Notes on Vietnam Pagodas
Tran Van Giap
Evolution of architecture - A pagoda (from tamioul, pagoda, and from Sanskrit, bhagavat) is a building consecrated to the cult of Buddha, also an abode for monks. It comes from the Indian stupa. According to Thuy Kinh Chu, Indian King Asoka made people build at Luy Lau (in ancient Bac Ninh province) a stupa, which was considered the most ancient religious building on Vietnamese soil (3rd B.C.). At the beginning of the Christian era, the pagoda was called Tong Mieu or Mieu duong, but no vestige was left. In XIth century, Buddhism saw a full bloom. Pagodas were classified into 3 categories: Dai danh lam (Grand Site: State pagoda, often built on a hill and being at the same time a place for the King to rest during his tours), Trung danh lam (Middle Site: large pagoda for a whole region), and Tieu danh lam (Small Site: small pagoda, in general belonging to the village). At this age, the main altar (Thuong dien) is a stupa with several secondary statues. It could be that the stupa was replaced by a pavilion built on a heightened basement. In XIIIth and XIVth centuries, the Sino-Vietnamese word Tu was used to name pagoda which adopted a new architectural composition: the main alter and the stupa made two separate buildings. The stupa became the Tomb of monks, like in Pho Minh (Nam Dinh) pagoda. By the middle of XVIIth century and under the administration of Lord Trinh Trang, there has been construction and reconstruction of large pagodas called Hundred Bays (Tram Gian), But Thap pagoda, Thay pagoda (of the master), Tram Gian pagoda, Phat Tich pagoda. By the middle of XVIIth century, large scale works became rare but pagodas were added with a compartment behind the grand hotel building and at its middle part, which gave the whole construction the form of a reversed T (architectural type called Sino-Vietnamese character Dinh). Gradually, other constructions came to life: the alter of Holy Mother for the cult of popular Taoism (Dien Mau) the House of religious (nha tang), the altar of patriarchs consecrated to monks deceased inside the pagoda (Nha To).
AN QUANG PAGODA Large pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City (Monk Van Hanh street). Headquarter of Unified Buddhist Association before 1945 (in South Vietnam).
VILLAGE PAGODA This one is a cultural center linked to the village, which is an economic and social cell of traditional Vietnam. Since long, the ancient Viet and Muong in the mountains have worshipped Buddha in grottos where stalagmites and rocks were supposed to be Buddhas.
Some pagodas reminded of dwelling houses with thatched roofs and made of three compartments or gian - altar in the middle but there was no statue of Buddha but just a piece of cloth on it was calligraphed the word Phat (Buddha). The most ancient vestiges of pagoda go back to XIth century (fragments of polished stone in Thay pagoda). Wooden frames left behind from the XIVth century (Thai Lac pagoda in Hai Hung and Boi Khe in Ha Tay) give us an idea of the architecture of village pagodas: square basement (about 10m on the side and a height of 0.70m to 1m, 4 main pillars and 12 small ones). The low roof protrudes beyond the basement. The interior is ornated with numerous sculptures. In general, there is no surrounding wall. The cult room often has but one statue, sometimes there is only one stone altar without statue, (provided there is a symbolic sign, for instance the Chinese character Phat: Buddha). From the XVIth century on, the number of statues has gradually increased.
BA DA PAGODA (Pagoda of the Lady in Stone) - Real name Linh Quang Tu (Sacred Light). No.3, Nha Tho street. Under Le Thanh Tong (1460-1497) in Bao Thien village (nearby the present cathedral) (Hanoi) after having unearthed the statue of a lady in stone, people had erected a small temple dedicated to her cult. In the time of French colonization, the statue was lost during a fire. There is now in the pagoda a stone statue of Sakyamuni dated back to early XXth century, two bronze bells of 1823 and 1881, a bronze resonant plate of 1842, the statues are generally of large sizes. This pagoda is considered as a place of asceticism for patriarchs of the dhyanist sect Thien one of two Buddhist sects in North Vietnam.
BA DEN PAGODA (Chua Ba Den - Pagoda of the Black Lady). Real name: Tien Thach tu: pagoda of the immortal in stone. On the slope of Mount Ba Den, at 5km of Tay Ninh urban agglomeration (South Vietnam). This is from a whole compound of the very pagoda and that of Chua Hang Grotto. The cult is made to numerous Buddhist divinities but the central figure remains with Ba Den (the Black Lady) with blackish statues (almost of natural size) in both pagodas. The statue of animist inspiration represents supernatural power in the spirit of an agricultural people; it reminds of that of Holy Mothers (Mau - Taoist popular cult). The use of a grotto as a place of cult, a widespread phenomenon in the North, is rather uncommon in South Vietnam. On an altar in the grotto pagoda, a stone pillar (about 50cm) lying on a stone plate recalls Indian symbols of Linga and Yoni. In the past, old ascetics used to sit in hollows of rocks for meditation.
