG DA, HA NOI CITY
The history of Lang Pagoda was associated with the legend of Tu Dao Hanh, a venerable bonze living during the reign of King Ly Nhan Tong. Dao Hanh, of worldly name Tu Lo, was the son of a judicial mandarin, Tu Vinh, who, in his early age, while following his studies, was lodging in Lang village - presently Yen Lang village, Tu Liem district, Ha Noi. Tu Vinh married Tang Thi Lan who later gave birth to Tu Lo. Due to some hostility, Duke Dien Thanh asked the wizard Dai Dien to beat Tu Vinh to death. Making up his mind to revenge his father, Tu Lo withdrew to live a secluded life in the rocky cave, Tri Son where he trained himself until one day, he knocked the wizard Sai Dien out and got him ill to death.
To disengage himself from the fatal chain of enmity, Tu Lo, with his religious name Tu Dao Hanh (1)
Concentrated upon his learning and training of Ch'an Biddhism had two close religious friends, Ch'an Masters Minh Khong and Giac Hai; the three of them all having many supernatural powers. Later on, Tu Dao Hanh came back to stay and train himself at Thien Phuc Pagoda or Thay Pagoda on Saigon mountain. Another legend has it that later Tu Dao Hanh had embodied his spirit in the reincarnation of the son of Duke Sung Hien, whose real name is Duong Hoan-King Ly Nhan Tong's brother. Since King Ly Nhan Tong was childless. Duong Hoan was established as crown prince and later became King Ly Than Tong (1128-1138). Afterwards King Ly Anh Tong (1138-1175), who was soon of Ly Than Tong ordered to establish the Lang Pagoda to worship his father King Ly Than Tong and also his father's reincarnation Ch'an Master Tu Dao Hanh. In the pagoda, besides the statue of King Ly Than Tong and the statue of Saint Tu Dao Hanh.
Lang Pagoda has its Sino-Vietnamese name "Chieu Thien Tu". "Chieu", which means "clear", here implies that good things appear very clearly here. Thien, which means Ch'an refers to the venerable Ch'an Master who had become Saint in this pagoda.
The 7th day of the 3rd lunar month, which was the birth day of Ch'an Master Tu Dao Hanh, has become the Festival day of Lang Pagoda (and also the Festival day of Thay Pagoda)
The following popular verses remind us of the annual Festival day:
Remember the seventh day of third month
Come back to Lang Festival or out to Thay Festival as well.
Chieu Thien Tu is located about 7km from the centre of Ha Noi to the west. Formerly it was built on a nice terrace amidst an immense field. Surrounding were mango-trees and old banian-trees which made the sight of the pagoda more tranquil and peaceful. The pagoda has been renovated many times.
The present pagoda owes its architectural design to the renovation in the 19th century, with its ancient style of a famous temple building still preserved from as far back as eight centuries ago.
The first particular feature that attracts tourists' attention is the front gate whose architectural fashion is almost similar to that of the gates of imperial palaces of olden times. It consists of 4 flower patterned pillars aligned in a row with elegantly curved-up roofs. These roofs do not cover the tops of the pillars but are fixed to the their walls, the central roof higher than the ones on either side. The front yard, paved with Bat Trang tiles, joins the temple gate to the three-entrance gate, which opens into a wide brick-paved passage, bordered with flower walls. This passage leads to the Octagonal Hall where on festival days, the Saint statue is placed for the villagers to come and pay their respect in the ceremony of flower offering. The innermost part is the main temple comprising the front hall, the incense burning house, the upper shrine, the veranda, the patriarch house, the bonzes' rooms and supplementary compartments.
With the imposing sight of its global architecture, in harmony with the vastness of the area, the Lang Pagoda has been considered the "first rate pine-wood" west of the Thang Long ancient capital.
Thuy Duong and Nguyen Van Nghe
Translator's note: (1) Dao Hanh means religious virtue
73 QUAN SU, HOAN KIEM, HA NOI CITY
Quan Su Pagoda was built in the 15th century in An Tap hamlet, Co Vu ward. Tien Nghiem village (later renamed Vinh Xuong village), Tho Xuong district – presently Quan Su Street, Hoan Kiem district, Ha Noi.
Formerly this area had no pagoda. There were only a few cottages gathering in the South corner, where the inhabitants would offer ceremonial gifts to god, praying for peace and security. This area was called An Tap hamlet
As recorded in the "Hoang Le Nhat Thong Chi" book, under King Le the Tong’s reign, the neighbouring countries Champ, Shiam, Laos usually sent messengers or envoys to our country, offering tributes to the King. To welcome envoys and messengers coming to the capital city of Thang Long, the King ordered to establish an official building called Quan Su (the House for diplomatic envoys) for them to stay during their visit. Since the envoys and messengers from these countries were devout Buddhists, the King ordered to build a pagoda within the Quan Su area so that they could do their usual worships. Now, time has effaced the traces of the former Quan Su areas, but the Quan Su Pagoda still remains there.
In 1934, the general Association of Buddhists of North Vietnam was founded and Quan Su Pagoda was chosen as central headquarters of the Association. In 1942, the pagoda was rebuilt according to a plan designed by the two architects Nguyen Ngoc Ngoan and Nguyen Xuan Tung, and approved by the Patriarch Vinh Nghiem. The architectural are and decoration was the combination of all the fineness of famous temples in North Vietnam. Quan Su Pagoda might be one of a very few pagodas whose names as well as many parallel sentences are written in Quoc Ngu (the national Latinised script). Isn’t it because the pagoda was rebuilt only in the middle of this century and has become ever since the central headquarters of the General Association of Buddhists of North Vietnam and presently headquarters of Vietnam Buddhist Sangha that it has become a national pagoda for all Buddhists all over the country.
The three-entrance gate has three-staged roofs, with the bell story in the middle. After going past a small courtyard paved with bricks, and up an eleven-stepped staircase, you will arrive at the main hall. The Buddha shrine is solemnly decorated, the statues are rather large and splendidly lacquered in red and gild paint. In the back part, the three statues represent the Buddha’s. Trikaya are worshiped on the highest level of the altar. On the next level, the statue of Amitabha Buddha is enshrined in the middle; on both sides are the statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva. On the next lower level, the statues of Ananda and Kassapa. On the lowest level, on the outer side is the Nine-Dragon shrine standing between the statues of Kwan Yin and Kshitigarbha Bodhisattva. In the right compartment of the Buddha Shrine is worshiped the statue of Ly Quoc Su (the Ly’s Imperial Adviser, namely Master Minh Khong) with two guards of honour. In the left compartment are enshrined the three statues of Duc Ong, Chau Xuong and Quan Binh.
All the main supplementary halls of Quan Su Pagoda are very spacious. This place has once been the office of the Duoc Tue magazine, the Head office of the General Association of Buddhists of North Vietnam. Presently, the pagoda has an amphitheatre and a library and is housing the office of the Vietnam’s. Institute of Buddhist studies and the office of the Asian Organisation of Buddhism for Peace in Vietnam.
For half a century, Quan Su Pagoda has witnessed many important landmarks of Vietnamese Buddhism, including the unification of Buddhist organisations throughout the country and the affiliation of the Vietnamese Buddhism to International Buddhism. At this very place, on 13/5/1951 (8/4 lunar calendar), for the first time the International Buddhism flag, brought home from Colombo by Venerable To Lien, flew in the sky of Hanoi.
Thuy Duong and Nguyen Van Nghe
(DAI BI PAGODA)
QUANG AN, TU LIEM, HA NOI, CITY
Kim Lien Pagoda was built on a trip of land along the north edge of lake Tay, close to the foot of the Yen Phu dyke. Almost surrounded by lake water, this area looks like a small island. Standing on the dyke, from the distance, one can see the mossy grey roofs of the pagoda and towers rising up among green bamboo around the pagoda.
Two hundred years ago this scenery was described as follows by Pham Dinh Ho in his book "Tang Thuong Ngau Luc": "The temple has its back on to the Nhi Ha River. In front, lake Tay is spreading around its immense wavy surface blurred with mist. Far away, water and sky seem to be of one colour. On the left, amidst blue water, rise some small islets, with a brick tower standing beside wavering thin bamboos and pines…"
The pagoda is located in Nghi Tam hamlet, Quang An village, Tu Liem district, Ha Noi; therefore it is also called Nghi Tam Pagoda.
It was formerly the pagoda of Dong Long established in the Tran dynasty (1225-1413) on the old foundation of Tu Hoa Palace, which had been built in the Ly dynasty. Folk legends have it that once Princess Tu Hoa, daughter of King Ly Than Tong (1128-1138) led a group of imperial maids to this area, where they started growing mulberries and raising silkworms, soon opening a farm called Tam Tang (which means silkworms and mulberries). Later it was remained Tich Ma and afterwards became Nghi Tam hamlet. In 1630, under King Le Than Tong's rein, the temple was repaired and named Dai Bi Pagoda (temple of Great Compassion). A stele on the left of the temple yard, compiled by Ngo Don Phu, shows the large engraved characters "Trung Tu Dai Bi Tu" ( Renovation of Dai Bi Pagoda). Another stela set up on the left of the front hall also confirm the former name Dai Bi of
the pagoda. Later, in the Le Du Tong's resign, of dynastic title Bao Thai (1720-1728), a monk named Hue, who had been a eunuch of Lord Trinh Uy Vuong, came to stay at the pagoda and this time it was renamed Kim Lien (Golden Lotus). This fact was recorded on the stela set up by Phan Trong Phien, a civilian mandarin. In the year 1792, again the the pagoda underwent renovation on a large scale, this time bearing the characteristic signs of architectural art of the Tay Son periods. The latest renovation,. Which lasted from 1983 to 1987, restored the pagoda to its original form of 200 years ago.
The Kiem Lien Pagoda is composed of three buildings: the lower temple, the middle temple and the upper temple, arranged in three parallel lines forming the shape of the Chinese character "tam" (three). Strong columns and beams were carved with refined patterns, the walls built of thick ancient bricks without plastering.
The three-entrance gate is of a distinctive wooden structural design, showing a distinguished air of ancient temples and royal palaces, with high relief images of dragons and flowers on wood, of extremely refined carvings.
In the pagoda all the statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are well preserved. Particularly there is a statue representing a man of middle age, with a three-tufted beard, wearing a shiny satin gown and a crown, holding imperial power symbol, in standing position. After Pham Dinh Ho, unofficial history said it was the statue of Uy Nam Vuong Lord Trinh Giang.
Thuy Duong and Nguyen Van Nghe
(THIEN PHUC PAGODA)
PHUONG CACH, QUOC OAI,
HA TAY PROVINCE
It Lang Pagoda had been associated with the earlier period of Ven. Tu Dao Hanh's life, then Thay Pagoda witnessed the later part ending in disincarnation of the 112th generation's bonze of the Vinitaruci Ch'an School.
The Thay Pagoda leans against the southwester slope of a limestone mountain which has many caves and grottos. It is the Thay Mountain or Sai Son Mountain, located in Hoang Xa Hamlet, Phuong Cach Village, Quoc Oai District Ha Tay Province, about 30km from Ha Noi.
In his inscription on the mountain wall, Lord Trinh Can gave a sketch of the pagoda sight as follows:
"….Like a pearl emerging among gravels and stones,
Brightened with spring beams throughout four seasons.
The upper grotto is a real fairyland,
The walls still printed with clouds' shading colors.
Dragon pond leads to emancipating harbour,
Faairy bridges link Moon an Sun together.
Mountains stand like a high stone screen,
Rivers spread round like a nice silk belt…"
(Translated by Thuy Duong)
Originally, the Thay Pagoda was only a small temple named Huong Hai Am (Sea Facing Temple), where Bonze Tu Dao Hanh practised his religious training.
King Ly Nhan Tong had it rebuilt into two separate pagodas: The Higher pagoda or Dinh Son Tu (Mountain Summit Pagoda) built on the mountain; the Lower Pagoda Thien Phuc Tu (Heaven Blessing Pagoda).
In the early 17th century, Duke Dinh and the Royal family undertook the renovation of the pagoda. They established the Buddha shrine, the Saints' altar, then the rear hall, the stele house, the bell tower. According to ancient water-geomancy, the pagoda was built on a dragon-shaped land.
The left front looks out on the Long Dau Mountain. The right back leans against the Sai Son Mountain. The Pagoda faces south. In front of it lying between Long Dau and Sai Son Mountains is a wide pond named Long Chieu or Long Tri (Dragon Pond). The front grass yard is the dragon's jaw. The Water-Hall rising amidst the Long Chieu pond, where there are occasional water-puppet show, is the pearl on the dragon's head. The two wells are the Dragon's eyes. The two ancient tile-roofed bridges built by First Doctoral Graduate Phung Khac Khoan in 1602 are the dragon's canine-teeth: Nhat Tien bridge (Solar Fairy bridge) on the left, looking on the Tam Phu Temple built on a small islet amidst the pond; Nguyet Tien bridge (Lunar Fairy Bridge) on the right, leading to the way up to the High-pagoda on the Mountain.
Facing the Water-Hall is the Lower Pagoda laid out in the shape of the Chinese character "tam", comprising three parallel houses established on high foundations made of green laterite. The outer is the front ceremonial hall, the middle is the Budda shrine, the innermost is the altar of Chan Master Tu Ado Hahn. Here one can see three statues representing the three reincarnations of Tu Ado Hahn: Bonze, King and Budda. On the left is the whole body statue of the bonze carved from sandalwood with automatic mechanical device for standing and sitting positions. This statue recalled his religious training period at Huong Hai Am, where he used to make medicines for the treatment of people's diseases also his invention of the water-puppet playing, which has become a traditional popular entertainment . In the middle is the statue of Tu Dao Hanh when he has become Budha, wearing a lotus flower hat and a golden brocade robe, his hands joined before his chest, On the right is the statue representing his reincarnation as soon of Duke Sung Hien to become King Ly Than Tong. The statue represents King Ly Than Tong wearing a crown and an imperial costume, sitting on the royal throne.
In the pagoda there are still the statues of Tu Vinh and Tang Thi Loan - Tu Dao Hanh's parents and also his two religious close friends Ch'an Masters Minh Khong Giac Hai. On either side of the pagoda are long corridors in which the 18th arhats are adored.
The way thorough Nguyen Tine Bridge leads to a stone-stepped path coming up the mountain where stands the Higher pagoda. Originally, it was the Hien Thuy temple (Temple of Glory Sleep), with another mane Dinh Son Tu (Mountain Summit Pagoda). On the walls there are still the inscriptions of improvised poems by famous men of letters such as Nguyen Truc, Nguyen Thuong Hien. A legend has it that the Phat Thich grotto (grotto of Buddha's vestiges) at the back of the Pagoda is the place where Ch'an Master Tu Dao Hanh disembodied himself. That is why it is also called the "Saint Disincarnation Grotto".
From the Higher pagoda, there is a path leading up to a flat terrace called "the Heaven Market" with many stones in shapes of tables, stools , shelves, wine glasses…. Among which there is a smooth stone plane called "immortal's Chess - Board". Perhaps this place has been formerly frequented by immortal or fairies exiled from Heaven, who came around to play chess , drink wine and recite poems in the moonlight or to watch beautiful sights of nature as described in the following Tang poem by Nguyen Khuyen, a famous poem in the 19th century:
The Heaven Market
For thousands of generations Creator has been building
This beauty of spot Sai Son with the Heaven Market opening
From dawn fresh breeze blow, at noon intense sun shines
By sunset clouds gather, at night silver moon smiles.
Flowers and fruits are displayed through out four seasons
Rivers and Mountains spread out in all directions
Where are those sellers of interests and buyers of titles?
Why don't they come up to bargain a little?
(Translated by Thuy Duong)
Following a trail along the Mountain edge, climbing up another few dozen steps, you will come to the Cac Co cave, where in olden times , boys and girls would meet on festival cays for their flirtations as mentioned in these popular verses:
Unmarried girls dream of Cac Co Cave
Single boys yearn for Thay festival day
From Cac Co cave, there is a path, whee grow many age-old trees, leading up to the Upper temple. Near the Upper temple is the But Moc Cave with many old-shaped weather-worn stones looking like Buddha statues. Next is the Cow Cave with a gloomy entrance, then the Wind cave with the wind constantly blowing through both ends.
At the foot of Thay Mountain on the west side there is the Boi Am Pagoda also called One-Roofed Pagoda, which has only one roof, the other roof is the vault of the cave itself.
The distinctive features of the Thay Pagoda beauty spot lie in the association of its uneven paths, its temple roofs rising high up in the sky, the beautiful sight of the lakes spreading wide and the mythical aspects of the deep underground caves. All those three dimensions of space gather in a natural assemblage of various architectural designs and colours.
The annual festival at Thay Pagoda takes place from the 5th to the 7th day of the 3rd lunar month. This is an occasion for people to admire this beautiful landscape. On the Festival day, many Budhist monks and nuns from all parts of the region come up to participate in the celebration in their ceremonial costumes, holding each one a flowery stick, reciting prayers in the rhythmical bass sounds of wooden gongs, The ceremony of Buddha worship and vegetarian food offerings - a religious performance is realised in coordination with the performance of traditional musical instruments.
However, the Festival of Thay Pagoda is not only a formal religious celebration, but it also includes water puppet shows - a traditional popular entertainment which has been much appreciated in foreign countries. Young men and young ladies from all parts who find their way to Thay Pagoda festival still wish to satisfy their adventurous desire while climbing up the mountain and also their yearning to express love in an open atmosphere of a natural scenery. This has been expressed in the following poem by A Nam Tarn Tuan Kai, a well-known poet of the early 20th century:
I took my dear friend to see the As Son scenery
But who's got the stones wet, the road slippery?
O, mountain, tell me! Why do you keep silent?
Is it to somebody that you've got indifferent?
If nature didn't favour my sound yearning
The would you decline my faithful love, darling?
Come on, we'll help each other climb this harsh way
How many stones the Mountain has our hearts will equal its weight.
Thuy Duong And Nguyen van Nghe
(QUANG NGHIEM PAGODA)
TIEN PHUONG, HOAI DUC, HA TAY PROVINCE
There are two pagodas in North Vietnam bearing the same name of One-Hundred-Compartment Pagoda: one in Ha Bac, the other in Ha Tay. Both of them are built on mountain tops and each has its own original architectural style and extraordinary scenery.
The One-Hundred-Compartment Pagoda in Ha Tay is particularly associated with the legend of a venerable monk named Nguyen Lu (0r Nhu), of religious name Binh An, from Boi Khe village, Thanh Oai district, Ha Tay province. He is popularly known as Saint Boi.
The legend has it that, once in the Tran dynasty, a woman has a strange dream in which she saw Buddha infant being born on the earth. She then got pregnant and later gave berth to a baby-boy. When the child was 6 years old, his parents passed away and he had to work as water buffalo tender. He has a strong devotion to Buddhsm and usually made altars for worship, When he was 9, he left home to come and live at Dai Bi Pagoda in village, where he started his religious training. At the age of 15, he travelled around to many places. On arriving in Tien Lu hamlet, Tien Phuong village, Hoai Duc district Ha Tay Province, he was attracted by the beautiful sight there, asked for an audience with the patriarch in the pagoda on the mountain and was accepted to stay and become disciple of the venerable monk/
After 10 years of religious training, the young monk mastered all marvellous supernatural powers. His reputation spread up to the king, who then granted him the title Most Venerable with the religious name Duc Minh and invited him to come and stay as Head of a Pagoda in Truong An capital city.
After the decease of the patriarch in Tien Lu Pagoda, Nost venerable Duc Minh aked for the King's permission to return and establish a new pagoda in his village. It was said that the Nost Venerable Monk had the power to make appear delicious vegetarian dinners for the workers who built the pagoda so they could have plenty to eat. When the construction was completed, wearing wooden sabots he walked to and from the beams as though he were walking on the ground. Everybody admired his supernatural powers.
At the age of 95, one day he sat in a wooden chest, bade farewell to his disciples and liberated himself. One hundred days later, his disciples opened the chest, from his remain exhaled a nice fragrance all over the area. The inhabitants together with his disciples the built a tower to preserve the remains of the Most Venerable Bonze and honoured him as Saint Boi.
The book "Linh Nam Chich Quai" has also recorded the legend of Saint Boi who could make the rain fall and call up the wind. The legend also has it that at the beginning of the 15th century, the Ming invading troops attacked our country. Among them, there was a troop who, having heard of the Tien Lu pagoda's divinity, set fire to the pagoda and damaged the statues. Aroused in anger, Saint Boi then made a rain-storm lasting for three days and nights, with red water like blood rising up, drowning those insolent invaders. Afterwards, a five-coloured cloud appeared in the sky, peaceful life was restored and the pagoda remained untroubled as it had been before. The inhabitants came to worship all year round. Every time there was a drought, they organised a ceremony praying for rain at the pagoda and their plea was always granted. Other kings of the Tran dynasty all honoured Saint Boi as "Thuong Dang Toi Linh Dai Thanh" (First Grade Most Divine Great Saint).