BICH DONG PAGODA (Pagoda of the Emerald Grotto). In Ninh Hai - Tam Diep (Ninh Binh province). The grotto, located in the Truong Yen range, looks on a valley of fertile ricefields, crossed by Truong Giang river and leans on Nga Nhac Son mountain. According to the legend, under the post of Le dynasty (1699), the two monks Thich Tri Kieu and Thich Tri The might have discovered that picturesque site and also built the lower pagoda outside the grotto; the whole completed in 1707. In 1774, Nguyen Nghiem (father of poet Nguyen Du) engraved on the grotto two characters Bich Dong. During the same period, Lord Trinh Sam awarded the site the title of "Third beautiful grotto under the Southern sky".BUT THAP PAGODA (Tower of the Brush). Real name: Ninh Phuc tu (Peace and Bliss). In district of Thuan Thanh (ancient province of Bac Ninh). A real architectural and sculptural jewel. The pagoda spreads on a length of 200m with a portico of 3 entries, the bell tower has 8 roofs, the Tien duong (Front altar), Thieu Huong, main altar (Thuong dien), the Bridge of Awakening (Cau giac) of arch form stone, the small pagoda Tich Thien (accumulation of Good), the median house (Nha Trung) the hall of Taoist cult (Phu Tho) the Hall of cult of Patriarchs (Nha hau), the stone tower Ton Duc (veneration of Virtue). On the left is a house reserved to the cult of patriarch monk Chuyet Cong, and the octagonal tower of stone Bao Nghiem (Brush Tower). The main altar is endowed with a stone balustrade carrying sculptures (animal and vegetation related to Buddhist creed). There is also a wooden swivel tower Cuu pham lien hoa of 8m high with engraved on the sides designs concerning the Land of Buddha, offices and missionary patriarchs. The Brush Tower (5 floors, 8 faces) marked by Chinese influence, was built by the Chinese friar Minh Hanh at the intention of Chinese patriarchal monk Chuyet Cong. Many statues, rather individualized, date back to the same period of the pagoda (XVIIth century). It is worth noticing the statues of Queen Trinh Thi Ngoc Truc, of Princess Le Thi Ngoc Duyen above all the statue of Quan Am Thien Thu Thien Nhan (Quan Yin or Avalokitesvara with thousand arms and eyes) of 3 m high. This one, work of master Truong (1656) is a master-piece of Vietnamese statuary art. The statue consist of 11 faces, 42 big arms in different gestures and about 1000 small arms making up a halo beaming behind the head. The goddess is sitting on a lotus lifted up by dragons. The pedestal is cleverly chiseled.
CO LE PAGODA. Real name: Than Quang Tu (Pagoda of Divine Light). In Chinh Nghia, district of Nam Ninh (Nam Ha province). Of recent enough date. In front of the pagoda is the Tower called Cuu Pham Lien Hoa (Tower of Lotus of 9 grades, built in 1919 - 9 storeys representing 9 lotus corollas). On an islet of the lake, there is a bronze bell hanging on 4m20 high, 2m20 diameter and 9000kg weight. The cult house is built under a form of porch and arched ceiling. Beside Buddhist divinities, the cult is given to semi-legendary monk Nguyen Minh Khong.
CON SON PAGODA (Chua Con Son, also called Chua Hun: Smoked pagoda, because people came here to make their fire wood). Real name: Tu Phuc tu. At the village of Cong Hoa, district of Chi Linh, Hai Hung province. The first constructions date back to the Ly dynasty (XI - XIIth century). Under the Tran (1225-1400) King Tran Thai Tong went here many times on pilgrimage, King Tran Nhan Tong should have come for practicing meditation. Other famous monks had their stay here: Phap Loa built Ho Thien and Chan lac small pagodas to live in, Huyen Quang died there. Con Son is a site of picturesque mountain, retirement place chosen by the regent Great Minister Tran Nguyen Dan (1320-1390) who brought there his young grandson Nguyen Trai (later one of the greatest figures of Vietnam). The pagoda has reserved numerous steles dating back to 1357 (17th year of Thien Phong reign the Tran dynasty) and 1617 (8th year of Hoang Dinh reign - in hexagonal form). From inscriptions on the steles, the pagoda was built during the reign of Vinh To (1619-1628) by care of monk Mai Tri Ban (85 compartments). Rebuilt in 1921 (under the reign of King Khai Dinh, Nguyen dynasty). There were hundreds of statues, many of them damaged. Let us indicate in particular the statues of Quan Am Thien Thu Thien Nhan (Avalokitesvara or Quan Yin at thousand arms and eyes - only the one arm is left), of A Di Da (Amitabha - 3m), of three Patriarchs of the Thien sect from Truc Lam (Truc Lam Tam To), of Tran Nguyen Dan, Nguyen Trai and Thi Lo.
DAU PAGODA or Phap Van tu. In Dinh To village, district of Thuan Thanh, Ha Bac). This pagoda is considered the most ancient Buddhist temple in Vietnam. According to the legend, in the time of Chinese Governor Si Nghiep (IIth - IIIth century), Indian friar A Da La came to settle down in Dau (Luy Lau or Lien Lau). The couple Tu Dinh ordered their daughter Man Nuong to take care of the meals for the religious. One day, as he did not find the girl serving him rice soup, Da La went to seek the girl and saw her lying at the kitchen door. He cautiously stepped across the body of the virgin who, by miracle, conceived a child. At the fourteenth month, she delivered a baby on the eighth day of the fourth moon, anniversary day of Buddha. She gave the new born, a daughter, to Da La. They latter carried the child to a sacred tree and uttered a gatha, the trunk of the tree opened itself to receive the daughter. Sometime later, the uprooted tree floated on a stream towards Dau. Man Nuong threw on the water a string from her bra and the floating tree stopped at Dau landing place. Villagers cut up the tree trunk and made it four statue representing the four powers of Buddhist doctrine. (Tu Phap: Van (Cloud), Vu (Rain), Loi (Thunder), Dien (Lightening). In carving the statues, the craftsmen threw the sacred stone inside the tree trunk (the infant); the statue of Phap Van Buddha (Doctrine of the Cloud power) refused to return to the pagoda dedicated to her. There had been again an intervention from Man Nuong to reopen the sacred stone). Thus a chain of pagodas was built: Phap Van (Dau pagoda). Phap Vu (Dau), Phap Loi (Tuong), Phap Dien (Don) and a pagoda for the cult of Man Nuong, Mother of Buddha. In front of Dau pagoda is a Market of Female Principle (Cho am) which used to gather at dusk, and it was pretended that the souls of the dead come over here. The pagoda ground is dominated by the Hoa Phong tower (of 17m high and 7m large) made from Bat Trang bricks (1737). In the tower, there is a bell (1793) and a resonant plate (1817). Architectural composition: H letter turned upside down. There is no vestige of the first constructions. The basement dates back to XIVth century. The main altar made of wood has a style of XVIth and XVIIth centuries (sculptures of dragons, dancers…) The statue of Phap Van (Doctrine of Cloud power) of 3m high with pedestal representing the Genius of cloud becoming Buddha, stripped to the waist. Before the statue of Phap Van is the sacred stone (in form of linga). Pagoda festival: 8th day of the 4th moon (a procession brought here statues of Phap Vu, Phap Loi, Phap Dien. People then honour the goddess of Ba Dau (Lady Mulberry) who presides over silk worm breeding in the region.DIEU DE PAGODA (Dieu de: miraculous truth). Old pagoda of Hue, built in 1844 (5th year of Thieu Tri reign). Characteristic site of ancient imperial city, according to the distich: "morning and evening, the bell of Dieu De marks out its sounds", - the Dong Ba market draws clients from East and West". (Dieu de chuong ngan hoi som toi, Dong Ba cho hop khach Dong Tay).DU HANG PAGODA - Great pagoda of Haiphong, (121 Du Hang street). Official name: Phuc Lam (Forest of happiness). Built under the Tran (1225-1400). There is, in its precinct, 3 stupas dedicated to Three Patriarchs of the Thien sect of Truc Lam (Tran Nhan Tong, Phap Loa, Huyen Quang) whose statues are found in the house of cult.
DAU PAGODA - Official name: Thanh Dao tu (Pagoda of Religious accomplishment), in Nguyen Trai village (Thuong Tin district, Ha Tay province). Buddhist cult and also cult of Buddhist doctrine at the power of Rain (Phap Vu) in the system of Tu Phap (See Dau pagoda). According to the legend, the pagoda might have been built at the time of Chinese Governor Si Nghiep (late IIth century - early IIIth century) right after the construction of the chain pagodas called Tu Phap to Luy Lau (Bac Ninh). Under the Tran (1225-1400), the pagoda has been enlarged, a stone dragon remains on the steeps of the prior house of Tien Duong. Under the Mac (XIVth century), it was restored, a stele remains dated from 1565 (4th year of Sung Khanh reign). The stele of 1639 registers the merits of odalisque Ngo Thi Ngoc Nguyen who financed the reconstruction of the pagoda, giving it the aspect entirely preserved until now.
Other repairs have been made during the post Le dynasties, the Tay Son and the Nguyen, steles and bells remain of them. In 1655, Le Than Tong awarded to the pagoda a royal certificate with the title of "First picturesque site of the Annam land". The Lords Trinh Can (1698) and Trinh Cuong (1718) have visited the pagoda and written poems in its honor. The constructions, well preserved enough, look on small stream. Architectural composition: square enclosure, the interior on form of a H letter turned upside down. One should note statues of numerous monks deceased in the pagoda, in particular tow of them in the form of mummies (Vu Khac Minh and Vu Khac Truong). The small pagoda dedicated to Vu Khac Minh is distinguished by its bricks decorated of floral and animal designs (early XVIIth century).DUC LA PAGODA. Official name: Vinh Nghiem tu - Tri Yen (Yen Dung - Ha Bac). First construction: Ly dynasty (1010-1225) Tran Nhan Tong founded here the dhyanist sect (Thien) of Truc Lam, the two other patriarchs (Phap Loa and Huyen Quang) also stayed here. A popular songs say: Ai qua Yen Tu Quynh Lam, Vinh Nghiem chua toi, Thien tam chua danh (the pilgrim who had visited Quynh Lam pagoda and other in Yen Tu would not feel easy in one’s dhyanist soul as long as he had not visited Vinh Nghiem). According to the stele of 1606, Duke Nguyen Tho Cuong had many pieces repaired. The stele of 1934 lets us know that the pagoda has been almost reconstructed during this year. The statues of three Patriarchs of the Truc Lam sect are to be noted. There was a warehouse (covering 10 compartments) made of xylographic planks but only two of them are left.GIAI OAN PAGODA (of Forgiveness). Small pagoda on Yen Tu Mount. Leaning against a cliff, the pagoda turns to the Giai Oan fall where, according to legends, certain odalisques of Tran Nhan Tong (XIIIth century) killed themselves after they learned that the King entered into religion. There is a Giai Oan pagoda inside the Pagoda inside the Pagoda of Perfume.