Above is the history of the One-Hundred-Compartment Pagoda in Tien Lu village. It has another name - Quang Nghiem Pagoda . According to many documents, the pagoda was established in 1185 under Ly Cao Tong's reign. It was initially a small temple with one compartment and two adjoining rooms built on a Mountain 50m, in height called Ma Mountain. Surrounding are many age-old specious trees spreading ample shades covering the roofs of the pagoda.
Through many times of renovation, the present pagoda is composed of 3 main groups of buildings with 1104 compartments in all (each four-corner-columned space counts as one compartment).
The first group, situated near the entrance gate, comprises two tall pillars with two houses on both sides. Formerly this was the place for humanchess games on festivals. Next is the Imperial Tribune looing out on the lotus lake, where is placed the Saint palanquin for watching the water-puppet shows.
The 2nd group is lying on the height of over one hundred brick steps. Here there is a two-storeyed bell tower with 8 curved-up roofs bearing the signs of architectural and sculptural art of the 16th -17th centuries. The bell cast in 1794 bears an inscribed illustration of Phan Huy Ich, a man of letters of the time.
To get up to the 3rd group of buildings, you have to climb up 25 steps of green stones, reaching the upper yard, then up another 9 stepped staircase with balustrades carved with serpentine dragon images. This is the main pagoda comprising the worship hall, the incense burning house, the upper shrine, the two corridors, the patriarch house and the drum storey. The pagoda has 3 main compartments for worship: one is the Buddha shrine, the second is the Saint's alter, the third compartment is reserved for the worship of Kwan Yin, the family of Admiral Dang Tien Dong and the four princes. Admiral Dang Tien Dong, a general of King Quang Trung, himself undertook the renovation of the pagoda.
Among 153 statues in the pagoda, mostly carved from wood, the most noticeable ones, as regards history, are the statues of Admiral Dang Tien Dong and Saint Boi, made of woven rattan frameworks covered with painted tissues, each one placed in a wooden chest. Besides, the statues of Quan Am, Tuyet Son, the set of 18 Arahants statues are also distinctive sculptural works.
Thuy Duong And Nguyen van Nghe
(SUNG NGHIEM TU)
SON TAY TOWN, HA TAY PROVINCE
In the 17th century, in Mia hamlet, present day Duong Lam village, Son Tay town, Ha Tay province, there lived a women named Nguyen Thi Dong, alias Nguyen Thi Ngoc Dieu, who was married to Lord Thanh Do Vuong Trinh Trang - hence her nickname Lady Queen Mia. In 1632, she rendered a most distinguished service to her homeland by taking the initiative in fully restoring Mia Pagoda a Sung Nghiem Tu (first built during the Tran Dynasty).
Situated on a laterite hill, Mia Pagoda was originally composed of just a gate and two parallel buildings (the Upper Hall and the Back Hall), reach of which consisted of seven compartments. The pagoda was gradually renovated and perfected later in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The pagoda grounds are partitioned roughly into three sections. In the front stands are three entrance gate looking out over a wide spread of land adjoined by Mia Market on one side. In the upper storey of the gate are hung a bronze bell cast in 1743 and a brass gong cast in 1846.
Going past the gate one can notice two adjacent yards separated by a low wall with a brick gate. In the left-hand corner of the first yard there stands an old banian-tree that has been there for hundreds of years. The second yard is laid out with walks bordered with flower - beas. The Patriarch Hall is on the left together with the Dining Hall. Located at a height of seven steps above the yard level, the main structure complex of the pagoda consists of the Front Hall, the Central Shrine, the incense burning house corridors and the Back Hall. The Front Hall is composed of five compartments and two lean-tos. In the left-side compartment is placed a memorial stela set up in 1632. It stands on the back of a tortoise and bears a carved text giving details of the work undertaken by Lady Queen Mia for the building of the pagoda. The Central Shrine communicates with the Back Hall by means of two corridors surrounding the incense burning house which is disposed to join the shrine in the form of a mallet handle. The remarkable art of sculpture in Mia Pagoda consists in the sophisticated carved lines made on the roof, the rails and the consoles of the bell-tower/
The most precious part of the pagoda's heritage comprised 2287 statues and statuettes, half of which are carved out of wood, the rest out of baked clay; all are painted with vermilion and gilded.
Among them are the statues of two Dharma Guardians of such a height that they almost teach the ceiling and those of the Vajras representing Eight Assemblies made of baked clay depicting the characteristic appearance and countenance of dignified and dauntless men ready to safeguard the Buddhist Dharma.
Another statue represents Sakyamuni Buddha of the time he led a secluded and ascetic life in the Himalayas . It depicts the Holly Lord as a thin - man with a bony body who still keeps his wits and a bright countenance though. Another sculptural masterpiece is a statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva with an Infant (usually called the Statue of Thi Kinh). This work of art, with lithe and vivid carved lines, represents a gentle and kind-hearted Vietnamese woman carrying a baby in her arms. Her face is tinted with melancholy, her downcast eyes imbued with great resignation but her heart is overflowing with compassion for all human beings.
It is no surprise that the inhabitants of Mia hamlet take great pride in this statue:
How famous Mia Pagoda in our hamlet is!
And it is of the statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva that comes all this glory.
And we think everyone else may as well share in pride of the people of the Mia village.
Chau Van Thuan and Nguyen van Nghe
HUONG SON, MY DUC, HA TAY PROVINCE
There was formerly a young girl who, following her father on a pilgrimage to Huong pagoda in spring, fell in love with a smart and handsome young man who also took interest in her. Her shy confidence and candid words have been recorded in a lovely poem written in five - word verses and greatly appreciated in the whole country in the last few decades. Over the last fifty years Huong Son's scenery has been subject to some changes but nowadays a pilgrimage to Huong Pagoda is still proved to be a journey back to nature and our old heritage. Let's follow the path taken by the girl in that romance to get to "the most beautiful cavern of the South", Huong Pagoda is situated in Huong Son village, My Duc district, Ha Tay province, 60km from Ha Hoi. It does not consist in a single pagoda but in fact, it is a system of pagoda, temples, caves and grottos located in an area of land of about 6km2 with
Limestone mountains and tropical forests.
Folk legends go saying that this mountain region was discovered over 2000 hears ago and named Huong son after a mount in northern Tibet in the Himalayas, where Lord Buddha sat practising asceticism for quite six years. During the reign of King Le Thanh Tong (1460-1497) there existed a small temple enshrining Buddhas on the location of Thien Tru Pagoda.
According to the book "Huong son Thien Tru Thien Phu", Huong Pagoda was built during the reign of King Le Hy Tong (1680-1705). It is recorded on the memorial stele of Thien Tru Pagoda that the work of building the terrace, stone steps and Kim Dung Shrine was carried out in 1686 and that the main statue of the pagoda representing Avalokitesvara Bodhivattsa- was originally cast in bronze in 1767.
Every year, the Huong Pagoda Festival takes place from the sixth to the fifteenth of the first lunar month along the three main routes leading to Huong Tich Cave, Tuyet Pagoda and Long Van Pagoda. In fact, during the first and the second months of the lunar year, the pagoda offers a merry sight bustling with pilgrims who come here chiefly by the route of Huong Tich Cave.
From Ha Noi, you can take the coach to the chief town of Ha Dong province; then, after a 20km drive past Van Dinh townlet, you will arrive at Duc Landing Place on the Day River. Here is the gateway to the beauty site packed with boats and people who greet each other by putting their hand palms against each other and murmuring "Namo Amitabha Buddha" instead of exchange common greetings. After a 1km walk from Duc Landing, the tourists will reach another landing and get on a boat sailing down a stream named Yen Vi (Swallow’s Tail)
After passing Duc Landing by boat
I met more and more people on the way
And I was too shy to say
"Namo Aamitabha Buddha!"
Tourist will be carried in their boats gliding by the side of picturesque mountain such as the Elephant Mount, the Dragon Mount,. The sight of a bridge in the distance evokes the scenery of the land of Buddhas and immortals.
Streams were winding and murmuring.
Bordered with Blue Mountains.
And a bridge appeared in the distance.
What a pictures landscape it was!
On arriving at Trinh Temple, the boat stop t a landing place to let the tourists "present themselves" to the local mountain god before landing on the world of Buddhas. Situated at the foot of a fie-peaked mountain named Ngu Nhac, the temple is also called by another name Quan Lon (High-ranking Mandrin) built to worship a subordinate general of King Hung.
After leaving Trinh Temple, tourists continue their journey to behold the beautiful scenery on either side of the stream.
Having passed several picturesque mountains teeming with monkeys.
We arrived at Voi Phuc Mountain
Shaped like a reclining elephant in full form
The boats then stop at Tro Landing-place for tourists to land on the site of Thien Phu Pagoda (Heaven Kitchen), also called Ngoai Pagoda (Outer Pagoda) which, formerly composed of a core of compartments surrounded by four Mountain walls, was damaged by the recent war. Its gate, built during King Gia Long’s reign, was also kept in ruins. There survives an ancient structure Vien Cong Tower, where was buried Ch’an Master Vien Quang credited with the pagoda restoration after agelong devastation. View from afar the tower is an impressive structure rising high in the sky. There can also be seen Thien Thuy Tower a huge rock in upside down position yielding the shape of a natural tower along which rain water will run from the mountain sides. In 1986 Thien Tru Pagoda’s bell-tower was rebuilt and the building of the two-storeyed Hall of the Triple Gem was completed in 1989.
At the beginning of 1994, Nam Thien Mon (Gate to the Southern skies) was reconstructed, taking the duplicate from of the original structure.
Starting from Ngoai Pagoda, tourists can climb up rocky mountain slopes to visit Tien Son Pagoda established inside the heart of a mount, where they can notice four ruby statues, Next come Giai Oan Pagoda where exists a well with clear water called "Thien Nhien Thanh Tri" (Natural Blue Pond) or Long Tuyen well. In front of the pagoda, there is a nine sourced stream called Giai Oan Spring. Nearby
There are Tuyet Kinh Grotto and Phat Tich Temple, which as a legend goes, still keeps Avalokitesvara Bodhisatta’s footprints. Not very far away, the pilgrims will arrive at Chan Song Mountain to see Vong Temple.
The ultimate destination that all visitors wish to reach is Huong Tich Cave located deep inside. After going past a large gate, they must go down broad stone steps to enter the grotto whose opening looks like a dragon’s jaw bearing the Chinese characters meaning "the most beautiful grotto of Southern Skies". These words are believed to be King Tinh Do Vuong Trinh Sam’s autograph carved in stone in 1770. The entrance to the cave is hidden under the luxuriant vegetation of two rows of old banian trees. The sunlight coming in through the tree leaves casting a dim light over the stone steps and the incense-smoke rising from inside the grotto create a mysterious atmosphere which is exactly described by the well-known musician Hoang Quy in his popular song "Huong Pagoda":
Huong Pagoda is filled with incense and aquilaria
Smoke spiralling up in the dying sun.
It is the moment when one is held in deep reverie.
Once getting inside the grotto, visitors will admire the statues of Avalokitesvara Buddha and Arahats. Stalactites hanging from the walls are of various forms and changing colours.
On the ceiling juts out another one in the shape of nine dragon’s heads named Nine-Dragon Seat, while watching these nature’s marvellous figures, the girl in Nguyen Nhuoc Phap’s poem uttered these words:
Oh! Here we’re at Trong Pagoda (Inner Pagoda)!
The grotto is hidden in green vegetation:
Its ceiling is embroidered with stalactites
Which look like pearls imbued with aquilaria perfume.
Another poem Chu Manh Trinh of the last century wrote the famous poem entiled "the Delights of Huong Son":
Standing sky high in the land of Buddhas.
Huong Son is a real wonder we have long wished to see
With the sight of mountains covered with clouds
This is undoubtedly "The most beautiful grotto of all".
Looking up, we can notice a beautiful picture
Brocaded with sparkling stones rich in colours.
The cave is so deep, glittering in the moonlight.
The entrance path with abrupt turns is so high.
Beside Huong Tich Grotto, as it is said above, tourist can turn and get to an apricot forest to visit Hinh Bong Pagoda, Then they can go down Tuyet Spring to reach Mother Temple, Royal Barge Mountain, Phoenix Mountain, Lion-Head Mountain, Ky son Rock /Wall before touching at Turet Son Landing to enter Bao Dai Pagoda.
After climbing up a mountain on their way to Bach Tuyet Gate and Co Temple, they can also visit Tuyet Son Pagoda, otherwise called Ngoc Long Grotto where they can see a stela engraved with a beautiful poem written in Sino-Vietnamese characters by Lord Trinh Sam in 1770.
In another direction, tourists will be carried along a branch of Yen Spring to Ong Su Ba Vai Mountain where, after disembarkation, they can visit Long Van Pagoda before climbing up another mountain to reach Cay Khe Pagoda and Sung Sam Cave, which is an archaeological site with age-old vestiges.
After leaving Huong Son beauty spot tourist can take back with them as souvenirs a bamboo walking-stick they have used on their pilgrimage, son pieces of apricot-tree bark to be mixed with their drinks, some apricot fruit with thick pulp and tiny stones or a few batches of herbs to flavour their food with.
But the most precious gain for the pilgrims on their journey to Huong Pagoda as a stated of mind freed from all earthly dust and filled with an ethereal joy of having escaped from the worldly life and everlasting impression of Paradise existing right here on this harsh world of ours.
Chau Van Thuan and Nguyen Van Nghe
(SUNG PHUC TU)
THACH XA, THACH THAT, HA TAY PROVINCE
Thirty-seven kilometres west of Ha Noi, in Yen hamlet, Thach That district, Ha Tay province there is a mountain of a height of around 50 metres located in a beautiful site : it stands, amidst the green and luxuriant vegetation of a bamboo forest hiding from view a number of thatched cottages built on its slopes.
The mountain is called Cau Lau . It is stated in some record that the name originates from the fishhook-like shape of the mountain But its etymology shows its origin from the archai pronunciation "K-lau", meaning Buffalo Mountain, which has been recorded as Cau Lau in books written in Chinese characters. This explanation has an adequate ground if the mountain is viewed from afar. It is then seen joining up with several hills in Kim Quan region to make up a long range which runs from the Ba Vi Mountain to the middle of the North delta and looks like a herd of buffaloes whose mother Cau Lau Mountain, is turning its head to look back at its offspring.
Let’s climb up the 239 laterite steps from the foot of the mountain and we will find ourselves in front of the gate of well-known pagoda, which is a typical example of Vietnamese architecture and sculpture, The pagoda is called Tay Phuong Pagoda or Sung Phuc Tu, written in Chinese characters, Its other named is Hoanh Son Thieu Lam Tu.
The pagoda was constructed in 1632 during the reign of king Le Than Tong and composed of the Upper Hall with 3 compartments, the Vack Hall with 20 compartments and corridors. In the years from 1657 to 1682 Lord Tay Do Vuong Trinh Tac had it knocked down to build a new pagoda with a three-entrance gated . In 1794, during the Tay son dynasty extensive renovating were made and the pagoda was remained unchanged until now.
The pagoda memorial stilled was set up in 1924, bearing a text which read, "Novice monk Thiet Tu, alias Thanh Ngoc, from Cao Xa hamlet, Dan Phuong district, Ha Dong province, entered the monkhood since his early childhood. In 1893 he came to live at Sung Phuc, Pagoda that is Tay Phong Pagoda, on Cau Lau Mountain, This mountain region is a beauty spot potentially productive of the talented and impregnated with heavenly atmosphere. Therefore; the hamlet authorities and notables met and decided on a resolution to renovate and repair the three buildings of the pagoda-extensively.
They also had some statues carved; the statues of One-Hundred-arm Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and the goddess Thien Tai Long Nu, as well as those of the Eight Groups of Vajraputras and the Eighteen Arahats. All of them are resplendently lacquered with a vermilion and gild paint…."
The pagoda consists of 3 buildings made of hard and solid iron wood, laid out in form of the Chinese word Tan: The Service Hall, the Main Hall and the Back Hall, which stand at a distance of 1.60m from each other, forming a structure complex in an extraordinary style. Thi windows are designed in such a way as to let in bright light from outside, which gives the interior a heavenly atmosphere harmonious with the Vuddhist philosophy of impermanence.
Each of the buildings has two – levelled roofs, whose corners are modelled with up-bent knife shaped relief decorations representing the images of flowers, leaves, dragons and phoenixes, The building materials are chiefly the well-known sun-dried bricks of Bat Trang. All the wooden column rest upon round blue stone blocks with engravings of lotus petals, The roof are covered with two layers of tiles : the upper one consists in tiles moulded in banian-leaf shape. The under layer which serves for a lining is composed of square tiles painted in five colours. All the roof fringes are carved with elaborate decorations in form of rolled-up leaves.
Almost all the wood surface of everything in the pagoda has carved figures with traditional sculptural motifs familiar to the Vietnamese people: mulberry leaves, banian leaves, chrysanthemums, dragons , phoenixes, tiger heads….
The tourists who visit Tay Phuong Pagoda are not only amazed by the monumental beauty of this architectural triumph, but also struck by great stupefaction when beholding the lively world of 72 wooden statues lacquered with vermilion and gild paint, Nowhere else in Vietnam can be found such an original exhibition hall, which shows a religious style of sculpture as well as the characteristics of the Vietnamese people. The statues are all authentic works of art depicting not only the lives and personalities but the spirits of Buddhas, Bodhivattsas and Arahats as well.
The system of statues enshrined in the pagoda includes:
The word of statues in the pagoda interior has been a source of inspiration for quite a few writers, poets and artists. In 1960, on his visit to the pagoda, Huy Can, a famous poet, wrote vivid and expressive verses about the images of those people who, after achieving Enlightenment , still keep on pondering on the sufferings of human beings. These lively statues not only depict Buddhist themes but also expose the spiritual world of the craftsmen who have created them. All the details featuring on those statues clearly bear the imprint of the earthly world's sufferings: protruding eyes, frowning eyebrows, deeply wrinkled foreheads, lips curved in a bitter manner, hands with twisted fingers, big ears which are so long as to reach the knees and able to hear all human stories.
All the five senses seem to be fully strained through every grain of wood:
They are sitting hear, in silent, but can hear every storm and thunder roaring everywhere.
It seems that, from chasms in the earth's depths, there has risen a black wind
Just like the darkness which
Bursts out and covers the human life.
From various expressions of pain from life and compassion for mankind, the poet has pointed out a common characteristic appearing on these statues, that is the ever-lasting concern over life and death, a harassing anxiety in searching for a meaning and a direction for man's life.
This query weighs heavily on their minds because they don't mean to search for their own deliverance but always try to find it for all beings.
Looking down, sideways or turning round
All are looking out in eight directions
There has raised a most important question
But no answer can be given
That query not only obsesses those who are living in the last remaining years of this century, full of sorrows and sufferings but also causes a harassing anxiety to people who are on their way to quest for the Truth, the God and the Beauty.
Chau Van Thuan and Nguyen Van Nghe
(TU PHUC PAGODA)
CON SON, CHI LINH, HAI HUNG PROVINCE
During the Tran dynasty, there existed in Vietnam such centres of Buddhism as Yen Tu, Con Son, Quynh Lam and Vinh Nghiem. In the Patriarch House at Con Son Pagoda are still enshrined the statues of the Three Truc Lam patriarchs, who were King Tran Nhan Tong (1258-1308), Ch'an Masters Phap Loa (1284-1330) and Huyen Quang (1254-1334).
It was not by chance that Ch'an Master Phap Loa established Bach Van Temple at Con Son Pagoda and that Ch'an Master Huyen Quang chose this place to spend the last years of his life as a Buddhist monk. Con Son (15km from Hai Duong provincial town, in present-day Cong Hoa Village, Chi Linh district, Hai Hung province) is the name of a mountain about 200m high above sea level, which has three peaks in the shape of kneeling unicorns-hence its other name of Lan Son (Unicorn Mountain). From a top the mountain, after climbing up 600 stone steps, we will see appear in front of us "the vegetation of an area filled with eternal rejoicing, an infinite expanse of mountains and rivers which charm our eyes" as written by King Le Thanh Tong.
Neither did King Tran Nghe Tong groundlessly give the name of Thanh Hu Dong (the Cave of Pure Nothingness) to that area where exist a few houses along the banks of a stream in the Con Son ravine and large rocks with even surfaces lying on a grassy, flowery mountain scattered with bamboo thickets and crowned with smoke: it is a quiet and deserted place of abode similar to a fairy land floating in the void. As Head of this pagoda, Ch'an Master Phap Loa found inspiration in this pure landscape to write these verses:
My mind is completely freed from life's worries.
I sit on a bamboo bed by myself all the year round
Without any need for a calendar to find the date,
I can guess the autumn's arrival when noticing the chrysanthemums start to bloom.
Located at the southern mountain foot, Con Son pagoda or otherwise called Tu Phuc Tu (written in Chinese characters), was built during the Ly dynasty and popularly known as well Hun Pagoda (charcoal-burning ground). Legend has it that King Tran Thai Tong (1225-1228) himself once called at the pagoda. In the time of the Le dynasty, while Ch'an Master Mai Tri Ban, alias Phap Nhan was Head, it was renovated and enlarged to comprise 83 compartments including the three entrance gate, the Upper Hall, the Lower Hall, the bell-tower and the drum tower…
Having been destroyed by wars, Hun Pagoda is now reduced to a small temple scarcely visible under the mass of green foliage of some age-old trees, namely pines, frangipanes and aaloes.