GIAM PAGODA Official name: Nghiem Quang tu. In Cam Son (Cam Binh, Hai Duong). The date of first construction is unknown. Rebuilt in 1646. Apogee in XVIII century (numerous statues of great value with those made of bronze and gold). There remains a wooden tower called Cuu Pham Lien Hoa (Lotus Tower at 9grades), hexagonal form, decoration designs: dragons, bamboo, ivory, swastikas. Statues in the pagoda are heterogeneous in actual state but beautiful in their simplicity. Steles mark the passage from Chinh Hoa style (1680-1705 to Vinh Thanh style 1705-1719): the curved front takes place of volumes and the roof. In order to avoid crumbling, the pagoda has been moved 20 years ago to Tay Son village of the same district.
HA PAGODA (Chua Ha) Official name: Thanh Tu, Duc (Pagoda of Holy Virtue). In Dich Vong (Tu Liem district, Hanoi). Rebuilt in early XXth century. Portico of two floors. On the upper floor (12 roofs) hangs a bronze bell dating back to the time of Tay Son (1799: 7th year of Canh Thinh reign) with decorative patterns (Four hieratic animals: dragon, unicorn, Turtle, Phoenix). A popular saying sings the miracles of "Duc Ong Chua Ha, Duc Ba Chua Huong" (Lord of Ha pagoda and Lady of Perfume Pagoda) who grant people all their wishes. Popular Taoist cult of Holy Mothers (Tu Phu) in a pent-house. Bowls for incense rods of eel skin colour enamel decorated with four hieratic animals. HOE NHAI PAGODA (Chua Hoe Nhai) Official name: Hong Phuc tu (Pagoda of Immense Beatitude). No 19, Hang Than street (Coal street) in Hanoi. It seems that the first constructions dated back to Ly dynasty (1010-1225). Numerous repairs (1678, 1899, 1952). The pagoda was frequently by the Ly court and members of the royal family. At first, it was very large, its superficy was reduced to the present dimensions since the beginning of French colonization. Among the steles, the most important one is that which dated back to 1703 (24th year of the Le’s Chinh Hoa reign). It allows historians to locate exactly the site of victory over the Mongols at Dong Bo Dau the 21st of January 1258, victory that liberated Thang Long (Hanoi). The pagoda has been the cradle of Tao Dong, one of two main dhyanist sects (Thien) in Vietnam. It is noteworthy of an ancient Buddha statue sitting on the back of a king in lying position (symbol of submission to temporal power).HUNG KY PAGODA (Chua Hung Ky) in Minh Khai street, Hanoi. Built in 1932 by the care of the couple Hung Ky (proprietors of a photo shop). Constructions in reinforced concrete and preserving traditional style. Decorations in enameled porcelain (hieratic animals, flowers, scenes are: pilgrimage by Chinese friar Duong Tang to the West, in search of sutras, the Eight Immortals crossing the sea, a procession during a popular festival; the girl Thi Mau carrying her natural child to Bodhisattva Thi Kinh. It is noteworthy of a statuary group of Amitabha which occupies almost the whole of the main altar.
KIM LIEN PAGODA - (Golden Lotus - Chua Kim Lien). On the Eastern bank of West Lake (Quang An village, Tu Liem district, Hanoi). Originally, it was the Royal Palace of Dam Dam (Thuy Hoa) under the Ly (XIth century). Vestiges: stone steles of Thai Hoa reign (1443-1455), rudimentary gross bricks called Gach vo (XV-XVIth centuries), stone steles of Duong Hoa reign (early XVIIth century). The pagoda was repaired under Lords Trinh Giang and Trinh Sam. From that time remain a group of statues Tam The: (three aras, the past, the present and the future) and the statue of Trinh Sam (exceeding natural size). Big repairs under Quang Trung (1792). The portico of three entries is equipped with beams and joists engraved with tigers, lotus and dragons. The art here reflects a mixture of Buddhist conceptions (statues, crosses, to be, not to be) and of Confucian conceptions (three statues, incarnating the sky, the land and man) crosses surrounded by Eight trigrammes). On the architectural plane, this pagoda has been one among the first to adopt a composition according to Chinese character Tam (three parallel lines). The small statue of Kim Cuong (80cm) have the beauty of statuary from Tay Phuong pagoda. The statues of A Di Da (Amitabha) and Quan Am at thousand arms are typical of the Quang Trung era (XVIIIth century).
KEO PAGODA (Chua Keo). Among pagodas of North Vietnam bearing the name of Keo, the most famous one is that of Thai Binh (Vu Nghia village, Vi Tien district) which official name is Than Quang tu (Sacred Light). Because of floods from the Red River, the primitive pagoda in Ngoc Cuc village (Nam Dinh) was transferred to Hanh Thien village (Keo pagoda) of Nam Dinh, while a part of Ngoc Cuc villagers emigrated to Thai Binh to build in Thai Binh the Keo pagoda. This pagoda occupies a ground of 20 mau (1 mau: 365 m2). People also worshipped here the monk Khong Lo of the Ly dynasty. Architectural composition: the interior in form of H letter reversed, the outside is square form. Remarkable bell tower (three bronze bells of the Le era hung wood mortise and tenon system of very ingenious work supporting 12 roofings).