In front, quite near the gateway there is a stone stele standing on the back of a tortoise and bearing three engraved words "Thanh Hu Dong" (Cave of Pure Nothingness) which were King Tran Nghe Tong's autograph. On the left-hand side, we can see the old memorial house built in 1608 with a stele whose text is entitled "Con son Tu Phuc Thien Tu Bi" telling about the renovation work on the pagoda.
Off the rad leading to the shady mountain top behind the Pagoda lies the area of tomb stupa, the most outstanding of which is Dang Minh stupa, made of blue stone. It is a structure of 3 storeys in which a statue of Ch'an Master Huyen Quang and his relic are enshrined.
Con Son Pagoda was once eyewitness to a span of life as well as the tragedy of Nguyen Trai, a national hero and cultural celebrity. Thanh Hu Dong is the very retreat of his maternal grandfather Tran Nguyen Dan, alias Bang Ho, King's first minister. The few old pine-trees which have been standing there for more than six centuries were planted by Tran Nguyen Dan himself as recorded in his verses:
Spring sunshine glitters on the flowers in morning.
Autumn wind blows gently, flaming cry in the eventide.
The threshold of Luu Quang Temple is covered with green moss.
The tall trees planted by the same man support the blue autumn sky.
Nguyen Trai spent part of his childhood, between 5 and 10, with his maternal grandfather. After having taken part in the court political affairs for some years, Nguyen Trai retreated into Con Son again.
The Con Son stream once reflected the poet's figure seated on the rock surface during this time of his secluded life. The beautiful Con Son scenery inspired him to write a great number of poems included in his <Quoc Am Thi Tap> (Collection of Poems in National language) and poems in Chinese characters:
Con Son has aa stream murmuring day and night.
It sounds to me as if there were music being played nearby
Con son has mossy rocks clean washed by rain,
Just like soft beds for me to sit on by myself.
But a historical tragedy prevented him from spending his old age peacefully in the shade of the pine-trees and having time to declaim his leisure poetry. The Case of Le Chi Garden which was related to King Le Thai Tong's sudden death resulted in a verdict meaning the extermination of all the members belonging to three ancestral lines of Nguyen Trai, who was the eminent builder of the Le dynasty.
For the worship of Tran Nguyen Dan, Nguyen Trai and Nguyen Thi Lo, the locals have had their statues carved, and placed them in the Holy Shrine beside those of Amitabha Buddha and the Three Patriarchs of Truc Lam Sect.
Nguyen Trai's disciples brought him back and buried him on Giap Son Mountain, north-east of Con Son Mountain. Not far away, we can see the tomb of Nguyen Phi Khanh, who was Nguyen Trai's father.
On coming to Con Son, Tran Dang Khoa, a poet, once awoke at midnight to perceive Nguyen Trai's venerated soul still mingling with the natural world:
The sound of a bell was heard in mid air.
A strong wind made the ancient forest rustle.
The water of the stream was spurting out impetuously.
The pine forest was sparkling in the moonlight.
It seemed to me as if Nguyen Trai's came back for a visit to the place.
Chau Van Thuan and Nguyen Van Nghe
(PHUC LAM PAGPDA)
121 DU HANG, LE CHAN, HAI PHONG CITY
Located in Du Hang street, Ho Nam ward, Le Chan district, Du Hang is a well-known ancient pagoda in Hai Phong City.
The pagoda, whose other name is Phuc Lam Tu, was originally built of bamboos and covered with thatch. Legends have it that, in the time of the Tran dynasty, King Tran Nhan Tong and Ch'an Master Huyen Quang usually came to preach Buddha's teachings at this place. In 1672, during the reign of King Le Gia Tong, Nguyen Dinh Sach, the court commander-in chief, who had resigned from office to enter the monkhood under the religious name of Chan Huyen, noticed the pagoda left in ruins; so he mobilised the local people to repair the pagoda. In the days of King Thanh Thai, Most Venerable Thong Hanh, alias Phuc Nguyen, of Vinh Nghiem sect, had it restored and enlarged and a bell-tower was built as well. In 1917, the pagoda was renovated once more on a large scale and it took the form as it is seen today.
Du Hang Pagoda is laid out in the form of the Chinese word Dinh preceded by a three entrance gate with a lofty three-tiered roof. A large bell is hung in a two-storeyed bell tower having 5 compartments and a bent-up roof. Past the bell tower, one can see a large yard, where are placed a large urn and the statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. The Front Hall consists of 7 compartments.
On the right-hand side stand the 5 compartmented patriarch house, the dining-hall and the annexe. On the left we can see the Back Hall composed of 5 compartments.
The five-compartmented Upper Hall is also made of wood and its rafters are decorated with sophisticated carvings.
In the Main Hall we can notice a number of ingeniously-carved statues such as those of Lord Buddha, Dharma Guardians and the Three Truc Lam Patriarchs along with symmetrical sentences which were subtly engraved in the artistic style of the Nguyen dynasty. The resplendent carving in high relief, painted in vermilion and gilded, which we can see in the Main Hall, was made by craftmen from Ha Nam Ninh province in the early 19th century. In the pagoda are still kept many precious relics such as bronze urns, brass gongs, incense-burners and sculptured cupboards.
In the pagoda garden sand nine tombs stupas among which are those of the Three Truc Lam Patriarchs, Ch'an Master Chan Huyen Nguyen Dinh Sach and other veteran bonzes of high virtues who were Heads of the Pagoda.
Phuc Lam Tu is worthy of being a prestigious relic of national ancient architecture and a famed beauty spot of Hai Phong Port City.
Chau Van Thuan and Nguyen Van Nghe
( PHO MINH PAGODA )
LOC VUONG, NAM DINH, NAM HA PROVINCE
The Tran dynasty was a reign that brought great credit to the history of Vietnam by winning three major victories over the yuan Mogulian invaders in the 13th century. The Tran Kings were descends, in fact, from fishermen who earned their living on the Chau River, within the limits of Nam Dinh. On the right riverbank, was established at the time a village named Tuc Mac (present - day Loc Vuong village, 5 km from the town of Nam Dinh), which were the native place of Hero Tran Quoc Tuan as well as the ancestral land of the Tran dynasty.
No sooner had King Tran Thai Tong ascended the throne than he transformed Tuc Mac village into a large construction site. Since 1239, workmen were recruited to work together with an army of corvee-bound labourers over many scores of years on end in order to build castles, palace temples and pagodas on this land. In the spring of 1262, King Tran Thanh Tong, on an inspection tour to Tuc Mac village, granted a big banquet, gave handsome rewards to the village’s elders and changed Tuc Mac village into the district of Thien Truong, Two impressive magnificent palaces were built in the district, going by the names of Trung Quang and Trung Hoa, the later being a residence for the King on the throne to stay at on his visit to his father. Those palaces were destroyed by wars, yet akk the places - names in the areas still have connections with the far remote history; There exist the vestiges of the one - time backyard of the palace, the field where in the old days were detained the prisoners utilised for thebuilding work.
Nowadays, we can see such hamlets as Lieu Nhai which was a willow garden in the days of old text "Pho Minh Dinh Tu ". In addition, there used to be a large cauldron considered to be one of the " Four Great Precious Objects " of Vietnam
Behind the upper hall, and separated from it by a small yard we can see a ten-compartmented building laid out in a straight line, The five middle compartments serve as the patriarch house, the other three on the left as living-rooms and the ones on the right constitute the Holy Shrine. In the pachiarch house, there is a statue of Queen Mac, who used to live as nun in the pagoda. The statue was carved out of white stone, sitting on a lotus pedestal with her back leaning against a wall decorated with a halo and three words " Thuong Tich Quang " ( Eternal light)
Two corridors on both sides links the Front Hall with the 11 -compartmented house,thus forming a square frame like the outer part of the Chinese character "Quoc" ( ) . Behind the patriarch house is the pagoda garden where stands the stupa made of baked clay of Queen Mac’s tomb.
The most valuable structure which was constructed in the aisle well preserved style of the Tran’s time and in its original form is Pho Minh Tower-hence Pho Minh Pagoda is also called Thap Pagoda (Tower Pagoda). The tower was built around the year 1305, the thirteenth Hung Long year during the rule of King Tran Anh Tong . It is about 21m high, composed of 14 storeys, established on a pyramidal 12-stepped brick terrace and stopped with a pointed finial in the form of a many-faceted wine gourd. The first storey and the foundation base are decorated with figures of flowers and leaves water waves and whirling clouds. All the upper storeys have domed doors facing the four main directions In the beginning the uppermost thirteen storeys were built of plain red bricks, but later a believer paid in his own money to have them plastered with mortar. The altar is placed in the middle of the first storey provided with a door so that monks and pilgrims may easily come in and out to burn josstics. The decorations on the outside of the tower are simple but very attractive with such figures as lotus petals, string designs bordering the tower door, dragons whirling playfully with clouds engraved on the facing bricks.
Rising in the middle of a low-lying area of rice fields together with a prestigious pagoda and luxuriant age-old trees, Pho Minh tower, which weighs nearly 700tons and has remained intact for seven centuries, does help to create the imposing and ethereal beauty of the scenery. King Tran Nhan Tong praised this beauty spot as one of "fairy abodes" existing in Vietnam;
The bonzes having returned to their
Monastery, no prayers are heard
The inn by the river lies asleep in the moonlight
The tower standing high resembles thirty fairy abodes.
Thousands of worlds of Buddhas resound with the rising tide,
It is said that King Tran Nhan Tong’s relics have been kept in Pho Minh Pagoda . The fourteen kings of the Tran dynasty have been worshipped in Thien Truong Temple, also called Tran Temple located near Pho Minh Pagoda. Beside Thien Truong Temple is Co Trach Temple for the worship of the national hero Tran Hung Dao. The harmonious combination of religion and secular power on the ancestral land of an illustrious line of descent has justified such positive statement as it referred to in an old folk song:
This land of Tuc Mac hamlet or Thien Truong District
Has alway been famous since time immemorial.
Bui Huy Bich (1744 - 1818) a poet wrote his poem " Du Pho Minh Tu " (visit to Pho Minh Pagoda) as follows;
I returned to Pho Ming - after the war
to see a profusion of flowers and grass under the blue sky.
Smoke and clouds dirtily blur the damaged memorial stele.
Buddha’s eyes are dipped with sadness day and night.
The magic of Buddhism is so great everywhere
This land has always been said to be a holy ground.
Where is the old urn now, who knows?
It is true that that the invisible always gains the upper hand over the visible
Chau van Thuan and Nguyen Van Nghe.
( HOA YEN TU )
YEN TU MOUNTAIN, QUANG NINH PROVINCE
It wasn’t a rare occurrence for kings of Vietnam to resign from their throne in order to enter the Buddhism monkhood. But King Tran Nhan Ton (1258 - 1308) was unique in his religious pursuit who, after having twice led the people to fight against and drive the Chinese Yuang invaders out of the country, started to give his whole mind to Buddhist sutras, sought for a place to practise dhamma and founded a sect of Ch’an Buddhism of his own.
As a matter of fact, even while being still the crown prince, he once escaped from the royal citadel with the intention of staying as a monk in Yen Tu Mountain, but his father, King Tran Thanh Tong, send out a party to take him back. After ruling over the country for some years, King Tran Nhan Tong handed his throne over to his son, whereupon he retreated freely into Yen Tu Mountain in 1299.
It was not the first time for this mountain to welcome such a king that came to enter the monkhood at this place. Sixty three years before, King Tran Thai Tong, the founder of the Tran dynasty, who felt depressed over the country’s hard times and was harassed by personal matter, had abdicated of his own free will and escaped to Yen Tu Mountain. But he failed to carry out this plan to enter the monkhood that time, for Tran Thu Do ordered of party of mandarins to fetch him back to the royal citadel.
It is probably true that, only with a strong determination and thanks to a special predestined affinity, can one reach Yen Tu Mountain.
Bordered on three sides by the former provinces of Hai Duong, Bac Giang and Quang Yen and located at a distance of about 15 km northwest of Uong Bi provincial town ( Quang Ninh province), Yen Tu is the highest and the least accessible Mountain in the one-time Hai Dong region. Its topis crowned all the timely clouds - hence it was previously named Bach Van Son (the Mountain of white clouds). Viewed from altar, it takes the shape of an elephant, so it is also called a Tuong Son (Elephant Mountain). Legend has it that, in the 10th century, there was a Taoism hermit named Yen Ky Sinh living in the mountain for the practice of his religion. He was petrified later into a 25 meter-high statue which is still standing at the site of the path leading to the mountain top, (at a height of 824 m) and which we can catch sight of when going past Cua Troi (Heaven’s Door). The mountain is likely to owe its name to that myth.
Actually, the name of Yen Tu refers to a system of pagodas and scenic spots to be seen by the pilgrims on their 30 km - long route from the mountain foot to its lofty top. At the mountain foot, appears Cam Thuc Pagoda, also called Linh Nham Tu standing by Cam Spring and Lan Pagoda otherwise named Long Dong Tu. By the side of Giai Oan spring formerly called Ho Khe, we can see Giai Oan Pagoda. A legend goes like this;
As King Tran Nhan Tong his father, entered the mountain, Tran Anh Tong, who was the King on the throne sent out a party of ladies - in - waiting in order tabuest the former to come back, but the king father refused the request, being determined to enter the monkhood. All the ladies - in -waiting threw themselves into the spring. Some of them were rescued from the death and then decided to settle outside the pagoda. The king celebrated a mass fot the peace of those who had died from drowning, ordered to build Giai Oan Pagoda where the statues of the Ladies - in - waiting have been enshrined and worshipped
Going past Voi Xo Hill one can see Ha Kieu Mountain, where the king on the throne and mandarins would have to get off their palanquins and walk on to request an audience with King Tran Nhan Tong. Along the road shaded from the sun by secular conifers of several kinds, we can see Hon Ngoc, then Hue Quang Kim Thap, Which is a stupa complex including the Patriarch’s Tower dedicated to Long Dieu Ngu Giac Hoang (alias of King Tran Nhan Tong). This stone structure is 10 m high and composed of 6 storeys. At the other side of a brick wall stands the cluster of 44 stupas enshrining the relics of the bronzes who had lived there.
Located at mid - mountain side at a height of 516 m, Oh Yen Pagoda is the largest and most beautiful one, therefore it is also called Ca Pagoda (the Greatest Pagoda) It was built during the Ly dynasty and was named Phu Van, later renamed Van Yen in Tran times.
During the Le dynasty, King Le Thanh Tong on an excursion to the pagoda noticed the green vegetation of the location and gave it the name of Hoa Yen.
The winding road to the mountaintop links Hoa Yen Pagoda with such others as Mot Mai, Bao Sai, Van Tieu and Thien Truc or Dong Pagoda (at a height of 1068 m). Dong Pagoda was once damaged yet a 3-metre-high stone stele still remains at the back, bearing on its front side the inscription Thien Truc Tu and the word "Phat" on the opposite side. It has been restored lately thanks to the contributions of a number of Buddhist disciples.
The grounds of Hoa Yen Pagoda create a strong impression chiefly with an age-old frangipani and rows of conifers which has been surviving over the last five or six century. The image of the moon shining through the intervals between the branches of the century-old tree was dealt with more than once in Huyen Quang poetry;
The night cold air is coming through the veranda blinds
The trees in the yard rustle to announce the autumn’s arrival
The pomegranates have stopped sending out their fragrance around the bamboo hall
The bright moon is shining through the net of pine branches.
Nguyen Trai, on a visit to the pagoda, was seized by the transitional minutes between the newly dissipated night and the dawning day;
On the top of lofty Yen Tu Mountain
The broad daylight comes just at the end of the fifth watch of the night
The large sea can be seen in the distance
People are talking and laughing admist blue clouds
Bamboo-trees grow up straight like long handled spears.
Big rocks have large sides resembling dropping curtains
King Nhan Tong’s traces can still be seen everywhere here.
His royal face appears, conspicuous in the broad daylight
Oh well, King Nhan Tong’s keep remaining along with other vestiges of the olden times; Thien Dinh Pagoda, where the King used chant prayers and pray under his breath to Buddha; Mot Mai Pagoda where he would read to research into the doctrine of Ch’an Buddhism.
Hoa Yen Pagoda, which together with the whole system of Yen Tu complex, stand in harmony with a majestic natural world is a sound proof of the Vietnamese people’s combination of religion and worldly life.
Chau Van Thuan and Nguyen Van Nghe
( THAN QUANG PAGODA )
DUY NHAT, VU THU , THAI BINH PROVINCE
Every year, on the 4th day of the 1st lunar month, the people of Keo hamlet (Duy Nhat, Village, Vu Thu district, Thai Binh province), organise the Spring Festival just in the pagoda which bears the name of the hamlet itself.
More than nine months later on the 13th, 14th and 15th days of the ninth lunar month, Keo Pagoda holds the Autumn Festival, which is the main even to commemorate the 100th day after the death of Ch’an Master Khong Lo (1016-1094) the founder of the pagoda who died on 3rd day of the 6th lunar month.
During the Festival, we can see processions of palanquins, incense-tables, dragon-shaped boats and small-sized urns. On the banks of the Tra Linh River flowing past the pagoda before reaching the Red River, a great number of visitors come to watch competitions of canoe rowing, drum beating, musical wind instruments boat racing as well as a performance of traditional dancing style, Inside the pagoda, visitors can watch a lively literacy contest in which the contenders have to read out their creations on six subjects; joss-ticks, lamps flowers, tea, fruit and foodstuff.
Although I may be chastised by father or mother.
I will never fail to come to the Keo Pagoda Festival on the 15th day of month
If you get a chance to visit Keo Pagoda, you tourist should come on the Autumn Festival days.
After leaving Nam Dinh City , take a ferryboat at Tan De landing; then turn right . Go about 10 km along the Red River dyke and you will arrive at the pagoda. Standing at the foot of the Red River dyke, in the middle of the plain bare of mountains, Keo Pagoda with a bell tower shaped like a lotus flower rising high above sea of green rice plants nourished by the alluvial soil carried from the Red River by the Tra Linh tributary.
Keo Pagoda is named Than Quang Tu written in Chinese characters. It was built in the years from 1630 to 1632, in the architectural style of the Le epoch, thanks to the initiatives of Madam Lai Thi Ngoc, Marquis Tuan Tho Hau Hoang Nhan Dung’s wife, and Queen consort Dong Cung Vuong Phi Trinh Thi Ngoc Tho, but the history of the pagoda dates back to nine centuries ago. According to the book " Khong Lo Thien su ky ngu luc " (Legend of Master Khong Lo), Master Khong Lo had Nghiem Quang Pagoda built in Giao Thuy village (popularly called Keo village) on the right bank of the Red River. After his death, Nghiem Quang Pagoda was renamed Than Quang Tu. As time went by, the pagoda foundation terrace was gradually eroded by the river water and in 1611, the entire village as well as the pagoda was washed away by a heavy flood. The inhabitants of the KO village had to leave their fatherland; half of them moved to a south-eastern area on the right bank of the Red River, where they later built a pagoda named KO-Hahn Thien (present - day Nam Ha province); the rest of them crossed the river to settle in a north- western region on the left bank, where they built the present Keo- Thai Binh Pagoda.
On the memorial stele and in the land register of Keo Pagoda, it has been recorded that the whole pagoda structure used to have a surface area of 58,000 m2. At present, there remain only 17 constructions including 128 compartments laid out in the form of " py I - shaped interior, - shaped exterior " .
From the 25-metre-high parashorea flagpole straight as a narrow at the front edge of the pagoda, visitors have to cross a stone- paved court before reaching the outer three-entrance gate. Then, they can see a lotus pond and the inner three-entrance gate with a set of doors decorated with dragon carvings executed in the style of the 17th century. Behind gate is the Buddha’s Temple consisting of three houses in succession, followed by the Holy Shrine where Master Khong Lo is enshrined and worshipped at the stand the tower bell, the patriarch house and the dwelling area for monks.
The Keo Pagoda bell tower is an original artistic wooden construction symbolising the ancient architecture of Vietnam in the Hau Le times (16th-17th centuries) .It rests upon a square brick base, measuring 11.04 m in height and comprising three roofed - storeys structured with superimposed consoles. Timbers connected to each other by concealed tenons supporting twelve high decorated with graceful bent-up scimitar-shaped ornaments form the tower framework. In the first storeys are hung a 120-meter - high stone gong and a brass bell measuring 1. 30 m in height and 1 m in diameter, cast in the time of King Le Hy Tong (1686); in the two upper storeys are hung two small bells cast in 1796, each of which is 0 62 m high and 0,69 m in diameter.
Standing by a pond in the middle of a large open space and reflecting the structure in the calm water, Keo Pagoda has been treasuring not only valuable relics but also mysterious legends associated with Master Khong Lo’s life. According to the book " Trung San Than Quang Tu Phat To ban hanh thien uyen ngu luc tap yeu " Master Khong Lo had been born into a family of fishermen of the surname Duong and later followed Ch’an Master Loi Ha Trach into the monkhood. Master Khong Lo wrote the following poem, in praise of the pleasures of fishing;
The river is immense and blue, so is the sky
The hamlet is crowned with smoke and clouds and planted with mulberries and ramies.
After a sound sleep, without anyone calling him, the fisherman wakes up to find his boat
Over -flooded with snow.
Legend has it that, after achieving enlightenment, Master Khong Lo could fly in the air, walk on the surface of water and tame snakes and tigers. Another myth goes that before he passed away he metamorphosed into a piece of aquaria, which turned out to be a statue after a garment was put on. This sacred statue is still enshrined in the sanctuary closed to the public all the year round.
Once every twelve years, Keo village nominates a man as ritual master and four assistants to perform the ceremony for the decoration of the sacred statue. Those men having to go on a vegetarian diet and wear new clothes, take it respectfully out of the sanctuary, bathe it in pomelo - flavoured coconut - milk and repaint it in vermilion.
This job must be done through a strictly - defined ritual that all of the assistants have to keep an absolute secret about what they have seen while dressing the statue up.
On visiting the pagoda, tourists can notice valuable requisites of worship, which, as legend has it , where Master Khong Lo’s belongings such as a string of ivory beads, a large lime pot and three golden snail shells which were said to have been collected by Master Khong Lo himself and kept as his drinking vessels during his monkhood.
Chau Van Thuan and Nguyen Van Nghe
( LINH MU PAGODA)
HUONG LONG HAMLET,
THUA THIEN -HUE PROVINCE
As drooping bamboo branches are dangling in the gentle breeze,
The sounds of Linh Mu Bell are echoing, and the Tho Xuong night watch is making an announcement with drumbeats.
It is the age-old folk-song that has given a lovely image of the romantic pagoda to the inhabitants of Hue as well as to visitors who come from all over the country.
The pagoda is located on Hill Ha-Khe, Huong Long Hamlet in Hue, and the ancient capital of Vietnam
According to "O Chau Can Luc" (Modern Records of O Province) written under the Mac Reign, Linh Mu Pagoda was built by order of Lord Nguyen Hoang at the beginning of the 17th century (1601).
A legend said that in 1601, Lord Nguyen Hoang made a sight-seeing tour to this wonderful scenery, where he was told about a hoary-headed lady in a red robe and blue trousers, sitting on a hill top, saying; "A righteous Lord will come here someway to build a pagoda on this holy place as the solid foundation of his reign."Then the old lady disappeared. The hill was later called Mount Thien Mu (Mount Holy Lady)
Lord Nguyen Hoang had the pagoda rebuilt and named it Thien Mu Pagoda (Under King Tu Duc, it was renamed Linh Mu Pagoda, the Holy Lady’s Pagoda)
In its early days, it was but a simple structure without any artistic works. In 1665, Lord Nguyen Phuc Tan had it rebuilt on a small scale.
In 1695, Ch’an Master Thach Liem, also called Thich Dai San, a Chinese monk of Chief Tay Origin, a member of the Tsao Tung Sect, was requested by Ch’an Master Nguyen Thieu on behalf of Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu to celebrate higher ordination ceremony in Viet Nam.
A famous monk scholar, he was appointed Abbot of Thein Mu Pagoda by the Lord. Before leaving Vietnam in July 1696, he granted the Lord the Bodhisattva Vow together with the religious title Thien Tung the Pious, recognising him as a member of the 30th generation of the orthodox Txao Tung Sect. From Thien Mu Pagoda and Khanh Van Pagoda in Hue, Ch’an Master Thach Liem set out on his preaching tour throughout the South in later years.
In 1710, Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu had a great bell cast. With 3285-can* weight, the bell is indeed an invaluable work of art which has since aroused deep feelings in the heart of the inhabitants of Hue, and has become a particular source of inspiration for countless men of letters;
The Thien Mu Bell Sounds
By King Thieu Tri.
On the high hill stands the Pagoda safeguarding the river in front,
Meanwhile in the permanent heaven reigns the full- orbed moon.
The one hundred and eight "bell sounds seem to dispel troubles and worries of human bondage,
And awaken all sentient beings in the three- thousand Worlds - System to the cause of their existences in the past, the present and the future.
The world veiled in the dark vibrates, as the bell is truck at noontide,
And the sounds of sutra recitation the morning convey the wonderful qualities of the Nobble Path.
The Budda’s blessing and king’ merits are indeed all - pervading.
For "good begets good" is the universal law...
In 1714, Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu ordred a large-scale pagoda reconstruction comprising various stately building such as the Triple Gate, the Shrine to the Four Heavenly Kings, the Shrine to the Emperor of Jade, the Shrine to the Ten Kings of the Netherworld (the Yama world), the Preaching Hall, the Treasury for Holy Textbooks, the Bell Tower, the Drum tower, the Van Thuy House, the Tri-Vi House, the Meditation Hall, the Great Mercy Shrine, the Healing Master Shrine, and the chambers for monks... Furthermore, the monks there were allowed to spend a three-months summer retreat at Ty Da Park and later some of them were sent to China to make a request for over 1000 volumes of the Mahayana Tripitaka * (the Holy Scriptures of Developing Buddhism) which were brought back and preserved in the Canon Treasury.
In the early 19th century, King Gia Long and King Minh Mang had the pagoda repaired in such places as the Great Hero **Shrine, the Maitreya Shrine, the Avalokitesvara (Great Mercy) Shrine, the Canon Tresury and the Shrine to the Netherworld’s Ten Kings.
In 1844, King Thieu Tri had Tu Nhan Stupa erected (and later renamed it Phuoc Duyen). It is a brick seven-level tower, 21 metres high, each level of which contains a Buddha Statue for 150 years now, the stupa has reflected its image in the Perfume River, evoking indescribable feeling to many a visitor.
In front of the Stupa was the Huong Nguyen Three-Fold Pavilion with a skilfully-carved wooden framework On both sides are the stele houses where the details of the erection of Phuoc Duyen Stupa and the Huong Nguyen Pavilion as well as several poems composed by King Thieu Tri were recorded.
In the early 20th century, the famous pagoda was seriously damaged by the Giap Thin Storm in 1904 and was restored by the order of King Thanh Thai in 1907 . The Most Venerable Abbot Thich Don Hau and countless other monks, nuns and lay Buddhists have since participated in the reconstruction of the pagoda which, though smaller in size, retains its magnificence and stateliness.
Today, visitors can see Phuoc Duyen Stupa and the stone - paved floor of what used to be the Huong Nguyen Pavilion right after climbing up 15 steps leading to the Triple Gate. There remain the two stele houses and on both sides of Phuoc Duyen Stupa, a stele house and a bell house built under Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu.
Then, through the Nghi Mon Gate, visitors can come to an enclosure inside a stone wall where attend the Great Hero Shrine, the Earth Store (Kshitigarbha) Shrine, the Great Mercy Shrine, the refectory, the reception room, the flower garden and in the far end, the Most Venerable Abbot Thich Don Hau’s Stupa amidst the pine grove.
The Great Hero Shrine is simply decorated with the Buddha Maitreya’s statue in the forefront, flanked by a bell and a stone gong. In the central altar, ornately - carved, brilliantly gilded and vermilion-painted, are the three statues of the Buddha’s Trikaya (three-fold Body) namely, Dharma Kaya ( Essence or the Substance of the Dharma) , Sambhoga Kaya (Potantiality or Buddha nature) and Nirmara Kaya (Manifestation or Created Body) . In front are the Buddha Sakyamuni’s Statue and a low table with a bell and a wooden fish! On both sides are altars to the Bodhisattva Majusri*and the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra (the Universal Sage) ** .All the statues enshrined there are placed in glass cases.
Before leaving, many visitors willingly turn to the left of Phuoc Duyen Stupa to see a stele erected in 1715 with the inscription of a eulogy from Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu to the most famous ancient pagoda to Hue.
How beautiful is the landscape in South Vietnam today
How magnificent is the pagoda on the gate of which reflects the sunlight,
As nature is calm and pure, water is murmuring out of spring.
Now that the country is peaceful, life is easy and carefree everywhere.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
( RORAL - CHARTERED PAGODA )
DUC QUARTER, THUA THIEN - HUE PROVINCE
Here is the water from Well Ham Long clear and sweet,
And here is, o sweetheart, my love true toey, witnessed by the Holy one...
Stopping at the foot of Hill Ham Long for a while to refresh oneself with sockets of cool water drawn from a depth of over two fathoms, one will feel easier while climbing up many steps leading to Bao Quoc Pagoda on Hill Ham Long.
The pagoda is located on Bao Quoc street Phuong Duc (Casting Quarter) in Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam.
It was, originally named Thien Tho Pagoda on Mount Ham Long, Built by Ch’ani Master Giac Phong at the end of the 17th century, under Lord Nguyen Phuc Tan, in 1747, Lord Nguyen Phuc Khoat granted it a gilded board inscribed " Bao Quoc Pagoda chartered by King Tu Te the Pious ".
The Pagoda was under constant repair during the Nguyen Dynasty, In 1808, Queen Hieu-Khuong had the Triple Gate erected, a big bell and a rare gong cast ... And then she renamed it Thien Tho Pagoda, appointing Ch’an Master Pho Tinh Abbot of the pagoda.
In 1824, on a visit to the pagoda, King Minh Mang officially named it Bao Quoc Pagoda, where he ordered the celebration of a great ordination ceremony on the occasion of his 40th Birthday Anniversary in 1830.
In 1858, King Tu Duc and his mother Queen Tu Du granted a large sum of money for the restoration of its main hall and many other buildings. The reconstruction of this Pagoda Continued until the end of the 19th century.
In the 20th century, this pagoda took an active part in the training of a new generation of well-qualified monks and nuns for the Restoration of Vietnamese Buddhist in the 1930’s. With the Basic School of Buddhist Studies opened in 1936 and the School of Higher Buddhist Studies in 1940, it has since become a monastic training centre in Hue.
In 1957, the Thua Thien Buddhist Sangha and the Bao Quoc Governing Board started an extensive reconstruction of the pagoda. The Most Venerable Abbot Thich Tri Thu, Director of the School of Higher Buddhist Studies, played the lead both in the Buddhist Restoration and the reconstruction that gave this stately patriarchal house its traditional features.
It was designed as a mouth-shaped ( - shaped) structure located within a site of about 2 ha,. Crossing its enormous old-fashioned Triple Gate and a large front yard, one comes to a fenced enclosure where stand lines of pine trees beside various bonsai shrubs. On the left is the Parchiarchal Stupa area, the oldest of which is the Most Venerable Giac Phong’s 3,3 metre-high Stupa. In front of the main hall are four pillars carved with dragon base-reliefs in addition to the walls of the stairway meticulous sly decorated with multi-coloured ceramic fragments and a pair of dragon carvings.
The main hall is arranged in a majestic way with all Buddhist Statues in glass cases.
In the centre is the highest altar dedicated to the Buddha’s Trikaya (Three-fold Bodyzzz0 and two collections of the Mahayanist Canon, in front of which is the precious stupa like casket of the Buddha’s Relic. On the lower altar is the Buddha Sakyamuni’s Statue flanked by the Venerable Elder Ananda’s and the Venerable Elder Kassapa’s Statues. On the foremost altar is a volume of the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra (The Lotus Sutra) together with a small bell and a wooden fish. On both sides are altars to the Buddha Bhaishajyaguru (the Buddha of Medicine) and the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (the seeing-World-Voice Bodhisattva).
This style of altar decoration was designed by the Most Venerable Phuoc Hau, who was officially appointed Abbot of Bao Quoc Pagoda in 1939’s all monastic decorations in Hue had been subject to the great influence of the trend towards the unity of the Three Religions ( Buddhist, Confucianism and Taoism) prevalent in North and central Vietnam.
In 1959, The Ham Long Primary School was established within the site of Bao Quoc Pagoda under the supervision of the Venerable Master Thien An.
In the school year 1961-1962, secondary education was supplied under Mr.. Than Trong Hy. His successors were Mr.. Truong Nhu Thung, the Venerable Elders Thich Phuoc Hai, Thich Thien Hanh, Thich Duc Thanh and Thich Hai An.
It was originally named the Ham Long Primary-Secondary Private school and later was renamed the Ham Long Bodhi School remains a sweet memory to all Buddhists in Hue because of its former contribution to the monastic education in Central Vietnam.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
( ROYAL - CHARTERED PAGODA )
TRUONG AN QUARTER,
THUA THIEN - HUE PROVINCE.
* " It looked as though clouds were floating over the palm leaf manuscripts while the Ch’an Master made his daily sutra recital for the welfare of all beings.
And it looked as though raindrops soaked into the robes of the holy monk, who devoted himself to the cause of religious prosperity, "
* " Eight precious stones twinkled on the golden beams whenever the bright sunshine reflected on the gate, inspiring admiration for both the virtuous man and the delightful surrounding, And the columns of jade emitted raibow-bued, rays when spring light spread on his couch, bringing an inexhaustible joy to all. "
The about verses are eulogies in form of parallel sentences composed by Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu extolling Ch’an Master Nguyen Thieu, founder of Quoc An pagoda. They are inscribed on two pairs of gilded boards hanging upright in the main hall of the pagoda located on a low hillslope at Truong An quarter in Hue . From Nguyen Truong To street one can go there by crossing Phu Cam Bridge over the An Cuu River and going about a mile on the farther bank
Quoc An Pagoda, originally named Vinh An Pagoda, was founded by Ch’an Master Nguyen Thieu in about 1682-1685 under King Le Hy Tong. Ch’an Master Nguyen Thieu (1648-1728), whose original Dharma name was Sieu Bach and Whose Dharma title was Hoan Bich, received higher ordination and religious education from the Most Venerable Master Khoang Vien in the province of Kwang Tung, China In 1667, he made a sea voyage to Vietnam and later founded Thap Thap Di Da Pagoda in Binh Dinh province.
From that pagoda, he set out on his preaching tour, founding Ha Trung Pagoda at Vinh Ha, Phu Vang District and Vinh An pagoda near Mount Ngu (The Royal Peak) in Thua Thien province.
In 1689,Lord Nguyen Phuc Tran renamed it Quoc An, granting it a gilded board inscribed " Quoc An Royal - Chartered Pagoda " and approving tax exemptions for its farming land.
The founder of one of the most celebrated Pachiarchal Houses in Central Vietnam, Ch’an Master Nguyen Thieu, who belonged to the 33rd generation of the Chinese Lin-Chi Sect, brought into Vietnam the following verses making the inheritance of his lineage;
Here is the first stanza:
The Pachiarch has said that the earnest cultivation of moral conduct and concentration. Leads to perfect understanding and full realisation of emptiness as absolute Truth. Just as the eternal sunlight gives forth-universal benefits,
The blessing, which results from the fragrance of faith, will unceasingly develop loving kindness among men.
And the second stanza;
The achievement of the Noble Path leading to Enlightenment,
Is as radiant as the magnificent glowing sun in mid-heaven.
All -pervading and profitable to develop loving kindness everywhere is indeed the sacred source of religion,
And thus hangs the light of Truth illumining the world of ever.
As a rule, each generation of the Lin Chi Sect is to be named after each word in the verses and even today, most of Buddhists in Central and South Vietnam are members of that Ch’an sect.
Just before his passing away, Abbot Nguyen Thieu uttered his farewell stanza to his disciples;
A calm mirror is void of all images,
And a glittering gem holdsnothing
Hence, all clear to vision Form is really noForm,
And void is really no Void.
Afterwards, Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu granted him the posthumous epithet Ch’an Master Hanh Doan ( Ch’an Master the Virtuous)
In its beginning, Quoc An Pagoda was but a modest thatched hermitage that was in constant repair under the Nguyen Reign. In 1805, its condition was improved due to a sum donated by Princess Long Thanh, King Gia Long ‘s Sister. In 1822, King Minh Mang assigned the Most Venerable Master Mat Hoang, the official Abbot of Linh Mu pagoda, to the task of reconstructing Quoc An Pagoda. In 1825, When Abbot Mat Hoang passed away, a stupa in his honour was erected over his tomb within the pagoda’s site. Many year later, between 1846 and 1863, the task resumed with the building of the Triple Gate and two small shrines dedicated to the goddest of Five Elements (a Taoist Golddest) and Holy Lady Y Ana (a Champ goddess).
The pagoda is a mouth-shaped, ( ) structure with its antechamber and main hall in front, its Patriarchal House in the rear, its abbot’s chamber and monks’ chambers on both sides.
Until now, the pagoda has maintainedits traditional worship style on the uppermost central altar are the statues of the Buddha’s Trikaya (Triple Body), on the lower altar are the statues of the Buddha Sakyamuni, Gotama the Infant, and the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara Cundi. On the left are the statues of Quan Cong, Chau Xuong and Quan Binh (ancient Chinese Confucianists). On the right are the Indian Patriarch Bodhidharma’s statues. In front is a small altar dedicated to the Emperor of Jade escorted by two gods of the North and South Constellations. Outside are altars to a Dharma guardian and his companions (one for Good and another against Evils) on the left, and the Netherworld’s Ten Kings (the Yama Kings) on the right.
Here and there hang numerous verticals and horizontal parallel boards meticulously inscribed with Chinese calligraphy and adorned with exquisite carving.
In the front yard is a stele with inscription of a eulogy poem composed by Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu in honour of the virtuous Founding Master of Quoc An Pagoda;
Sublime was thy wisdom,
And righteous was thy Brahma - faring.
Thou didst take delight in nature’s beauty,
Living in seclusion and holding thyself upright,
Well-disciplined, tranquil, resolute,
Seing voidness in all form
Thou propagated the Dharma for the benefit of all beings,
Just like an auspicious cloud spreading far and wide,
Or the sun of wisdom illumining the world,
The more we contemplate thee,
The greater is our reverence for thee
O Virtuous One, thou art truly the lofty Thai Son Peak!
For over 300 years in Hue, a romantic and charming landscape with very severe weather, 26 successive abbots and governors of the pagoda as well as many other monks, nuns and lay Buddhists have taken part in preserving it as an elegant place of worship for the Lin Chi Sect in South Vietnam
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
TRUONG AN QUARTER , THUA THIEN- HUE PROVINCE
In Central Vietnam, my homeland,
The bell sounds echo gently in early morning and in late evening.
How majestic is Tu Dam Pagoda,
From which springs the compassionate source of religion...
The sweet music of a song entitled "Tu Dam, my Homeland" reminds many visitiors in Hue of the unforgettable quiet and peaceful hours that they have spent at the renowned pagoda on Hill Long Son, Tu Dam Street, Truong an Quarter in Hue.
In was founded by Ch’an Master Minh Hoang- Tu Dung, a member of the 34th generation of the Lin Chi Sect by the end pf 17th century, under King Le Hy Tong.
It was originally named An Ton and was granted a gilded board insribed "An Ton Royal Chartered Pagoda" by Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu in 1703. But in the first year of king Thieu Tri’s Reign (1841), it was renamed Tu Dam in order to avoid the violation of the King’s forbidden name, i.e. his personal name Mien Tong !
For nearly 200 years now, the pagoda has been closely connected with the spiritual life of Hue dwellers, especially Hue Buddhists as well as domestic and foreign visitors:
Through the ups and downs of life,
I remain attached to the beloved place
From which arises the source of religion...
The ancient pagoda, which has undergone various storms sweeping over the poetic ancient Capital, has been restored continously by the Most Venerable Abbot Thiet Vinh and Master Te Ngu, Master Minh Hoang - Tu Dung’s successors. In the 19th century, the Most Venerable Abbot Dao Trung and Master Tu Van took the lead in the reconstructing it and casting its big bell.
In the early 20th century, the Venerable Abbess Dieu Khong was assigned to take charge of Tu Dam Pagoda and turn it into a Buddhist nunnery (1932). Several years later, it served as the office of the Central Vietnam Buddhist Association, who remodeled its main hall into an auditorium of a typical pagoda "for associations".
In 1939, Mrs Karpeless, Madam Chairman of the Phnom-Penh Buddhist Association, paid a visit to the pagoda, offering it a graft cut from the original Bodhi Tree in India, where the Buddha Sakyamuni had attained Enlightenment, and she planted the young cutting in the front yard.
For over 50 years now, the Bodhi tree has enhanced the pagoda’s stateliness and given its gigantic shade to millions of Buddhists and visitors.
How inposing is Tu Dam Pagoda,
Where the North and the South are united into one...
In 1951, the pagoda hosted 51 Buddhist representatives attending a preliminary conference for the unification of all Buddhist Associations. Thereupon the Most Venerable Thich Tinh Khiet was elected President of the conference and the world buddhist flag was raised at Tu dam Pagoda for the frist time.
In 1961, the Most Venerable Thich Thien Sieu and the Central Vietnam Buddhist Association played the lead in building the subordinate parts of the pagoda. In spite of its modern architectural design since then, it has maintained the traditional features of a typical pagoda for associations.