KHMER PAGODAS IN NAM BO (South Vietnam). These are mostly concentrated in Soc Trang and Tra Cu (Cuu Long). They come from Hinayama (Small Vehicle). The main orientation depends on oriental pinion. Many roofs with arrises bordered of cobras (tail curved up, head in lower corner). Meaning: dragon boat carrying Buddha during his apostolic missions. The rectangular pagoda is vast, high and aired. It rests on an elevated basement. It is surrounded by a yard for the rites of circum-am-bulation and festivals. Five categories of Sakyamuni statues: 1/ Sitting on snakes, the finger of one hand pointing to the earth. 2/ Preaching. 3/ Begging. 4/ Meditating. 5/ In Nirvana. The most ancient statues is found in Ma Toc pagoda (Soc Trang): Buddha preaching (dating back to 1593). Around the pagoda are houses for the monks, the refectory, the sermon room, the stupa for ashes of believers. The friars don’t observe vegetarian regime, they can eat meat (except meat of elephant, horse, monkey, dog and rabbit) provided they don’t themselves kill the beast. They make up the village intelligentsia. LIEN PHAI PAGODA (Chua Lien Phai: Pagoda of the Lotus sect). Official name: Lien Hoa (pagoda of the Lotus). In Ngo Chua Lien alley (Hanoi). Dieu Quang (miraculous light) tower at hexagonal base, 10 storeys. Three ranges of stupas (tombs) dominated at the middle by a stone containing relics of Thuong Si (Bodhisattva), Trinh Thap, founder of the pagoda. The stele relates as follows the pagoda’s history. Lord Trinh Thap (1697-1733), spouse of a Le princess, had his palace at Hong Mai quarter (Later becoming Bach Mai). His men unearthed an enormous lotus root, and he took the feat as a miraculous invitation to religious life. He then cut his hair off and joined in the religion, transforming his palace into a Lotus pagoda. He died at 37 years old. His disciples incinerated his body and put his ashes into the built at the place where the lotus root was found. HE was consecrated First Patriarch of the Lotus sect. The pagoda has been repaired in 1854 and 1869. In 1869, it was enriched with a bell tower and a brick enclosure. In the main altar, there still are parallel sentences drafted by Trinh Thap.LIM PAGODA (Chua Lim) on the Lim hill or Hong Van in Van Tuong village (Tien Son district, Ha Bac). Its dimensions have been reduced. However, there is an affluence of pilgrims to the Lim festival.
LONG HAM PAGODA (Pagoda of the Dragon’s Jaw). In Lam Son village Que Vo district, Ha Bac, built on a mount which affects the form of a dragon, therefrom its name. According to a legend, the Thuong Si (Bodhisattva) Trinh Thap (XVIIIth century) refusing the hand of a Le princess, came into religion. He had stayed at Yen Tu before coming here. The beauty of the site is celebrated by poets numerous generations, among them the scholar Le Quy Don. The pagoda occupied 2 mau and sheltered in its garden a building of 100 compartments. There are only 12 stupas left, one of them in stone of 8m high built in 1733 containing relics of Trinh Thap. In the hall of the Patriarch’s altar, there are 5 bronze statues of human size one of which is supposed to be that of Trinh Thap.LUC TO PAGODA (Tue Nang: 6th patriarch of the Chinese dhyanist sect) Old pagoda going back to the Ly dynasty (XIth century), in Dinh Bang village (ancient Bac Ninh). Resting place of monks Van Hanh (master of Ly Thai To and Thuong Chien (early XIIIth century).
MIA PAGODA Official name: Sung Nghiem tu. In Dong Sang village. Duong Lam commune (Ba Vi, Son Tay). Built on a hill at mild slope in the middle of Mia village (Sugar Cane). The pagoda stele (1632) relates that it was built by the Mia lady, Nguyen Thi Dung (favorite of Lord Trinh Trang). The pagoda is dominated by a bell tower with a bronze bell (1743) and a bronze resonant plate (1846). Architectural composition: the interior in form of H letter reversed, the outside in square form. The pagoda, low enough, is supported by rough wood pillars (2m of circumference). 287 statues: half of them in jack fruit wood, the other half in clay, lacquered red and gold. They are of finished work. It is also noteworthy of an artificial grotto of large dimensions marked with figures which reveal the richness of popular imagination.
UNIQUE PILLAR PAGODA (Chua Mot Cot, in Hanoi, often taken for emblem of Hanoi). Official name: Dien Huu (Prolongation of life span) thus called to express a wish of longevity of the Ly King when the pagoda was built in 1049. According to the stele of Long Doi pagoda (in Ly Nhan, Nam Ha, 1121), in the center of Linh Thieu lake was erected a stone pillar supporting a thousand petal lotus which rests on a red small pagoda. This architecture reflects a mixture of Buddhist conceptions and the cult of agricultural fecundity (Buddha: emancipation; red pagoda: perfect bliss; Lotus: illuminations; Stone pillar: transport of vital energy to the earth and water). At the present stage, there is only one square pagoda at 4 roofs resting on a masonry (with a Quan Am statue at multiple arms). In front is a recent construction. According to the legend, King Ly Thai Tong, having no son, saw in his dream Goddess Quan Am sitting on a lotus flower giving him a male baby. Sometime later, he took as wife a young girl he met briefly in a garden and had with her a son. Hence the construction of a pagoda evoking the flower.