Here is my home land,
Where the fragrance of incense is wafted gently along the breeze every morning and every evening,
And the echoes of sultra recitation still linger in the air,
O Tu Dam, how cherished is your image in my mind
The melodious notes of the song uttered from the lips of some devout Buddhist are still resonant deep down in the heart of those who have visited the beloved pagoda and have been apart from it.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
(THIEN THAI THUYEN TON PAGODA)
THUY AN VILLAGE, THUA THIEN - HUE PROVINCE
The fallen Udumbara flower keeps its remaining perfume.
The perfume of an Udumbara flower lasts forever just like the ever-shining virtue of Ch’an Master Lieu Quan. That is a eulogy inscribed on the Gate of the stupa in honour of the founder of Thuyen Ton Pagoda. The stupa was erected on what had been a thatched cottage built y the Ch’an Master.
Master Lieu Quan, originally named Thiet Dieu, was a native of Song Cau (Phu yen Province) who move to Thuan Hoa (Hue) by the end of the 17th century and founded Thuyen Ton Pagoda in about 1708. The following poem was composed by the Master to mark the inheritance of his lineage:
Great is the Path of Truth,
Pure is the nature of the sea,
All-pervading is the source of mind,
And the root of virtue gives rise to loving kindness.
The cultivation of Moral Conduct, Concentration and Wisdom leads to the perfect understanding of Mind Essence.
Being fully aware of the exalted fruit of wisdom.
One should embrace the wonderful doctrine and propagate the righteous Way;
Henceforth the harmony of theory and practice results in the realisation of absolute Void.
Thuyen Ton Pagoda is located at Ngu Tay Hamlet, Thuy An Village in Thua Thien Province on the left of Mount Thien Thai, hence it is also called Thien Thai Thuyen Ton (the Ch’an Pagoda in the Fairlyland).
In the middle of 18th century, Eunuch General Mai Van Hoan collected donations for building a large pagoda about a mile from the old thatched hermitage. a big bell was cast then with the insciption of the 17th Canh Hung year (1747). In 1803, the pagoda was repaired thenks to a voluntary contribution from Madam Le Thi Ta.
Master Lien Quan’s first successors were Master Te Hiep and Master Te Man. next to them were Dai Hue, Dai Nghia, Dao Tam. According to the order of inheritance handed downed by Patriarch Lieu Quan, Abbots Dao Tai, Tanh Thien, Hai Nhuan, Thenh Liem, Thanh Duc were his successive disciples.
In 1937, Abbot Trung Thuy - Giac Nhien took the lead in restoring the pagoda. He also played an active part in theBuddhist Restoration at the early 20th century and was appointed Sanga President in 1973 and finally he passed away in 1979 at the age of 102 !
Thuyen ton Pagoda has maintained its traditional architectural design and worship style:
On the central altar of the main hall are the three statues of the Buddha’s Trikaya (Three - Fold Body) placed behind the Buddha Sakyamuni’s Statue.
On the forefront altar is the Bodhisattva Cundi’s statue flanked by the images of the Bodhisattva Mansjuri and the Bodhisattva Samatabhadra. Next comes a table with a small bell and a wooden fish.
On the left altar is the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara’s statue flanked by the Venerable Elder Siriputta’s and the Venerable Elder Kassapas’s statues. On the right altar is the Boddhisattva Kshitigarbha’s statue. Close to the walls on both sides are two altars to the Ten Kings of Yama world (the Netherworld). Ouside are altars to a Dharma guardian and Quan Cong (an ancient Chinese Confucianist).
On the right of the Triple Gate remains the late Abbot Giac Nhien’s chamber, where his calm portrait has evoked lofty feelings and boundless revence in visitors. From the chamber door, they can have a sweeping view of the stupa, the pagoda and Mount Thien Thai, which arouses a vague sense of nostalgia for the past.
Once on a visit to the Pagoda, Nguyen Du, the greatest Vietnamese poet, experienced the same feeling as he uttered the following stanza:
Shrouded in yellow autums leaves is now the ancient pagoda,
Where the figure of the aged Master of the former reign used to be seen among white clouds,
It is a pity that myself and old white - haired man burdened with troubles,
Have failed to fulfi my pledge to the blue mountain.
Today, visitors can enjoy the picuresque scenery deeply permeated with uniquely Buddhist flavour, the flavour of liberation:
The regular beats on a rare wooden fish resound
As the green water is flwing endlessly in front of the gate,
And the Dharmabody becomes manifest
While the sage still remains there, ca;mly contemplating the blue mountain.
Transalated by Tran Phuong Lan
HOA HAI HAMLET, HOA VANG DISTRICT,
QUANG NAM - DA NANG PROVINCE
From the centre of Da Nang, you can cross the bridge over the Han river and go about five miles on a plain of Hoa Hai Hamlet, Hoa Vang District before reaching Ngu hanh Mountains (the Five-Element Mountains) by the shore of the East Sea. This celebrates beauty-spot in Quang Nam-Da Nang Province consists of numerous Mountain Peaks stading in sharp relief against the wonderland, namely, the Water Mountain in the North East, the Wood Mountain in the South, the Gold Mountain and the Soil Mountain in the West, the Solar Heat Mountain and the Lunar Heat Mountain in te South West. In all directions, strong winds from the river and the boundless Sea blow all year round; hence the Mountains are generally called "Non Nuoc" or the Mountain-and Water Peaks.
In my native land, there are the Han River,
The Mountain-and-Water Peaks and the Son Tra Cave (The Cave of Wild Camellias)
The Mountains have been known to the Europeans as "the Marble Mountains" because they are possessed of a kind of valuable marble used as material for building, scupture and handicraft.
Within this area, on a gentle slope of the Water Mountain neaby, lie Tam Thai Pagoda and Linh Ung Pagoda in perfect harmony with the natural surroundings: you have to climb up to 156 stone steps leading to Tam Thai Pagoda on the Southern Slope and 108 steps to Linh Ung Pagoda on the Eastern slope.
Near Tam Thai Pagoda is a River Observatory, from which you can admire the meandering Han River among villages and fields. Far away are the Hai Van Pass (the Pass of Clouds over the Sea) and the Truong Son Range (the Long Mountain Range) rising ridge after ridge int the West. Next to Linh Ung Pagoda is a Sea Observatory from which you can watch the immense East Sea and the tiny Champa Isle in the dim distance.
According to a legend, Linh Ung Pagoda was built in the 16th century by a holy sage who founded the Khai Dong village and then lived in seclusion at Tang Chon cavern. It was originally called the Tang Chon Hermitage, and was later renamed the Duong Chon House. Under Kinh Minh Mang’s Reign, it was reformed into a pagoda named Ung Chon Pagoda headed by Abbot Quang Chanh, whose religious title was Master Bao Dai. Under King Thanh Thai, it was officially renamed Linh Ung Pagoda.
Today at Linh Ung Pagoda, there is a set of Eighteen Arahants’ Statues made of invaluable marble from the Five-Element Mountains after the model of those enshrined at Phuoc Lam Pagoda in Hoi An town. Each Statue is 0.34 metre high, the knees width being 0.23 metres, and its pedestal 0.04 metre high.
Being Tang Chon Pagoda is a path leading to the Tam Thanh Cavern, the Champa Cavern and the Windy Cavern. Nearby is the Cavern of Cereals: Stalactite and stalacmite formations there look like fingered citrus fruits (the Buddha’s hands), patatoes, cabbages. sesame seekds and various kinds of beans. It is popularly known as the Cavern of Laterns because of its countless latern-shaped stalactites hanging about everuwhere.
In front of the Triple Gate is Well Tien (the Fairy Well). On the way downwards, you will go pass the Am Phu Cavern (the Underworld Cavern) which tunnels through to the East Sea.
Linh Ung Pagoda has been seriously damaged and repaired several time for over four centuries. Its latest restoration tool place in 1993, including various artistic creations in front such as the 10-metre high statue of the Buddha Sakyamuni on the Lotus Throne, the statue itself being 7.5 metres high, then carved images illustrating the Buddha’s life and the 5-metre high shrine to the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara...
It is regretted that due to the careless digging for building material, the whole landscape has been subject to alarming destruction for many year now. It is neccesary for us to preserve this natural ensemble in good condition so that our future generations can see it not only through images, in works of art or literature but also as it really is today.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
CAM PHO HAMLET, HOI AN TOWN,
QUANG NAM - DA NANG PROVINCE
Hoi An has long been known as one of the few exceptional ancient towns that have maintained its original architectural features. According to a map of the Hong Duc Reign in the 15th century, at first it was named The Great Champa Port, a seaport of the Champa Kingdom. Later, on a Dai Viet map published by Alexandre de Rhodes in 1653, its was known as "Hai Pho", a coast town of Vietnam, which was gradually changed into FAIFO in the European pronunciation.
The ancient town is located on the West bank of the Thu Bon River, about 16miles frm Da Nang in the South East and only 3 miles away from the East Sea, From Da Nang, you can reach past the Five - Element Mountain and Dien Ngoc Hamlet.
Chuc Thanh Pagoda, one of 20 ancient pagoda and buildings for societies in Hoi An, was set up at Cam Pho Hamlet and officially recognised as a historical and cultural relic in 19/10/91.
According to "Viet Nam Phat Giao Su Luan" (A Commentary on the History of Vietnamese Buddhism) by Nguyen Lang, it was founded by Ch'an Master Minh Hai - Phap Bao in the 17th century. A Chinese monk of Phuc Kien origin, he was invited by Ch'an Master Nguyen Thieu to visit Vietnam under Lord Nguyen Phuc Tran (1687-1691)..
Having attended the great ordination ceremony celebrated at Linh Mu Pagoda, he made his way to Hoi an, where he founded Chuc Thanh Pagoda, which gradually became a great Patriarchal House in Central and South Vietnam.
Chief among his discriples were Master Chanh Hien and Master An Triem, to whom he handed down a poem marking the inheritance of his lineage:
When one is enlightened as to absolute Truth,
The Dhama Seal of "Suchness" (Tathaba) * is all clear to vision,
May the righteous Lord live long **,
May the Kingdom be everlasting
The first priority should be given to the observance of right discipline,
Thereupon the perfect agreement of the theory and the practice of the way taught by the Patriarch
Will result in the blossoming of the Bodhi tree (the tree of Enlightenment).
The fragrance of which will permeate through the world of Gods and men.
Chuc Thanh Pagoda was restored many times in 1845, 11849,1892,1894…Standing behind the Triple Gate is a simple and modest structure the roof of which is covered with concave and convex tiles. On its summit are carvings of a pair of dragons in attendance on the moon. One of the invaluable objects preserved until nowadays is a set of Eighteen Arahants' terracotta statues placed on 0.165 metre high lotus pedestals. Each statue is 0.45 high, the knees' width being 0.28m.
Within the pagoda site is the stupa in honour of Patriarch Minh Hai-Phap Bao. At present, the pagoda is governed by the Most Venerable Abbot Thich Tri Nhan.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
TINH AN HAMLET, SON TINH DISTRICT,
QUANG NGI PROVINCE
Thien An Niem Ha (A Heavenly Seal stamped on the River) is foremost among ten beauty-spots of Quang Ngai. Located on the West bank of the Tra Khuc River, the mountain is the symbol for the eternity of this land, as expressed in the following lines by Bich Khe, a contemporary Vietnamese poet of Quang Ngai origin:
For ever there lies Mount Thien An, all bare
And flow's the Tra Khuc in its dark blue stream.
From the foot of the twenty-span Tra Khuc Bridge, you can go about a miles on the road to the Ancient Fortress (of the Nguyen Lords) to find the path leading up to Thien An Pagoda on the mountain.
Mount Thien An (the Heavenly Seal Mountain), originally called Mount Ho, belongs to Tinh An Hamlet, Son Tinh District. It is about 105 metres high, with a ten-hectare flat top. In the East appears any of its sides in the form of a symmetrical trapezium that looks like a seal stamped on the river. At the Southern foot of the mountain is a knoll called the Trien Hillock. Right to the East is Mount Tam Thai, to the North is Mount La Vong and to the West is Mount Long Dau.
Formerly at Mount Thien An, there was a kind of vermillion cinnabar used to mark papers written in Chinese characters. The path leading up to the mountain, though not quite smooth, has been expanded for cars to reach the pagoda at the mountain top.
On account of its geographical feature, the mountain's image was carved on one of the nine urns in front of the Royal Palace (in the Citadel of Hue in the 11th Minh Mang year 1830). The Mountain was then classified among famous beautiful sceneries in the 3rd Tu Duc Year (1850).
Thien An Pagoda was founded by Ch'an Master Phap Hoa, a Chinese monk of Phuc Kien origin, whose personal name was Le Diet, and whose religious title was Minh Hai-Phat Bao. Born in 1670, he became a Ch'an Master who took charge of the pagoda for 60 years until hes death in 1754.
Near the pagoda is a 12-fathom* - deep well with cool fresh water, which was indeed a feat performed by the Master after four years of labour and patience through lack of tools for digging in such a rocky mountain. One day appeared an unknown young monk who pledged to join the master in digging the well. After three month hard work, they succeeded in moving an enormous rock that stood in their way, from which has sprung a source water. Since than thereupon the young monk went out of sight and a legend about the well has been handed down in a folk song:
The young monk who had dug the well on the rocky mountain
Disappeared as soon as the source of water came out.
Closely linked with the pagoda is also the legend of its sacred big bell. The bell was originally cast by the country folk for their pagoda at Chi Tuong Village (Present Duc Hiep Hamlet, Mo Duc District, Quang Ngai Province). But it did not make sounds when struck. In 1845, while absorbed in concentration, Ch'an Master Bao An, the Third Patriarch of the pagoda, saw a Dharma guardian who requested him to bring the bell to the pagoda.
Having emerged from concentration, Master Bao An sent Master Dien Toa to the village to ask for the bell on his behalf.
On the occasion of the bell-oening ceeremony, after saying prayers, Maste Bao An stroke the bell, making it resound far and wide around the countryside. The bell still hangs on the left of the main hall until now adays.
The Thien An Patriarchal House received a board of royal charter from King Le Du Tpng (1727). Today beneath the shady foliage of an ancient banyan tree near the pagoda are the stupas in honour of Ch'an Master Phap Hoa and his five successors, namely, Masters Khanh Van , Bao An, Giac Tinh, Hoang Phuc and Dieu Quang. Before the pagoda there is a memorial tombstone to Huynh Thuc Khang, a Vietnamese patriot and scholar, (1876-1947) erected by local people in 1947.
In the same year, Thien An Pagoda was totally collapsed after a bomb attack from the French colonialists' aircraft. Later, in 1945, the Quang Ngai Buddhist Sangha made a plan for the reconstruction of the pagoda, Under the supervision of Masters Huyen Tan and Hong An, the construction was started in 1959 and inaugurated on the 8th day of the first lunar month in Tan Suu year, the Year of the Buffalo (1961).
A famous beauty spot in our country, Thien An has long been a literary topic for many a man of letters. Among the best known poems inspired by the pagoda is "An Ode to Thien An Niem Ha" composed by Nguyen Cu Trinh, a great Vietnamese scholar and patriot (1716-1767), one of the dynasty- founding countries under the Nguyen reign:
An ode to Thien An Niem Ha
(A Heavenly Seal Stamped on the River).
What a spectacular sight here,
Stamped on the river is a Heavenly Seal.
The divine symmetrical mark still maintains its original shape
From which one can survey the beautiful landscape
Imprinted with the outline of the ancient pagoda,
Nature remains true to the sacred bell sounds;
Over there at the foot of the mountain lies vermillion cinnabar for ever awaiting
Royal Decrees issued from the palace behind the splendid citadel.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
(ROYAL - CHARTERED THAP - THAP DI - DA PAGODA)
STRICNHON THANH VILLAGE, AN NHON DIT, BINH DINH PROVINCE
Thap Thap Di - Da Pagoda is closely linked with the name of its founder, Patriarch Nguyen Thieu - Tho Ton, whose family name is Ta, whose original Dharma name is Sieu Bach and whose Dharma title is Hoan Bich, A native of Trinh Hung District, Trieu Chau Chief Town, Kwang Tung Province (China), he made a sea voyage to Vietnam on a merchant ship in 1677 and stayed at Quy Son Chief Town (in modern Binh Dinh Province), about 25kilometres from Qui Nhon, where, on Hill Long Bich right at the rear of Do Ban Citadel, in modern Van Thuan Hamlet, Nhon Thanh village, An Nhon District, have scattered Ten Champ Stupas popularly known as Thap Thap (the Ten Stupas). Later, Master Nguyen Thieu built a hermitage there as a shrine to the Buddha Amitabha . Aamitabha in Sanskrit meaning Immeasurable Light, is the epithet of the Lord Buddha reigning the West Pure Land of Bliss; it is also the symbol of the Buddha - nature in all sentient beings.
Hence, the name of this Patriarchal House is a compound of the words Thap Thap (the Ten Stupas) and Di- Da (Amitabha) meaning Amitabha) Pagoda in the Ten - Stupas Area.
From Dap Dachief town, along Route IA to the left of Van Thuan Bridge, there is a small path leading to the site of Thap Thap Pagoda adorned with a lotus pond in front.
Its gate consists of two high pillars topped with images of two alligators. The pagoda is a mouth-shaped structure comprising the main hall, the Western house, the Eastern house and the abbot's chamber.
Each of them is composed of three apartments and two wings made of brick and laterite, the roof of which is covered with concave and convex tiles, the columns of which are made of valuable wood and the rafters, of hope and mango wood.
In 1691, the Pagoda was granted by Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu a board of royal charter and a pair of parallel sentences. In 1749, the Most Venerable Abbot Lieu Triet had its main hall renovated and encircle with a long corridor. Inside is the altar to the Buddhas of the past, the present and the future, i.e, Amitabha, Sakyamuni aand Maitreya escorted by the Elder Ananda and the Elder Kassapa the Great. On both sides are altars to the Eighteen Arahants and the Ten Kings of the Netherworld (the Yama Kings).
Behind the main hall are a stele set up in 1876 with an inscrition entitled "The Inscription of Eulogy to the Royal-chartered Thap Thap Di Da Pagoda" and another one with the Thap Thap Pagoda's Record made by the Royal Commentator Vo Khac Trien in 1928.
For 328 years now, this Patriarch House has belongs to the direct lineage of the Lin Chi Sect through 15 generations of successors to its founder. One of those patriarchs, Abbot Phuoc Hue, was consecrated National Teacher. He was invited by the Nguyen Kings to expound the Buddhist Scriptures at the royal palace from the reign of King Thanh Thai to that of King Bao Dai. Moreover, he propagated the Buddha's teachings to the monks at Truc Lam and Tay Thien Buddhist Schools from 1935 onwards.
Today the stupa in honour of Abbot Phuoc Hue can be found among those of other patriarchs within the pagoda site.
'Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
ROYAL - CHARTERED
DONG XUAN DISTRICT, PHU YEN PROVINCE
Among well-known patriarchal houses in Phu Yne such as Bao Tinh pagoda, Kim Cang Pagoda, Ho Son Pagoda, in tuy Hoa district, bat Nha Pagoda, tu Quang Pagoda, Vien Quang Pagoda… in Tuy An district, Trieu Ton Pagoda in Song Cau district, Phuoc Son Pagoda, popularly known as Phuoc Son Dong Tron, is located at Tan Phuoc hamlet, Xuan Son Bac village, Dong Xuan district.
You can get to the pagoda either by following the way to Trieu Ton Pagoda at Xuan Tho hamlet 2, Song Cau district (near the Lime-Kiln Bridge) and going on about 6km, or you can start from Chi Thanh chief town, and then turn to Bao Son Pagoda at An Dinh Hamlet, Tuy An District, before going on to Phuoc Son Pagoda, which was founded in the first Gia Long year (1802) by Patriarch Lieu Nang, whose religious title is Duc Chat.
It is Phuoc Son Pagoda, and later Trieu Ton Pagoda and Bao Son Pagoda, set up in the second Gia Long year (1803) by his fellow monks, Patriarchs Lieu Nang and Lieu Dieu, which form the renowned trinity of Phuoc Son, Trieu Ton and Bao Son Pagodas of the Chuc Thanh Branch of the orthodox Lin-chi Sect in Phu Yen.
Standing on Mount Phu My, Phuoc Son Pagoda faces South, overlooking immense rice fields and a large river flowing from Lahai to the Ngan Son bridge, thus creating a picturesque scenery that enhances the ancient pagoda's attractiveness.
For nearly 200 years now, six generations of successors to the Patriarch have taken part in transforming the early thatch-roofed cottage into the modern impressive pagoda. They all are such eminent Masters as Abbots Lieu Nang, Quang Thien, Hue Nhan, Phap Tang, Thien Phuong…and present Abbot Phuoc Tri, who has governed it since 1950.
Abbot Phuoc Chi had it rebuilt of split stones joined together with concrete in 1960, but it was burned down in 1965. After 1975, the Abbot played the lead in renovating it and the pagoda inauguration was celebrated on 26 September, 1993.
Outstanding in the middle of the airy main hall is the stately shrine to the Buddha Sakyamuni in concentration on the lotus throne. In front is the Amitabha Holy Trinity consisting of Amitabha (the Buddha of Immeasurable Light), Avalokitesvara (the World Voice - Seeing Bodhisattva) and Mahasthamaprapta, (The Great Power Obtainer) escorted by two Dharma-guardians. The right and left altars are dedicated to the Bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara Cundi and Kshitigarbha (the Earth Store). Behind the Buddha shrine is the place of worship for Patrarch Bodhidharma and other patriarchs' dragon-carved tablets.
While standing in the year-round windswept spacious area before the Triple Gate, Buddhists and visitors alike fell exquisitely light-hearted and recall the merits of the previous abbots and masters who have successively contributed to the pagoda building and reconstructing. On the left along the mountain slope appear the two ancient stupas to the founding Patriarch Lieu Nang and Master Thien Phuong. By the right of the way to the pagoda are the stupas to Masters Hue Nhan, Quang Thien and Phap Tang.
In addition to the five stupas, which have been kept intact through time, many precious things granted by the Nguyen Kings on six special occasions have been preserved as the pagoda's treasures. They are:
Firstly, two pieces of brocade named "Desirable Longevity" granted in the 34th Tu Duc year (188881)
Secondly, on pair of crimson festive robes, a Kwan-Yin cap and a Golden Coin inscribed "Triple Longevity" in the 8th Thanh Thai year.
Thirdly, A big bell, a pair of parasols, a festive robe and a Kwan-Yin cap offered in the 9th Thanh Thai year (1897).
Fourthly, A Golden late inscribed "Respect to This" and a Golden Coin in the 10th Thanh Thai year (1898).
Fifthly, Silver Coin in the 13th Thanh Thai year (1901).
And finally, A gilded Royal-Charter Board in the 14th Bao Dai year (1939).
May visitors and Buddhists who make a pilgrimage to the Lieu Quan Patriarchal House in Phu Yen not miss the chance of paying a visit to the Royal-Chartered Phuoc Son Pagoda, a celebrated beauty spot of Vietnam our beloved country.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
*Respect to This (Kham Tai): the formula used at the end of a royal decree.
PHUONG SON QUARTER, NHA TRANG,
KHANH HOA PROVINCE.
The pagoda was formerly called Dang Long Pagoda, located at number 22, 23rd October street, Phuong Lan Quarter at the foot of Mount Trai Thuy in Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa Province. In this area, there are two famous Pagodas, the lower is of which Long Son and the upper, Hai Duc.
Long Son was once built on the mountain top in 1886 by the Most Vrnerable Abbot Thich Ngo Chi (1856-1935). A native of Vinh Xuong District, Khanh Hoa Province, he had been engaged in the war of resistence against the French Colonialists before he renounced the world and entered upon a religious life. In Canh Ty year, the Year of the Mouse (1900), the pagoda was moved cownwards to its present location after a heavy storm. In 1936, it was used by the Local Buddhist Association as the seat of the Khanh Hoa Buddhist Sangha (Order of monks).
In 1940, Mr Ton That Quyen, Chairman of the K.H Buddhist Association and Mr. Vi Dinh Thuy, a lay Buddhist, played the lead in renovating the pagoda and then in 1968, its roof was ruined again by war. In 1971, the Venerable Thich Thien Binh took charge of the reconstruction of the pagoda, but only 60% of the building plan drawn up bu the Architect Vo Binh Diep was carried out until early 1975.
Since its beginning up to now, the pagoda has been governed by its founder, the Most Venerable Abbot Thich Chanh Hoa (1036 - 1975) and the Venerable Thi tin (from 1975 onwards).
From Long Son Pagoda, there is a fairly large road leading up to Hai Duc Pagoda on hillslope and to the Statue of the Buddha's Golden-Hued body on the hill top. The concrete Statue was set up on whart used to be the ground of Long Son Pagoda. The statue casting was started in 1964 and completed in 1965 by the Venerable Thich Duc Minh, the then Chairman of Khanh Hoa Buddhist Association, and the Scilptor Kin Dien. As a whole, the Statue is 24 metres high from the ground, and 21 metres high from its pedestal, the statue itself being 14 metres high, its lotus pedestal, 7 metres high, and the lotus diameter, 10 metres high. Around the pedestal are the images of the Seven Buddhist Martyrs. In front are a pair of dragons, 7.2 metres long. Nothbound and Southbound passengers, whether by car or by train, can watch the majestic statue of the Buddha with a calm smile on his benevolent face.
The beautiful scenery of the Long Son Pagoda complex and its favourable position are very attractive to visitors. Though near a bustling street, it remains tranquil and secluded on an airy high spacious ground covered with verdant shady trees. It is the Buddhist Institute, its offices, and the monastery together with the imposing pagoda that form a well-integrated ensemble hidden under the giant foliage of the lines of big Bodhi trees (a kind of fig tree) and orchards around. From the pagoda yard, one can admire the vivid colourful picture of nature intermingled with the urban like in Nha Trang, forming a network of houses, streets, crossroads, orchards and coconut groves along the river bank and far away, the immense sea extending to the horizon.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
No 120 NGUYEN VAN TROL STREET, DA LAT
LAM DONG PROVINCE
Linh Son Pagoda is located at No 120 Nguyen Van Troi Street on a hill, about 700 metres North West from the centre of Da Lat. It was built from 1938 to 1940 through the merits of carious donors, devout lay-Buddhists, especially the generous contribution from Messrs Vo Dinh Dung and Nguyen Van Tien.
Today, tourists can walk to the pagoda along lines of lofty pine, eucalyptus and hopea tress. In the front yard stands the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara's Statue on a lotus pedestal. On the left is a three-level octagonal tile -toofed stupa, 14 metres high. On the right amidst the evergreen grass lies a pond of clear water dotted with gorgeous showy nympacaceous flowers (water lilies) and goldfish swimming freely.
Here and there scatter rock works and magnificent bonsai shrubs. Along the sides of 12 steps leading to the main hall are two open-mouthed dragons symbolic of the Naga Gods *, Dharmaguardians.
The pagoda's oriental design is simple and harmonious. On both sides of its roof are images of a pair f dragons in attendance on the moon fixed at the peak. In the antechamber hang such parallel sentences inbued with Buddhist flavour as:
The mountain loses its colour, following those who enter the Pagoda,
And the pines remain silent, listening to dharma talks amoung Ch' and Guests.
At the centre of the magestic altar is the Buddha Sakyamuni's bronze statue on the lotus throne, 1250 kg in weight, cast in 1952 and the statue unauguration was celebrated under the auspices of the Most Venerable Elder Thich Tinh Khiet.
For more than half a century, the pagoda has been under the supervision of the following Abbots: the most Venerable Thich Tri Thu (1940), the Most Venerable Thich Dieu Hoang (1940 -1947) the Most Venerable Thich Tu Man (1947 - 1952) the Most Venerable Bich Nguyen (1952 -1964) and the Most Venerable Thich Tu Man (from 1964 onwards).
At present, the pagoda serves as the seat of the Executive Committee of the Lam Dong Buddhist Sangha. Since its beginning in the mid -20th century, it has become celebrated for its lovely surroundings pervaded by religious features. Every year, especially in Spring, it receives innumerable visitors and Buddhists who come to do the Buddha homage and to have a wonderful time at such a pleasant spot.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
(BAMBOO GROVE BUDDHIST MEDIATION INSTITUTE)
DA LAT, LAM DONG PROVINCE
If you take the route from the Hoa Binh Area in the centres of Da Lat to the middle of the Prenn Pass, you will turn right and go on about ten kilometres to reach Lake Tuyen Lam (Bamboo Grove) Buddhist Meditation Institute.
From afar on the way around the mountain leading to the pagoda, you can see its bell tower and the roof of its main hall half hidden amidst immense pine woods. Then you either turn right into the asphalted road and enter its side gate after climbing up 61 steps or go strait to Lake Tuyen Lam, where you have to ascend 222 steps to the Triple Gate and the front yard.
The Truc Lam site is located on the Eagle Peak (Phuong Hoang Peak) covering 24 hectares in which the two-hectare building area comprises the Outer Institute and the Inner Institute.
The Inner Institute is subdivided into two separate structures: a monastery and a nunnery. There are two dwelling-houses, a meditation hall, a refectory, a kitchen and a storehouse each. This restricted area, which is not fully open to guests, is now the residence for 50 monks and 50 nuns who devote themselves to the practice of Buddhist meditation (dhyana) or mental cultivation.
The Outer Institute is situated on a large and even lot at the height of 1,300 metres above the sea level facing the extending Benhuit Range and the wide green Lake Tuyen Lam. Here are a number of buildings typical of the Truc Lam Institute designed by the Architects Ngo Viet Thu and Nguyen Tin, and later performed by the Venerable Manager Thich Thong tang together with countless monks, nuns and lay Buddhists. The inauguration ceremony was celebrated on 19 March, 1994.
In the centre is the stately main hall, on the right are the consulting house and the bell tower, on the left are the parlour, the kitchen and the storehouse. In front of the parlour is a beautiful flower garden and on the slope leading to the gate is an artificial pool where a 15,000 cubic metre volume of water is available for use.
The main hall decoration is simple and dignified with the Buddha Sakyamuni in concentration on the lotus throne flanked by the images of the Bodhisattva Manjusri, the symbol of Greek Wisdom and the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, the symbol of Great Virtue.
The Consulting House is the place where the Most Venerable Rector discusses various meditation matters with his disciples twice a month on the 14th and the 15th Days of lunar months, the Buddhist Observance Days (Uposatha Days).
The Truc Lam Institute's objective is to revive the Truc Lam Buddhist Chan Sect under the Tran dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries. This is the original way of practising the Buddha's teachings initiated by King Tran Nhan Tong, founder of the Truc Lam Chan Sect. It was the King Tran Nhan Tong who, having twice defeated the Mongols (Yuang Meng), resigned from his throne and then became a monk entitled Truc Lam the Austere at Mount Yen Yu, where he founded the first Vietnamese Chan sect. Under his leadership the three Chan Sects: Vinitaruci, Wu Tung (Speechless Understanding) and Tsao Tang (Hermitage) introduced from India and China were unified into one Vietnamese Chan Sect and he was consecrated the First Patriarach of the Truc Lam Chan Sect of Vietnam. He led a very active life of a Chan Master engaged in ruling the country and after his voluntary resignation, he set out on his preaching tours with his disciples all over the country. That was the time when numerious Vietnamese Chan Masters took part in building and protecting their country; however, they remained aloof from worldly life. They laid special emphasis on mental cultivation in whatever condition one might live. It is a mind-oriented training for every Buddhist, whether a monk or a lay follower. This inward self-purification is the way to peace of mind or detachment from the world, hence the real nature manifests itself. The mental security that is to be won within oneself, not in the bliss of the Western Pure Land, is beautifully described in a calm and serene utterance by The First Truc Lam Partiarch before "The Fading Spring" (Xuan Van).
The Fading Spring
It was though not understanding the nature of Form and Void
That my heart used to be attached to hundreds of flowers in the Spring time,
Now that I have found out the Crown Prince's real face,
I am detached, sitting cross-legged on a grass-couch, watching the falling petals of the roses.
Above all, this way of practising the Dharma, the mental culture, is the best expressed in a hymn entitled "Cu Tran Lac Dao" (Taking Delight in Religion while Dwelling in the world) by Truc Lam the Austere, who concluded his hymn with the following reputable verse:
Let's take delight in religion in whatever condition we may live,
Lets eat when hungry and sleep when tired.
Within ourselves lies the gem, so let's give up searching elsewhere,
When out mind is detached from the surroundings, there is no more question of concentration.
The first Truc Lam Patriarch set a brilliant example of a virtuous and wise man who, having performed the duty of a heroic King, became a calm mediator and Dharma-master well-versed in the Buddhist Hoy Scriptures. Following the guideline "Meditation Practice and Sutra Studies must go in pairs", he ordered his Dhama heir, Phap Loa, the Second Truc Lam Patriarch, to carry out the task of engraving the Buddhist Canon which lasted 24 years (1295-1319) under the auspices of King Tran Anh Tong, together with the support from all other Buddhist devotees.. That was the greatest achievement of the Truc Lam Patriarchs, making over 5,000 engravings of Buddhist scriptures which were later preserved at Quynh Lam Pagoda. Next to Phap Loa was Huyen Quang, thus forming the Trinity of the Truc Lam Patriarchs, the symbol of the Buddhist Golden Age under the Tran Reign. Master Huyen quang, a great monk scholar and poet, led a secluded life at Mount Con Son after 20 years of serving the court and assisting the First Patriarch in propagating the Dharma and compiling various pieces of writing about Vietnamese Ch'an Buddhism. Living amidst natural conditions, he experienced the joy and the tranquality of a person who really merged with everything around, in all his postures. Whether walking, standing, lying or sitting, he felt light-hearted at all times and and uttered such wonderful stanzas as those in "an Ode to the Chrysanthemum":
An ode to the Chrysanthemum
(Vinh Cuc Hoa)
The flowers are in the court and the man is on the upper floor.
Sitting alone, carefree, contemplating the incense smoke pervading everywhere,
There is no more discrimination between the subject and the object
Just as a flower bud among them bursts open.
The daily routine of a Truc Lam Buddhist practitioner who pursues self-purification is regulated by the Six-fold Repentance Rites laid down by King Tran Thai Tong, founder of the Tran Dynasty and great Buddhist scholar. Unlike the Chinese Repentance Ritual which asks for the forgiveness of sins, the uniquely Vietnamese Six-fold Repentance Rites aim to purify oneself leading to freedom of mind, awakening. From dawn, the Buddhist cultivator begins an auspicious day by chanting such simple and lofty hymns that enhance his devotion as:
An Incense-Offering Hymn:
(Bai ke Dang huong)
Pervading the Forest of Concentration is the fragrance of the incense
Made from the Sandal well grown in the Park of Wisdom,
It is keenly trimmed by the Sword of Discipline* into the shape of a peak
And is burned at the Heart Brazier to worship the Buddhas.
A Flower-Offering Hymn:
(Bai ke dang hoa)
The open blossoms illuminating the Heart Soil
Are far sweeter than the celestial coral flowers scattering from the sky
May I pick them, one by one, to offer to the Buddhas.
May the wind of my long-lasting Evil Karma fail to shake them all.
This practical way of self-awakening in accordance with the Three-fold Training of Discipline (Sila), Concentration (Samadhi) and Wisdom (Paiia) in the Original Buddhism, which was handed down by the Truc Lam Tradition in the Buddhist Golden Age of Vietnam through centuries is now restored by Abbot Thich Thanh Tu and preserved at Truc Lam Institute as a special feature of Vietnamese Buddhists.
In order to make the above method more effective, Abbot Thanh Tu exhorts his disciples to apply the Six-harmony Principle laid down by the Buddha himself in the Brahma-faring (the holy life), that is, to perform bodily, vocal and mental actions in perfect harmony with those of their fellow Brahma-fares, to observe rules of the moral code (Vinaya), to uphold common lofty views leading upwards and to have equal share in offerings accepted lawfully.
In the spirit of Truc Lam the Austere, the practitioners should earnestly develop the three qualities, namely, diligent striving for awakening, strong determination to overcome difficulties and obstacles, and self contentment with a frugal life, avoiding all luxuries.
At the top of the Truc Lam Institute's organisational structure is the Most Venerable Abbot Thich Thanh Tu as Rector, next come the Venerable Thich Nhat Quang as Vice Rector, the Venerable Thich Thong Phuong as Monks' Manager and Venerable Thich Nu Nhu Tam as Nuns' Manager.
On reaching the Truc Lam Institute, Buddhist devotees and visitors alike seem to ignore the constant icy cold of Da Lat, the land of peach flowers, in order to enjoy the open air of its natural sceneries, to admire the beauty and the originality of many new architectural designs deeply coloured with national features, and above all, to spend peaceful hours when they feel as if they were lost in their quiet imagination of the past world where the Truc Lam Patriarchs lived on the lofty Yen Tu Mountain.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
No 118, LAC LONG QUAN STREET,
TAN BINH DISTRICT, HO CHI MINH CITY
Giac Lam Pagoda, a modest structure in an important position, is one of the most ancient pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City, which was officially recognised as a historical and cultural relic by the Ministry of Culture's Decision dated 16 Nov, 1988/
It is situated at Lac Long Quan street, quarter 23, Tan Binh District in the Phu Tho Hoa area, which used to be Hill Cam Son or Cam Dem Son Can. Its founder was Ly Thuy Long, a lay-Buddhist of Chinese origin, who had collected gifts from various donors for the pagoda building in Giap Ty Year 1744, under lord Nguyen Phuc Khoat. In "Gia Dinh Province's Records " by Trinh Hoai Duc, the area was describes as "a three-hectare lot covered with a grove of tall trees and wild flowers, everywhere. Though small, it is indeed a pleasant spot where tourists and men of letters usually come together on the Pure Light Holiday (in the third luna month) or the Ninth Day of the Ninth Lunar month to enjoy themselves admiring flowers, drinking liquor, reciting poems or watching a bustling market in the distance".
In 1772, the Most Venerable Vien Quang, who belonged to the Linh Chi Sect, was appointed Abbot of the Pagoda and renamed it Giac Lam/
The pagoda was under repair several times. The most Venerable Abbot Vien Quang had it rebuilt for the first time during the years from 1799-1804. A century later, from 11906, to 1009, the Most Venerable Hong Hung played the lead in restoring it with the help of the Most Venerable Nhu Phong. All these events were recorded in the inaugural parallel sentences inscribed on a pair of boards which still hang in the main hall until nowadays.
The large site of the pagoda is surrounded with walls which separated it from the crowded streets outside. In the front yard behind the gate stands the Boddhisattva Avalokitesssvaaara's Statue under the green foliage of the Boddhi tree, which has been growing from a cutting offered and planted by the Venerable Elder Narada, who came from Sri Lanka on 18 June 1953. Moreover, on this auspicious occasion, the Elder offered the pagoda a portion of the Buddha's Relic. On 17 June, 1994, The Vietnam Buddhist Sangha celebrated the Inauguration ceremony of the Relic Stupa and the reception of the Buddha's Telic to the stupa from Long Van Pagoda in Binh Thanh District, where it had been enshrined in the main hall, all through 1953 -1994. The construction of the hexagonal seven-storey tower, with eaves and openings each, was carried out after the plan drawn by the architect Vinh Hoang from 1970 to 1975, when it was postponed until 1993.
The 32 metre-high stupa, facing East, is really one of the most distinguished towers of our city.
The rectangular structure of the pagoda is 65 metres long, 22 metres wide, consisting of three main buildings: the Central Hall, the Preaching Hall and the Refectory with the exception of side parts. There are 98 wooden columns in all, many of which are bigger than the size of an (arm's) embrace.
On the columns are 86 successive parallel sentences inscribed in gilded Chinese calligraphy bordered with elaborately wrought frames. All the rafter ends are dragons head-shaped.
The main hall is adorned with solid altars made of valuable wood and three netlike panel; the first one is carved with flowers symbolic of the Four Seasons (the Apricot, the Orchid, the Chrysanthemum and the Bamboo), the second one with the Four Sacred Animals (the Dragon, the Unicorn, the Tortoise and the Phoenix), and the last one with the Nine Dragons.
Apart from seven bronze statues, there are 113 ancient gilded jack wood statues among which the Buddha Sakyamuni's statue on the lotus throne 0.65 metre high, the knee's width being 0.38m, enshrined in the preaching hall is the oldest one the dates from the 18th century.
All the statues, netlike panels, furniture, stupas and tombs there are exquisitely carved.
The Nine-Dragon statue cast in bronze, which illustrates the story of the Buddha's Birth, is enshrined in the main hall.
In particular, Buddha sculpture is highly expressed in two sets of 18 Arahant Statues.
The minor set of 18 statuettes, 0.57m high each, including the pedestal (each statuette being 0.50 m high and its pedestal 0.07m high) were carved in the early part of the 19th century.
The major set of 18 statues, 0.95 m high each, (each statue being 0.80 m high and its pedestal 0.15m high) were carved in the early part of the 20th century. The two sets are placed on both sides of the main hall.
On the left of the pagoda site are the stupas in honour of the following Patriarchs and Abbots Vien Quang, Hai Tinh, Minh Vi, Minh Khiem, Nhu Loi, Nhu Phong, and especially Patriarch Phat Y, Patriarch Vien Quang's Master, former Abbot of Tu An Royal-Chartered Pagoda, whose relics were transferred to Giac Lam Pagoda in 1923.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
No 243, MASTER VAN HANH STREET,
DIST. 10, HO CHI MINH CITY.
The An Quang Patriarchal House, though young in years, plays a very particular role in the history of the V.N Buddhist Sangha.
The pagoda has witnessed many historical events in the ups and downs of the Buddhist growth in South VN. It was once the seat of both the South VN School of Buddhist Studies, and the South VN Buddhist Sangha (1950-1963) and then the office of the Dharma Propagation Institute and the Sangha Presidency (1967-1980). At present, it serves as the Head quarters of the Municipal Executive Committee of the Ho Chi Minh City Buddhist Sangha.
It was originally a small thatch-roofed named Ung Quang Pagoda, set up at No 243 Su Van Hanh Street, District 10 in 1948 by the Most Venerable Tri Huu, who had come from Linh Ung pagoda at Ngu Hanh Son (the Five-Element Mountains) in Quang Nam Province.