PHAT TICH PAGODA (Phat Tich - Vestiges of Buddha) In Tien Du (ancient Bac Ninh). On the southern slope of Lan Kha hill (rusted hatchet), Northern bank of Song Duong. There are several legends of this subject: 1/The scholar Tu Thuc met a fairy there; 2/a woodcutter fascinated by a chess game between two immortals returned home late; when coming home at the foot of the hill, a hundred years had past, no one recognized him and his hatchet rusted. To reach the pagoda, one must climb three terraces (150m x 60m), each terrace is of 5m high, made of large stones heaped up. The pagoda was rebuilt in XVIIIth century according to a style called "of 100 compartments" (tram gian). It was destroyed during the first Indochina war (1945-1954). People have been able to save hundreds of art works of great value dating back to IXth century. The Buddha statue in stone of 3m high (including the pedestal) is a master work typical of Vietnamese statuary sculpture: serene face, large shoulders, belly reduced, hands in posture to make passed and resting on crossed legs, the dress pleats in raised sculpture (Indian influence); the pedestal carries sculptures of dragons, flowers and waves. The Ho Phap statue (Genius guard of Buddhist doctrine) is almost of human size. One should mention the Kinnaris, human beings at bird’s body and ten tieratic animals linked to the life of Buddha (lion, elephant, horse, buffalo, rhinoceros…) lying on the lotus. People have been able to unearth from the Dragon’s well (Long Tinh) a group of stone dragons (more than 5m wide, the dragon’s body diameter reaches 25cm at some point, (stone) pillar bases with their border sculpted with celestial musicians. PHO MINH PAGODA (Chua Pho Minh) In Loc Vuong village (Nam Dinh). Built under the Ly dynasty (XIth- XIVth centuries) enlarged under the Tran in XIIIth century during the development of Phu Thien Truong (2nd capital of the Tran). There are at present two steles (1688 and 1916). The Tower (square base of 5m20 side) at 14 storeys is of 21m20 high. The basement and ground floor are in stone, the 13 upper floors are in bricks. The stone part is decorated with lotus petals, waves, vegetal patterns, clouds…The brick part (manufacture date: 1305) carried figures of dragon rubbed by a layer of mortar during repairs made by a merchant in early XXth century. The main altar still preserves sculptured wooden door flaps (dragons) of the Tran period, a big bell (1796) and numerous ancient statues (among them statues of Truc Lam sect three patriarchs).QUANG BA PAGODA (Chua Quang Ba). Official name: Hoang An in Quang Ba village, Tu Liem district, Hanoi on the bank of West Lake. A picture of serenity. Old enough constructions (bricks dating back to XVth and XVIth century, stele of XVIIth century); big repairs in XIXth century. Architectural composition in form of T reversed (chu Dinh). The statue of Quan Am (Kuan Yin or Avalokitesvara) representing a very mild face is finely carved (XVIIth century style); it combines several; types of Quan Am statutory: sitting position on the mountain (tao son), Bodhisattva Thi Kinh, Quan Am of the Southern Sea (Quan Am Nam Hai) characterized by the sea devils supporting the lotus. The bronze bell is remarkable: raised carvings of 12 warriors representing 12 months, 4 calottes representing 4 seasons of the year. One should note the presence of numerous xylographic wooden planks for the formation of monks.
SO PAGODA (Chua So) in Tan Uc village (Thanh Oai, Ha Tay). Ancient Taoist temple (Hoi Linh Quan) becoming Buddhist pagoda…Architectural composition: the interior in form of a reversed H letter (Chinese character Cong), the outside of square form. Basement bordered by bricks decorated with dragons, phoenix and lions in relief (XVIth and XVIIth centuries) The main altar contains dozens of statues of Taoist divinities). (Emperor of the Sky, Nam Tao, Bac Dau, Tay Vuong Mau) in general of human size, finely chiseled and individualized.SUNG NGHIEM DIEN THANH PAGODA in Van Loc village, (Hau Loc district, Thanh Hoa). The stele of 1m2 large and 2m02 high, with the front decorated of dragons and garlands (from 1818) shows that the pagoda been built to commemorate a tour by King Ly Nhan Tong in 1116. In early XXth century, the pagoda fell into ruins, the population made a provisional construction. People can preserve three pedestals in stone (lotus supported by lions) for Buddha statues, Ly dynasty style (1010-1225).
TAM SON PAGODA (Chua Tam Son) Popular name: Chua Tram Gian (Pagoda of hundred compartments). Official name: Can ung tu in Tam Son village, (Tien Son district, ancient Bac Ninh). The pagoda is built on top of Tam Son hill. The first constructions dated back to late Xth century, early XIth century (famous monks: Nghiem Bao Tinh, Pham Minh Tam, La Dinh Huong). Vestiges: remnants of a pedestal in terra-cotta (in the form of a lotus), building materials carrying carved decorated patterns…The last construction dates from XVIIth century (Chinh Hoa reign: 1680-1705); it has been the works of royal concubine Nguyen Thi Ngoc Vinh. (Brick stairs from hill foot to the pagoda, bell of 1693, stone pillar called Chuc Thien Dai where the name of donators in 1697 are inscribed). The pagoda had hundred compartments and statues of value. At the end of 1973, it was destroyed by American bombs. In provisional reconstruction’s, there is a beautiful resonant plate (1672) on which the names of many doctors of the Ngo family are engraved.TAY PHUONG PAGODA (Chua Tay Phuong - Tay Phuong: West land of prefect Bliss of Buddha. Official name: Sung Phuc tu (Pagoda of the cult of Buddhist benediction). From Hanoi, one should follow Road No1 to Northwest, at km34, one should make another 3km of inter-district road to arrive at Hamlet Yen, Thanh Xa village, Thach That district, Son Tay province) - 239 steps made of laterite (da ong) will lead to the pagoda sitting on a hill of 50m high. Composition: compartment for rituals and ceremonies (bai duong), main altar (chinh dien) back sanctuary (hau cung). Walls made of Bat Trang bricks. Pillars set on stone bases carrying sculptures of lotus petals. The roof is covered with two layers of tiles: upper layer made of dau mui tiles with relief of leaves of pagoda ficus, lower layer forms by square multicoloured supporting tiles. The edges of the roof are finely chiseled (leaves). The roof top is dominated by sculptures (animals) in terra-cotta. The curved corners of the roof are also decorated with designs in terra-cotta (flowers, dragons, phoenixes). The Tay Phuong pagoda is famous for its collection of invaluable sculptures in particular 70 wooded statues lacquered red and gold. (Bat Bo Kim Cuong) Tuyet Son: Sakyamuni at the foot of the Himalaya, the 18 Arhats or La Han, or rather 18 Thuong To Truyen Dang.
CHUA THAY PAGODA (Chua Thay: Pagoda of Master Tu Dao Hanh). Other old names: Huong Hai (Sea of Perfume) Bo De. Official name: Thien Phuc tu: Pagoda of Celestial Bliss). According to the legend, the place has been an ascetic one for friar Tu Dao Hanh. The first construction dated back to XIth century. Rebuilt in XVth century. At 30km from Hanoi, the pagoda is built at the foot of Mount Thay (or Sai Son, Son Tay province) which has numerous grottos. In front of it is the Long Thieu lake with a pavilion at the middle made for water puppets. Two covered bridge built in 1602 by the first Dr. Phung Khac Khoan (1528-1613). The one on the left (Nhat Tien) looks on the Tam Phu Taoist temple, built on an islet; that on the right (Nghuyet Tien) leads to upper pagoda on the mountain. The main pagoda (Chua Ca) consists of three ranges of constructions built on an elevated basement and bordered with stones: the first is reserved to preliminary ceremonies (Nha Tien Te), the second to the cult of Buddha, the third to that of Tu Dao Hanh. The roof covered by big and thick tiles rest on a frame of 4 big pillars and 12 small ones in precious wood, at set on stone bases, the pieces of wood carry fine sculptures (dragons, unicorn, clouds, flames). Inside the pagoda, there are three statues evoking three existence’s (metempsychosis), Tu Dao Hanh on the let, a statue with movable legs, that of the friar, on the right, Tu Dao Hanh king by the name of Ly Thai Tong 1118-1138 in the middle, Tu Dao Hanh Buddha. One should mention also the statues (1346) of parents of the friar that the tiles of the throne finely chiseled carry Confucian designs (hatchet of lenders, dragons), Buddhist and Taoist (horn of rhinoceros, precious stones). The corridors on both sides of the pagoda shelter 18 Thuong To Truyen Dang also baptized 18 La Han (Arhats). There is on the behind a bell tower (bell and big drum of 1m5 diameter). Behind the upper pagoda (Chua Cao) is the grotto Thanh Hoa (Metamorphosis of the Saint). A track goes up the Grotto of Cac Co and the grotto of Buddhas (Hang But Moc) bristled with stalagmites in forms of Buddha. At the top of Mount Sai Don, one can visit the Grotto of Wind (Hang Gio) the Sky Market (Cho Troi) filled with stones evoking stalls and chess trays.THIEN MU PAGODA (Linh Mu tu: Pagoda of the Celestial Lady). Built on a hill over the River of Perfume (Song Huong), on the right bank, in Hung Long village, at 7km from Hue. In 1601, Lord Nguyen Hoang, Governor of Thuan Hoa March might have made it built after being warned by a message left over by a Celestial Lady (hence it name). Some dates: 1677 (casting of the bronze resonant plate), 1710 (the big bell), 1714 (extension), 1815 (the new bell), 1844 (construction of Phuoc Son tower), 1904 (devastated by a big typhoon). Under Thanh Thai (1889-1907) repairs which give the pagoda its present face. The octagonal tower of Phuoc Duyen at 7 floors is of 21m high. The stone stele of the small pagoda (1716) is of 2m60 high and 1m20 large. The bronze bell Dai Hong weighs 2052kg: 2m35 with handle, base diameter: 1m40,decorative engravings: dragon, phoenix, waves, garlands. Three bronze statues of Buddhas of the past, the present and the future (early XXth century) are to be mentioned.
TIEN PAGODA (Chua Tien - Pagoda of the Immortal). Official name: Song Tien tu. Located in Lang Son province, it is a grotto bristled on the top with stalagmites evoking sitting divine forms. According to the legend, an Immortal disguised into a beggar would have come here, imprint of his foot on the stone might have dug a well which brought water to people in time of drought. Previously, the well on the mountain slope had the form of a foot imprint and gave clear water. The well damaged, villagers have dug deeper to find water. The Immortal is assimilated to agricultural Genius Than Nong which festival is celebrated each year at the 6th moon.