In 1950, he transferred the management of his hermitage to the Nost Venerable Thich Thien Hoa (1907-1978), a member of the Lin-Chi 43rd generation, who returned to Saigon after ten years of studying the Dharma (the Buddhist Holy Scriptures) and the Vinaya (the Code of Discipline) at the Tay Thien School of Buddhist Studies, the Bao Quoc School of Buddhist Studies (in Hue) and Quan Su Pagoda (in Ha Noi).
The Most Venerable Abbot Thien Hoa had the main hall built after Tu Dam pagoda's model.
Since then for more than twenty years, Abbot Thien Hoa devoted himself to the pagoda reconstruction and the establishment of schools of Buddhist Studies in South VN.
In early 1951, he persuaded such Buddhist school as Lien Hai, Mai Son, Sung Duc and Ung Quang to integrate themselves into the South Vietnam School of Buddhist Studies. Later, Ung Quang pagoda, which was then renamed An Quang, became the seat of the School of Buddhist Studies under Abbot Thien Hoa as Director General.
In 1955, a two-storey building was set up as the An Quang Patriarch House and refectory. In the next two years, appeared the Sen Vang (Golden Lotus) Printing House, the Bodhi Incense Factory, the Library and the Huong Dao (Buddhist Fragrance), Publishing House. The two-storey auditorium was rebuilt in 1959.
The main hall was renovated in 1966 and in the following year, the monastery and the refectory were rebuilt after the design drawn by the Architect Nguyen Huu Thien. Moreover, the interior of the hall is decorated with Patriarch Bodhiharma's Statue and the Bodhisattvas Avalokitestvara's, Manjusri's and Samantabhadra's lacquered paintings produced by reverend Minh Tinh, also called Truong Van Thanh the Crafunan.
In 1974, when Abbot Thien Hoa fell gravely ill, a nine-member administrative Council headed by the Most Venerable Thich Hue Hung was elected to take charge of the religious affairs at the An Quang Patriarchal House until the Abbot's passing away in 1978. Abbot Thien Hoa's reputation is not only closely associated with An Quang Pagoda's growth, but also with the training of hundreds of Dharma teachers and thousands of monk and nun students as the Buddha's messengers who go forth to disseminate the Buddha's teachings throughout the South.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
(THE BUDDHA'S RELIC PAGODA)
No 89 Mme HUYEN THANH QUAN STREET
DISTRICT 3, HO CHI MINH CITY.
Xa Loi Pagoda is situated in a 2500 square metre lot surrounded by calm street. Its main gate faces Mme Huyen Thanh Quan Street, and its side gate, Monk Thien Chieu street. Its building plan drawn by the two Architects, Messrs Tran Van Duong and Do Ba Vinh, was started on 5 August, 1956, under the supervision of the two engineers, Messrs Du Ngoc Anh and Ha To Thuan and was inaugurated on 2-3-4 May, 1958. The pagoda construction was then greatly indebted to Buddhists from 21 Southern provinces for their contribution under the patronage of the South VN Buddhist Association.
It is commonly said that during the construction, there appeared a board saying: "the Construction of the Buddha's Relic Pagoda" Hence, it was popularly known as the Buddha's Relic Pagoda. On its inauguration Day, it received that popular name at the Most Venerable Abbot Khanh Anh's suggestion.
The pagoda structure consists of the main hall, the preaching hall, the library, the office, the council-chamber, the meeting room, the reception room, the monastery and the funeral parlour. The first-floor main hall, 31m long and 15m wide, enshrines only the Buddha Sakymuni's statue of pink stone powder carved by the Bien Hoa School of Fine Arts in 1958. On the walls hang a series of paintings depicting the Buddha's life from his Birth (Buddha Jayanti) until his Great Decease (Parinirvana) produced by the Artist Nguyen Van Long in the years from 1959 to 1960.
On the left of the triple gate facing Mme Huyen Thanh Quang street stands a seven-level bell tower initiated on 15th December, 1960 and completed on 23rd December, 1961. The great bell, which was cast again after the first unsuccessful attempt, was deposited in the tower on 17 October, 1961 under the recognition of the Most Venerable Elder Thich Tinh Khiet.
While An Quang Pagoda is connected with the establishment and activities of the South VN Schools of Buddhist Studies, Xa Loi Pagoda is closely related to the history of the South VN Buddhist Association, which was founded in 1951 in Sai Gon and was successively headed by Dr. Nguyen Van Khoe, Master Quang Minh and Sir Chanh Tri Mai Tho Truyen. This Association used to have its various branches in almost every town of South VN with Tu Quang Magazines as its regular forum for the exchange of public information and opinions.
A Loi Pagoda was once the seat of the Dharma-Protecting Committee of the United Buddhist Sects in 1963 and the Conference for the founding of the United VN Buddhist Sangha held from 30 December 1963 to 1 January 1964. Moreover, it was at Xa Loi Pagoda that the ceremony of receiving and publishing the first two volumes of the Vietnamese Tripitaka was celebrated on 31 August,91.
From 1981 to May 1993, it served as the VBS. Second Office in the South - (on the fullmoon day the 4th Lunar month of Qui Dau year (the year of the Cock), 1993, the office was shifted to Quang Duc Buddhist Institute at No 294 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, District 3).
Xa Loi Pagoda, with its important position in the VN Buddhist Sangha and its considerable contribution to the Dharma propagation since its early days, receives a large number of Buddhist delegations and visitors, home and foreign alike, all round.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
No 390 NAM KY KHOI NGHIA STREET.
DIST. 3, HO CHI MINH CITY
On the way from Tan Son Nhat Airport to the centre of Ho Chi Minh City, after crossing Cong Ly on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia street, visitors can see the stupa of Vinh Nghiem Pagoda stand out in sharp relief against the sky.
At present, this pagoda is one of the most majestic Buddhist structures in Vietnam. It was named Vinh Nghiem after a Buddhist centre under the Tran Dynasty in former Bac Giang Province, (modern Ha Bac province). Vinh Nghiem is also the religious title of Patriarch Thanh Hanh (1838 - 1936), a dignified Ch'an Master, who was formerly consecrated North V.N Sangha President. According to the charter of the previous Unified V.N Buddhist Sangha, all Buddhist monks, nuns, and lay-followers of Northern origin, who have been living in South V.N, belong to the Vinh Nghiem Buddhist Community seated at this pagoda.
The pagoda construction was initiated in 1964 and completed in 1971 after the design drawn by the Architect Nguyen Ba Lang in collaboration with his two colleagues, the Architects Le Tan Chuyen and Co Van Hau. It is a I shaped two-storey structure with an oriental style double roof.
The ground floor is composed of the library, the auditorium, many offices and monks' chambers.
On the left of the upper ten-wide courtyard stands the seven-level Avalokitesvara Stupa with eaves each, and on the right is the tower where hangs the great bell offered by the Japanese Buddhist Sangha. The main hall is a magnificent shrine 22 metres wide, 35 metres long and 15 metres high abounding in wooden netlike panels carved with images of the Four Sacred Animals, the Nine Dragons… and particularly, altars adored with famous Asian pagoda reliefs.
The central altar is arranged in an imposing manner with the Buddha Sakyamuni's statue flanked by the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra's, the symbol of virtues and Bodhisattva Manjusri's, the symbol of wisdom.
In the main hall stand only Six Arahant carvings (in the set 18 pieces) illustrating the Learner-Admonishing Arahants, the Dharma-Preaching and Hearing Arahants, the Sinner-Saving Arahants in the Swod Mountain Purgatory, the Gift-offering Arahants, the Alms-Giving Arahants and the Sinner-Saving Arahants in the Icy Purgatory escorted by Yakshas bearing candles in honour of the Buddha. Those Arahant wood carvings are the imitations of the Japanese Pure Land School's originals. On both sides of the corridor before the main hall are Vajra God statues of large size.
The curved roof ends are typical of the Northern Pagoda style with a double front roof surrounded by a Dharma-wheel. All the roof ends are phoenix head - shaped/
Apart from the bell tower, there are two other dominant tower within the pagoda site: the Avaalokitesvaara Stupa and the Public Relics Stupa.
The Avalokitescara Stpa covering 200 square metres on the left of the upstairs court yard is a seven-level square tower with projecting roofs each, 35 metres high from the ground. Each roof edge on the first level os 7 metres long, and on both sides of the entrance are 2 Vajaragods' relief sculptures 1.48 metres high and 0.74 metre wide. Along the walls of each level rum 25 relief sculptures of the Seven Previous Buddhas and numerous Dharma Patriarchs bordered with square frames the side of which is 1.05m each.
In back of the pagoda is the Public Relics Stupa initiated in 1982 and completed in 1984. This 25 metre high four-level tower typical of Vietnamese architectural design is the place of worship to the relics of lay-Buddhists among whom are such well-known men of letters as Che Lan Vien, Vu Hoang Chuong…
At present, Vinh Nghiem Pagoda is the seat for the Basic school of Buddhist Studies in Ho Chi Minh City.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
7 NGUYEN TRUNG TRUC STREET
HO CHI MINH CITY.
Central Monastery, located at 7 Nguyen Trung Truc street, Binh Thanh district in Ho Chi Minh city, belongs to the Vietnamese Buddhist Mendicant Sect foounded in 1944 by Patriarch Minh Dang Quang, whose lay name is Nguyen Thanh Dat, a native of Phu Hau village, Binh Phu, Tam Binh district in Vinh Long province. The founding Master originally made the following vow which has become the tradition of his lineage:
Propagating the Buddha's teachings
Is the goal of the Vietnamese Buddhist Mendicant Sect.
He drew up the guideline on practising the religion, the is, to live together under the training of the Order. He encouraged all his disciples to lead a good and happy life on earth by working out the following formula:
Learning how to read and write.
Learning the moral code by heart.
Doing good and avoiding evil.
This is the duty of everybody.
He pledged to live the holy life of a bhikkhu (a Buddhist mendicant) taught by the Buddha to his Holy Disciples in former times through the wayfarer's image:
Taking a bowl and seeking almsfood from house to house.
The solitary mendicant passes his days
Wandering on the long way
For the sake of the end of rebirth round.
The monastery construction lasted 10 years from 1965 to 1975 on a 5490 square-metre lot offered by the clerk Nguyen Van Cha's wife, a lay-Buddhist, whose religious name is Dieu Kien. At first, it consisted of the main hall, the house to ancestor veneration (including ancestors and descendants through many lives), monks' chambers and cells. Later it became the Headquarters of the Vietnamese Buddhist Mendicant Sect from 1966 to 1980.
In November 1980, the Venerable Abbot Giac Toan and the Venerable Elder Giac Phuc, a dignitary of the Sect, played the lead in reconstructing the monastery into a two-storey building. In the main hall stands the octagonal stupa designed by the Architect Nguyen Huu Thien. The 4.4 metre-high stupa, the side of which is 2.25 metres each, is surrounded by a 13-level top representing the 13 stages of all beings' spiritual progress (viz the 6 worldlings, the 4 saints and the Exalted Ones of the Holy Trinity). It is made of sandal wood adorned with lotus carvings illustrating the Buddha's life. The achievement of the stupa enshrining the Buddha's Sakyamuni Statue was performed from 1982 to 1984 by Mr. Thien Ngo and various craftsmen of the School of Fine Art in Long 'An province.
Along the walls run 8 reliefs 2.2 metres high and 4.5 metres long each, narrating the Buddha's lifeee through the carvings made by the Sculptors Minh Dung and Hai Long.
Behind the main hall is the stupa to the Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha surrounded by ancestral altars. In the front yard stands the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara's Statue 9 metres high on a 3 metre high lotus pedestal.
Before 1975, about 300 monasteries scattered all over the South belonged to the Vietnamese Buddhist Mendicant Sect, whose head office was place at this Central Monastery and whose leadership consisted of the Venerable Elder Giac Chanh as Sangha President, and the Venerable Elder Giac Nhien as Executive General or Head of the Dharma Practice Institute.
Patriarch Minh Dang Quang's disciples, following his example, organised the order of mendicant practitioners into 6 groups of monks and 3 groups of nuns. These Buddhist mendicants dressed in yellow, taking a bowl and a robe, wandered barefooted and bareheaded throughout the South. Wherever they went, the tried their best to teach the Dharma, build monasteries, collect alms and raise relief funds to help war victims and those who suffered from natural disasters.
On his wayfaring, Tran Que Huong, a mendicant monk and poet, was inspired by such livelihood to compose many lovely poems that can be found in his collection entitled "The Stream to the Flower-Adorned Realm"
From My Tho, my home town, my motherland,
I made my first regular steps on my round, Taking a bowl, seeking alms from house to house,
And forever hearing in mind the parental love
Stooping overnight at An Duc Monastery
By the small river flowing gently.
While the hyacinth's fragrance wafted through the night air,
I was deeply absorbed in the ecstasy of concentration surpassing the Heaven World.
It was from My Tho in 1946 that the Venerable Master Minh Dang Quang, accompanied by his disciples, set out on his preaching tour around the South, after a two-year residence at Linh Buu Pagoda. Since 1976 until now, his disciples have been following in his footsteps leading a calm life, undergoing the training and the mendicant practices at their own monasteries under the torchlight of the Patriarch's fundamental teachings and the supervision of his vivid image enshrined at this Central Monastery and other mendicant monasteries alike.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
716 NGUYEN KIEM STREET,
PHU NHUAN DIST., HO CHI MINH CITY
On the way from Phu Nhuan District to Go Vap District, visitors can see the stately Tripple Gate of Van Hanh Buddhist Institute at 716 Nguyen Kiem Street.
Before 1975, the Institute used to be the seat of the Applied Sciences Department of Van Hanh University headed by the most Venerable Rector Thich Minh Chau. Since 1976, he has converted it into a monastery and the Buddhist Research Institute.
Located on an area of one hectare, it comprises the main hall, the Patriarchal House, the Institute of Advanced Buddhist Studies, and the office building of the Vietnam Buddhist Research Institute and the Vietnamese Tipitaka (Triple Canon) Translating and Publishing Council, monks' chambers and the refectory.
The traditional Triple Gate was erected in 1990 under the care of two craftmen, the Venerable Tam Doan and the Ven Tinh Quang.
The ground floor of the two-storey central building enshrines the Buddha Sakyamuni's ivory statue on the lotus throne. The style of interior decoration is very simple but imposing. On both sides are the reading rooms of the VBRI library abounding in valuable Buddhist text books.
The upper floor serves as the Abbot's reception room and chamber.
The Patriarchal House is also a two-storey building. The upper floor is the shrine to the Buddha Sakyamuni and the Patriarch Thich Tinh Khiet, former VN Unified Sangha President. On the ground floor is the auditorium where lectures on Dhamma, and Dhamma classes, or seminars and symposiums are held all year round.
Van Hanh Buddhist Institute plays an important part in the Dhamma propagation and Buddhist Reasearch Institute founded in 1989. The VBRI leadership consists of the Most Venerable Doctor Thich Thien Sieu as Vice Rector in charge of Vietnamese Buddhism and the Most Venerable Doctor Thich Thien Chau (at Truc Lam Buddhist Institute Paris, France) as Vice Rector in charge of World Buddhism.
The Institute is composed of various departments: the Department of Vietnamese Buddhism, the Department of World Buddhism, the Department of Buddhist Specialists, the Department of Printing and Publishing, and especially, the Vietnamese Tipitaka Translating and Publishing Council. During the last 14 years, many collections of the Buddhist Tipitka (Triple Cannon) such as Digha Nikaya (the Long Dialogues, 2 volumes), Majjhhima Nikaya (the Middle Length of Sayings, 3 volumes) Samyutta Nikaya (the Kindred Sayings, 5 volumes) translated from the original Pali Texts into Vietnamese by the most Venerable Doctor Thich Minh Chau have been published side by side with many collections translaed from Chinese versions sof the original Sanskrit texts by other monk scholars such as Digha Agama (2 volumes), Madhya Agama (3 volumes), Samyukta Agama (2 volumes).
The printing and publication of the Vietnamese Triple Canon marks an important event in the history of Vietnamese Buddhism and the cultural life of our nation as well.
Van Hanh Buddhist Institute is also the sear of the Vietnam Institute is also the seat of the Vietnam Institute of Advanced Buddhist Studies, in South VN. The VIABS leadership (Course III, Office term III, 1993-1997) consists of:
Rector: the Most Venerable Doctor
Thich Minh Chau
Vice Rector: the Most Venerable
Thich Thien Sieu
Vice Rector: The Vernable Thich Giac Toan
Vice Rector: Mr Tong Ho Cam
Secretary General: Mr Tran Tuan Man
Office Chief: The Venerable Thich Dat Dao
Since 1984, this Buddhist training centre has admitted full-time monk and nun students through an entrance examination. After a compete four-year course, the graduate students get a degree equivalent to a B.A's in Buddhism. For over ten years, nearly 400 monk and nun students have been trained during the three courses.
The school curriculum covers both Canonical and non-canonical subjects which have been taught by monk scholars of the NV Buddhist Sangha and many other university professors and lecturers.
A great monk scholar who has translated the Five Collections of the Original Pali Tipitaka (the Buddhist Triple Canon) into Vietnamese, the Most Venerable Doctor Thich Minh Chau has been elected Chairman of the Vietnamese Tipitaka Translating and Publishing Council. Moreover, he is Vice President and Secretary General of the VBS Executive Council and Head of the VBRI World Buddhism Department. He is also the Vice President of the ABCP National Centre. For many years now, he has attended and hosted different conferences, seminars and symposiums at home and abroad.
As it is an important cultural Buddhist centre, Can Hanh Buddhist Institute constantly welcomes numerous world Buddhist Delegations and distinguished foreign guests who come on their working visits and sight -seeing tours alike.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
TAN BUU VILLAGE, BIEN HOA,
DONG NAI PROVINCE
Buu Long Pagoda is not only a well-known pagoda of Dong Nai province but also of the southern region. It is situated on mount Buu Long, Binh Dien Hamlet, Tan Buu village about 4 kilometres from Bien Hoa, hence it is called Binh Dien pagoda.
It was originally a small Buddhist leaf but set up by the Most Venerable Buu Phong in the 17th century.According to " the Records of Unified Dai Nam" Mount Buu Phong is 13 miles South of Phuoc Chanh province, overlooking a big river in the west and safeguarding Mount Long An in the rear. On the mountain lies Buu Phong Pagoda hidden among wandering clouds and the dense foliage of tall trees; it is indeed the foremost beautiful scenery in the province. There used to be a Buddhist monk named Buu Phong, who erected a leaf hermitage on the mountain, which has been popularly known as Mount Buu Phong.
By the end of the 18th century, a large number of Chinese immigrants settled in that area. Among them are pious Buddhists who build a new brick-and-tile pagoda there. Next they requested Ch’an Master Thanh Chi, whose religious name is Phap Thong-Thien Hi, a member of the T"sao Tung 36th generation, to take charge of the pagoda and consecrated him its First Patriarch. He was also the founder of Long An Pagoda on Mount Long An in front of Mt Buu Phong.
Today his hexagonal stupa can be found among the sepulchral monuments within the pagoda site
According to Mr. Nguyen Hien Duc’s reference in "Vietnamese Ch’an Masters"by the Most Venerable Thich Thanh Tu, because the Most Venerable Phap Thong had no Dharma heir, Ch’an Master Vien Quang, a Chinese member of the Lin-chi 36th generation, was appointed Abbot, who restored the pagoda in 1760.
In Ky Suu year (1829,the Year of the Buffalo), it was rebuilt and enlarged into a stone structure thanks to the voluntary donations from the Counsellor General Nguyen Van Hiep and the village Treasurer Nguyen Van Tam It was under constant repair in the late 19th century and recent years
On a sightseeing tour to the pagoda, to day’s visitors are deeply impressed by its architectural design. After climbing up 120 steps, they come to the pagoda fade composed of a big Triple Archway flanked by 2 pairs of small Arches. The fade’s upper part is elaborator decorated with multi- coloured ceramic fragments. In front is the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara’s statue performed by Master Thien Giao in 1963.
The two parallel sentences on the main columns convey the meaning of the pagoda’s name:
Here the notes sound as melodious as those at the Vulture’s Peak (Gijjbakuta) *
And the natural scenery is as lovely as Jetagrove (Jetavana) **
In the main hall are the Buddha Amitabba’s ancient statue, the Buddha Sakyamuni’s rich-adorned altar and the Buddha’s Relic enshrined in the stupalike casket behind the altar.
The Buu Long area has become an ensemble of natural sceneries in Dong Nai province. Visitors who come to Dong Nai will not miss the chance of watching the superb panorama of Mount Buu Long also called Mt. Binh Dien and the Long River, that is, the Dong Nai river:
In the back stands Mount Binh Dien as if protecting the territory,
And in front is the Long River meandering around.
Scattered about the area are ancient stupas and such open-air statues as those of Gotama the Infant, the Buddhain Samadhi (Concentration) and the Buddha’s Parinirvana (Great Decease).
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
35 YERSIN STREET, THU DAU MOT,
SONG BE PROVINCE
Hoi Khanh Pagoda was founded by Ch’an Master Dai Ngan, a member of the Lin-Chi Sect, in the second Canh Hung year , under king Le Du Ton (1741). It was originally built on a high hill but was totally destroyed by war in the 14th Tu Duc year (1861). Seven years later (1868), the Most Venerable Abbot Chanh Dac had it rebuilt at the foot, about 100 metres southwards from the old one. Its present address is 35 Dr. Yersin Street, Phu Cuong Quarter, Thu Dau Mot chief town, Song Be province, 25 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh City.
It is located 150 metres from the highway. Behind the old - style dragon - carved Triple gate is the poetic and peaceful setting covered with the dense foliage of shady trees; among them are four lofty over-a-century-old trees which have been growing since the early days of the pagoda. Undergoing constant repair, the pagoda structure has still preserved its traditional features. The preaching Hall and the East Wing were rebuilt in 1917, the West Wing, in 1984, and the Main Hall, through 1990-1991. And recently on 29th February, 1992, the Hoi khanh Song Be Buddhist Sangha Executive Committee inaugurated the Restoration of Hoi khanh Pagoda.
The whole area of the main hall, the preaching hall, the East wing and the West wing covers 700m2. In the main hall there are gilded and vermilion- painted statues of the Buddha Sakyamuni, the Bodhisattvas Kshitigarbha and Cundi surrounded by three netlike panels elaborately carved with highly-valued images of the Four Sacred Animal, the Four Seasons, the Nine Dragons and the set of the Eighteen Arahants. All these wooden reliefs were made in the late 19th century and the early 20th century by a group of skilful carves in Thu Dau Mot.
For over 250 years now, Hoi Khanh Pagoda has been governed by Abbots of ten generations, nine of whom are deceased, namely Abbots ai Ngan, Chan Kinh, Chanh Dac, Tri Tap, Thien Quoi, Tu Van, An Buu, Thien Huong, and Quang Vien. In the front yard there are stupas in honour of the late Abbots.
The present Abbot is the Venerable Thich Hue Thong, Secretary General of the Song Be Buddhist Sangha Executive Commitee.
Hoi Khanh Pagada was one a traditional Buddhist centre of the Binh An Area. Later it became a training centre of learned men in Binh An and Thu Dau Mot. As they were teachers of Chinese characters, the monks at Hoi Khanh Pagoda took part in training many generations of monks who would govern many other pagodas in this region. Among them was the Most Venerable Thich Tu Van, Who was considered the South VN Sangha President and was then request to go to Marseilles (France) to celebrate a prayer service for the Departed and give a Dharma talk in 1920. It was the Sangha President who, accompanied by a group of Vietnamese craftsmen, brought the Buddha’s statues to France for the sake of constructing a Hoi Khanh Pagoda there.
In the years from 1923 to 1926, there was an Honorary Patriotic Association founded by a number of scholars who undertook the task of treating diseases and propagating the Dharma Among them was Sir Nguyen Sinh Sac, President Ho’s father, who stayed and worked there for a time.
After 1945, Hoi Khanh Pagoda was the place where Buddhists from forty other pagodas in Thu Dau Mot gathered and established the Country - Saving Buddhist Association headed by the Venerable Minh Tinh
On account of its age-long contribution to the growth of Buddhism in the South, Hoi Khanh Pagoda has been chosen as the seat of the Song Be Buddhist Sangha Executive Committee and it is classified by the Ministry of Cultural Relics.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
MY PHONG, MY THO, TIEN GIANG PROVINCE
It will not be satisfactory if you make a trip to My Tho without going to see Vinh Trang Pagoda, a celebrated ancient pagoda representing Southern monastic architecture, located in a two-hectare orchard of My Hoa village (Present My Phong) by the ever sweet and peaceful Bao Dinh Canal.
In the early part of the 19th century, it was but a small leaf hermitage erected by District Chief Bui Cong Dat, who pledged to live in seclusion after his retirement from his office. Then he requested the Most Venerable Tu Lam from Buu Lam Pagoda to take charge of the hermitage.
After Mr.Bui’s death, the Most Venerable Abbot Hue Dang encouraged devout Buddhists to build a great pagoda named Vinh Trang, Which was inaugurated in Canh Tuat year, the Year of the Dog (1850).
Later the pagoda was seriously damaged during the French Colonialists’ attract on Dinh Tuong The Most Venerable Thien De, the abott’s successor, continued the pagoda restoration then. But after his passing away, the Pagoda was in a state of total neglect until 1890, when the Most Venerable Chanh Hau came from the Royal-Chartered Linh Thuu Pagoda to take charge of it at the request of local Buddhists. A native of My Tho, he was a pupil of the Most Venerable Minh Phuoc’s, a member of the Buu Lam Patriarchal House.
In 1895, Abbot Chanh Hau, together with his followers, carried out the total restoration of the Pagoda; however, it was ruined again by a terrible storm in 1904 and three years later, it was rebuilt once more.
Abbot Chanh Hau passed away after 33 years of managing the Pagoda91890-1923). His successor, Abbot Minh Dan, whose Dharma name was Tam Lieu, had the Triple Gate, the facade, the main hall and the Patriarchal House contracted then.
The magnificent Triple Gate was completed in 1933 by a group of craftsmen from Hue thanks to Messrs, Huynh Tri Phu’s and Ly Van Quang’s financial support, On both sides of the main iron gate which has been constantly closed are two lesser reinforced concrete gates rising upwards like two ancient towers. The originality of the Triple Gate manifests itself in the skilful combination of multi-coloured ceramic fragments into harmonious pictures illustrating Buddhist stories, folk tales and such popular motifs as the Four Season, the Four Sacred Animal, and various beautiful flowers etc.
On the Triple Gate’s upper storey is a wide arch enshrining Abbot Chanh Hau’s statue on the right and Abbot Minh Dan’s on the left. Both the life-size concrete statues are made by the Sculptor Nguyen Phi Hoanh.
The Vinh Trang facade is a combination of oriental and occidental architectural features. Remarkable among them are Renaissance-style ornaments, Romanarches French grilles, Japanese ceramic tiles, and an exhibition of classic Chinese and Gothic Vietnamese calligraphy. From afar the Vinh Trang facade resembles a five-tower Angkor Temple. It is often said that Abbot Minh Dan and Mr.Huynh, who had once been to Cambodia, the country of Buddhist Pagodas and stupas, were so keenly aware of the beauty of Khmer architecture that they succeeded in drawing up the Vinh Trang struture after the Khmer model combined with various occidental features.
The main hall is decorated with elaborately carved netlike panels including the relief’s of the Eight Fairies Riding Sacred Animals performed in about 1907 by some local craftsmen. On the main altar are statues of the Buddha Amitabha, the Buddha Sakyamuni, numerous Arahants and his successor, Abbot Minh Dan, who belonged to the Lin Chi Ch’an Sect as well as Abbot Hue Dang
The most ancient statues among them are the Amitabha . Holy Trinity in bronze consisting of Amitabha, Avalokitesvara statue had long been lost and was later replaced by a wooden one to complete the set by order of Abbot Chanh Hau.
The life-size statue of the Emperor of Jade is modelled on a Dharma guardian’s sculpture at Buu Lam Pagoda. Unlike the traditional Emperor of Jade, the King of Gods here is not escorted by two gods of the South and North Constellations who carry the list of the departed, but by one god for Good and another against Evil instead.
Along the wall of the main hall are altars to the Netherworld’s Ten kings and the unique set of the Eighteen Arahants, an original work of art in wood relief created in 1807 by a group of craftsmen under the guidance of Abbot Chanh Hau. The statues are made of valuable wood, about 0,80m high each, the knees’ width being 0,58m, and placed on both sides of the Buddha’s altar. Each Arrant is possessed of his own asset representing one of the six sense-organs which are called the six faculties in Buddhist terms, namely, The eye, the ear, the tongue, the nose, the body, the mind in the three periods of time; the Past, the Present and the Future, These Arahant statues are well-proportioned, vivid, each riding on such an animal as a buffalo, an ox, a horse, a camel, a hippopotamus, a rhinoceros etc..
In the pagoda site, there are numerous well-cared bonsai shrubs and artificialrock works together with abbot Chanh Hau’s imposing stupa and his family’s tombs standing under shady trees enclosed by a fence.
Generally speaking, the beauty of Vinh Trang Pagoda lies in the art of creating forms. One may think that the Vinh Trang pagoda structure is a brief survey of the history of Tien Giang’s Fine Arts.
At present, Vinh Trang Pagoda is the seat of the Tien Giang Buddhist Sangha Executive Committee and the Tien Giang Basic School of Buddhist Studies. Moreover, it has become a main resort for countless tourists and Buddhist pilgrims who come and go everyday. Among them is the poet Xuan Thuy who paid a brief visit to the Pagoda once at springtime in the year of the Cock (1982) and offered it the following stanza;
How compassionate is the Buddha.
Hence Eternity is the name of the Pagoda,
And patriotic indeed are the Buddhist monks
Whose generous hearties like the immense Tien River.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
71 MAU THAN STREET, SOC TRANG
Kh’ Leang Pagoda, the most ancient among numerous pagodas in Soc Trang, is a special structure deeply imprinted by Khmer Culture.
Situated on a 3,5 hectare lot covered with many shady trees, it was originally a wooden leaf-roofed house which gradually changed into a tile-roofedone Since its early days in 1533 until now, it has been under constant repair and the latest once took place over 80 years ago. Twenty-one generations of abbots have successively governed the pagoda from the first Patriarch Thach Soc to the Present Abbot Tang No.
Visitors can enter the pagoda either by the Main Gate at No71 Mau Than Street or by the side gate on Nguyen Chi Thanh street. The pagoda base is about 1 metre higher than the road surface and the yard is composed of three levels, each of which surrounded by a brick fence with four entrances is so elaborate that it looks like the main gate itself.
Rising upwards at the centre of the pagoda is the main hall covering 200m2 (9,20m wide*20,8m long).
The three-level wooden roof frame divided into nine folds is supported by twelve big Corinthian columns, the diameter of which is 1.10 metres each jet black lacquered, and gorgeously decorated with golden curling dragon and fish images. Two gilded and vermilion-painted netlike panels reaching the ceiling hang before the altar to the Sakyamuni statue on the pedestal measuring 6,8m, the statue alone being 2,70 metres high. Behind the statue is stele with the inscription in Khmer characters saying: "The statue was built in 2460 Buddhist Era by the Venerable Lieu Duong, a member of the Khmer 17th generation, thanks to the donation from the Lum Sum family ".
It should be noted that the following conceptions and images in the architectural features of Kh’Leang Pagoda are closely connected with Khmer Culture:
-Ho- Cheang is the name of the two ornately decorated gables with symmetrical motifs.
-Krud or Garuda**is a legendary bird with a human body and a bird’s head, two feet and two golden wings, its beak holding a ruby. It is the serpent’s eternal deadly foe; hence images of the serpent’s long curling tail are carved on the roof front ends while the krud’s carvings are at the place where the pillar ends and the roof back ends meet.
-Yeak (Yaksa or Demon) in Khmer Legends is a symbol of evil, which brings harms to man. Yeak is depicted as a ferocious figure in armour, with a pointed helmet on his head, a wide mouth, long canines, swollen eyes and slanting eyebrows, holding a long stick in his hand. In Khmer monastic decoration, Yeaks are converted into Dharma Guardians and places on both sides of the steps to the Main Hall
-The images of Reach Cha Sei, the animal on which a heavenly nymph and a yeak used to fight each other, are carved on panels of the doors of the main hall.
-The images of Reahu***, a fierce figure ready to swallow the sun or the moon which he seizes in his hands, are also carved on panels of the doors.
- Salas are rows of large houses on stilts set up on both sides of the main hall and used as the meeting places of Buddhists on holidays and also the places where food offerings are made to monks.
In the pagoda ground there are 6 stupas for Buddhist relics. On 27th April, 1990, Kh’leang Pagoda was recognised by the Ministry of Culture as "a historical and cultural relic "of Soc Trang.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
MOUNT SAM, CHAU DOC,
AN GIANG PROVINCE
One of the most ancient pagodas in the South famous for its historical and architectural values Tay An Pagoda was built by Doan Uan, Governor of An Giang Province, in 1847, on the crossroads of Mount Sam, about five kilometres from Chau Doc
According to "The Records of Unified Dai Nam, "the Pagoda was erected by the Former General Trung Tin Tu Doan Uan in Vinh Te Hamlet, Tay Xuyen Distric, in Thieu Tri Year (1847). Standing on a mountain overlooking the town, leaning against a mountain range in the rear and surrounded by dense ancient trees, the pagoda is indeed a beauty spot amidst nature"
The pagoda has undergone various renovations for nearly 150 years. The first extensive restoration happened in 1861, when the main hall and the Patriarchal House were renovated by order of the Most Venerable Nhat Thua. The second one happened in 1958, when the Most Venerable Buu Tho play the lead in collecting donations from both Buddhists and laymen for the construction of the three old-style towers, the pagoda fasade and the main repair. Today the pagoda architecture is a combination of Hindu and Islamic arts coloured by Vietnamese national features.
At the Triple Gate is the Statue of the Holy Lady Thi Kinh carrying Thi Mau ‘s Infant.
On the veranda stand two elephant statues in attendance, a black two-tusked one and a white six -tusked one.
In the main hall, there are about 200 statues of Buddhas, Bodhisa ttvas, Arahants,Gods and Fairie Most of these wooden satues are highly-valued works of art, each of which represents a Buddhist philosophical attitude. The most lively ones are the Four Celestial Kings’Statue, namely, Dhatarattha, King of the East, Virupakkha, King of the West, Kuvera, King of the North, Virulhaka, King of the South, and a set of the Eight Vajras (the Diamond Gods), Dharma-Guardians. Besides, there are many gilded and vermillion-painted horizontal panels with elaborate carvings and vertical ones with parallel sentences engraved by expert craftsmen from An Giang and Dong Thap in the 19th century.
The most remarkable among the stupa behind the Pagoda is that of the Tay An Holy Master The Master, whose lay name is Doan Minh Huyen of Tong Son (Sa Dec) origin, was born in the year of the Cat (1807) and died in the year of the Dragon (1856) A progressive Buddhist monk, in 1849, he set out on his preaching tour propagating the Dharma and treating countless patients around the countryside and became very popular since then, Finally he lived in seclusion at Tay An Pagoda, where he was so much admired for his virtue and talent that he became well-known as the Tay An Holy Master.
Every year, these main holidays are celebrated at Tay An Pagoda: the Full moon Day of the First lunar month, the Full moon day of the Tenth lunar Month, and the Death Anniversary of the Tay An Holy Master on the Twelfth Day of Eighth Lunar Month Countless pilgrims from different towns and cities come to visit the pagoda on these occasions and attend the Mount Sam Festivals lasting from the First lunar Month to the Fourth lunar Month in Chau Doc.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
(TRIPLE THE ROYAL-CHARTERED GEM PAGODA)
NO 6 THICH THIENAN STREET,
RACH GIA, KIEN GIANG PROVINCE
There are two famous pagodas named Tam Bao in Kien Giang province, the one in Rach Gia was originally the place where Mme Duong Thi Can alias Mme Hoang led a religious life. She was a benefactress of King Gia Long ‘s in his flight from the Tay Son’s army and hence the pagoda was granted a royal charter after his coronation in 1802.
The pagoda is situated at No 6. Thich Thien An street, Rach Gia. From Nguyen Trung Truc Street you can see its gilded board entitled the Royal Chartered Tam Bao Pagoda Its main hall is designed after the model of *an upper storey on a lower veranda".
On the veranda facade is a three -storey tower symbolising the Nine-Level lotus flower. In the 14,5 metre-wide and 22 metre-long hall, there are five gilded and well-carved net-like panels before the well-arranged altars to the Buddha Amitabha, the Buddha Sakyamuni and the Bodhisattvas.
The East Wing serves as the reception room, and the Abbot’s working office. The West Wing and the Preaching hall serveas the Tue Tinh House, where medical treatment is free.
The Royal-Chartered Tam Bao Pagoda’s history is closely connected with name of the most Venerable Abbot Thich Tri Thien, whose lay name is Nguyen Van Dong. He was born in 1882 and died in 1943. It was the Abbot who undertook the charge of reconstructing the present pagoda in 1917. Moreover, he himself founded the South Association, then seated at Linh Son pagoda No149 Donaumont street (Present Co Giang street) in Sai Gon, published the Tu Bi Am magazine) for Dharma propagation and established a Ddharma quarter where they carried out research into the Chinese Buddhist Triple Canon.
Afterwards, the Most Venerable Tri Thien and Master Thien Chieu, on their return to Rach Gia, founded a Buddhist Association, which aimed to preach the Dharma and to participate in social activities as well.
After the South Uprising, Tam Bao pagoda became the place where a group of Viet Minh cadres prepared hand grenades for the second uprising. When they were found out by the French police, the most Venerable Tri Thien, who bravely took full responsibility for their plot, was later sent to Con Dao in exile and died there in 1943. A disciple of his, the young monk Thien An, on being arrested, heroically sacrificed himself by causing a grenade explosion to kill French secret agents. All these patriotic deeds have been recorded in a book of poetry entitled "Viet Nam’s Heroes" by the most Venerable Abbot Thich Bon Chau. The Royal-Chartered Tam Bao Pagoda was recognised as a historical and cultural relic by the Culture Ministry’s Decision dated 23 March 1988.
Today, it is the seat of the Kien Giang Buddhist Sangha Executive-Committee.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan
VUNG TAU BA RIA - VUNG TAU PROVINCE
Visitors who come to Vung Tau Seaport will not miss the chance of seeing the Buddha Sakyamuni Shrine, a famous beauty spot on the North West Slope of the Big Mountain. This monastic structure was erected by the Thevarada School (The Southern School of the Elders) in 1951 and completed in 1963.
The five-hectare lot consists of Thien Lam pagoda (the Buddhist Pagoda in the Wood) on the lower part and the Buddha Sakyamuni Shrine on the upper part. At first, Thien Lam Pagoda was only a small brick house built in 1957 by a retired official of Vung Tau origin. In 1961, the Orthodox Theravada Buddhist Sangha played the lead in renovating the pagoda and constructing the Buddha Sakyamuni Shrine on the mountain slope. Besides, they set up a new lodging for Buddhist pilgrims nearby.
Turning left from Ben Dinh Market in Vung Tau, you can go on about 1km before reaching the foot of the Big Mountain. Close to the road stands the high Triple gate with its four solid and delicate columns rising upwards. Behind the gate, you can climb up the steps along the mountain slope with a smooth cliff on one side and a deep precipice extending to the sea.
As you draw near the mountain top, you feel as if you were entering a wood clearing resonant with birds' twittering under the foliage.
Following the paved steps, you can contemplate statues scattered on the mountain slope depicting the Buddha's stories such as the Buddha's Jayanti (Birth), the Buddha's Great Renunciation, the Buddha's Enlightenment, Nibbana, the Buddha's Setting the Dharma Wheel in Motion or the Turning of the Wheel of the Truth, and the Buddha's MahaParinibbana (Great Decease). The Fruit-Offering to the Buddha by Elephants and Monkeys… nearby is a park abundant in flowering plants and bonsai trees all year round, encircling an octagonal house representing the Deer Park (in Isipatana, near Benares), where the Buddha set the Dhamma Wheel in motion and first preached the Doctrine to his First Five Disciples, his old companions, namely, the Venerable Kondanna, Bhaddhiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji.
Standing on the way to the mountain is the evergreen Bodhi tree which has been growing from a cutting of the Big Bodhi tree (a kind of fig tree under which the Ascetic Gotama attained Supreme Enlightenment) offered by the Great Elder Narada from Srilanka on November 2, 1960.
The road leading to the Buddha Shrine is extended by means of a big stairway decorated with six curling dragons' on either side. Rising high on the dragons tails are two big lions symbolizing the Great Hero (an epithet of the Buddha) and his Great Power.
Next comes a large paved courtyard where stand an octagonal 19 metre high Stupa to the Buddha's Relic in the center and four big urns at the four corners. Each of them contains an amount of soiled gathered from the four holy places in India, namely, Lumbini Park, where the Buddha was born, Bodhigaya, where the Buddha set the Wheel of Truth in motion, and the Sala Grove in Kusinara, where the Buddha attained Maha parinibbana (the Great Demise, the Final Passing Away).
On the left is the Buddha Sakyamuni statue sitting cross-legged on the lotus throne. This 10, 20 metre-high statue, the throne diameter being 6 metres, was inaugurated on March 10, 1963. Both the Buddha Statue and the Relic Stupa painted in white stand in sharp relief against the blue sky and the green leaves.
From the Buddha Shrine overlooking the sea all around the Big Mountain Slope, you can catch sight of the Can Gio Cape, the Long Son Isle and the oil-rig complex far away. Because of its geographical position and its spectacular scenery, the Buddha Shrine Area has become celebrated cultural tourist spot that attracts numerous visitors who come from everywhere on earth.
Translated by Tran Phuong Lan.
- The End -
Computer typesetting: Bich Thi & Bich Huong
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