TIEN SON PAGODA (Chua Tien Son) Official name: Truong Lieu Tu. Built on a hill side from each and Tien Son stone (altitude: 70-80) in Truong Giang village (Tine Son district, ancient Bac Ninh), near Thien Tam pagoda with a study room of Cam Tuyen monastery. According to the legend, a lady from Pham family in visit to Tien Son pagoda was pregnant after having met a genius; she gave birth to an infant, Ly Con Uan who should become the king founder of Ly dynasty). At the same time, a dog of Cam Tuyen laid a small white one with characters "Son of the Sky" (king) in black, confirming the omen. Friar Van Hanh had educated the small monk Ly Cong Uan and prepared his accession to the throne. He hid himself in Tien Son pagoda. Novelist Khai Hung had written his work Tien Son Trang Si (the Knight of Tien Son pagoda as surroundings).TU DAM PAGODA (Chua Tu Dam) in Hue. Founded in 1683. The builder was the friar Minh Hoang Tu Dung, Master Lieu Quan (the first friar who propagated the doctrine of Thien or Zen in Central and South Vietnam). The pagoda is not far from the center of Hue. A magnificent bronze statue of Sakyamuni is to be mentioned.
TRA PHUONG PAGODA (Chua Tra Phuong) Official name: Thien Phu Tu. Small pagoda located in native village of Kings Mac (XVIth century). Architectural composition in the form of a reserved T (Chinese character Dinh). There are statues of the King founder Mac Dang Dung and his wife. On the main altar is a stone stele (of 0m76 high, 0m53 large) with in high relief a sculpture representing Queen Nguyen Thi Ngoc Toan (0m55 high) with very nice features in sitting position for meditation. On the right of the front compartment, there is a statue in round hump of Mac Dang Dung (0m75 high) made of limestone, in sitting position for meditation, with royal dress decorated of sparrows.
TRAM GIAN PAGODA (Chua Tram Gian) (100 compartments pagoda) or Chua So. Official name: Quang Nghiem tu. In Thien Son village (Hoai Duc district, Ha Tay). Built on a hill of some 50 meters high (Ma Son range). Surrounded by secular trees especially pine trees of several centennials. Built by the friar Nguyen Nu (popular name: Duc Thanh Boi, the Saint Boi, native of Boi Khe village, Thanh Oai, under the Tran dynasty (1225-1400). Destroyed by the Ming invaders in XVth century. Only two stone dragons on the perron are left from the Tran. The reconstruction dated back to the Le (XVII - XVIIIth centuries) dynasty in Restoration time. On the slope is a bell tower with two floors and eight roof (bell cast in 1794 engraved with a text from Historian Phan Huy Ich). There are here a big drum (in diameter) and a large bronze resonant plate (1m2 long, 0m60 high) cast in 1749. If the space between 4 columns is considered a compartment, then the pagoda has 104 compartments. There are 104 statues generally made of wood among them that of Marshall Dang Tien Dong, a Tay Son officer who participated in the offensive for the liberation of Thang Long (Hanoi) in 1789. The two corridors shelter two series of high reliefs on lacquered wood: 18 arhats (La Han) and 10 Kings of the Hell (Diem Vuong).
TRAM PAGODA (Chua Tram) Official name: Vo Vi tu (Vo Vi pagoda) founded by Dai Si (Bodhisattva) Vo Vi of the Tran dynasty (1225-1400). In Phung Chem village (Hoai Duc district, Ha Tay). According to the Annals, a King of the Le built a Palace (as resting place during a trip) on Tu Tram Mountain. People dug a canal at the foot of the mountain to facilitate transportation. According to popular beliefs, there are on the mountain two rocks: the male one (da duong) which announces good weather, the female one (da am) forecasts rain, all by their sounds. The pagoda is built on top of a grotto. A reconstruction took place in 1696 (48 new stone statues). Present constructions dated back to 1913.
TRAN QUOC PAGODA (Chua Tran Quoc) On the bank of West Lake (Hanoi). According to the legend, the pagoda was built on the bank of Red River in time of King Ly Nam De (544-548). The name Tran Quoc was given in 1615, under Le Thanh Tong. In the same year, to avoid crumblings, it was transferred to the islet, Kim Ngu on West Lake which was linked to the Co Ngu dyke (XVth-XVIIth centuries). People preserve in the pagoda 14 stone steles (among them that of First Doctor Nguyen Xuan Chinh in 1639 and that of Doctor Pham Quy Thich in 1815). In XVIIIth century, the Lords Trinh had transformed the pagoda into a palace for their stop overs. In present state: compartments of rituals and ceremonies before the main altar, in the back are other houses of cult and bell tower. Some statues are of great artistic value, especially that of Sakyamuni entering Nirvana.
VINH NGHIEM PAGOA (Chua Vinh Nghiem). In Duc La village (Lang Giang district, ancient Bac Giang). Built under Ly Thai To (1010-1028), becoming a center of dhyanist sect (Thien) of Truc Lam. King Tran Nhan Tong joined the religion here (1293), and became the first Patriarch of the sect. Friars Phap Loa and Huyen Quang, his successors, also stayed here. In Ho Chi Minh City, there is also another Vinh Nghiem Pagoda, 339 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Avenue, which, though of recent construction, carries traditional features. It is equipped with a tower of 40m high, 7 roofs, with 9 decorative patterns (wheels and clouds) on the top.
QUYNH LAM PAGODA In Trang An village (Dong Trieu district, ancient Hai Duong, present Quang Ninh). Founded by friar Khong Lo under the Ly (1010-1225). In 1317, friar Phap Loa, second patriarch of dhyanist sect (Thien) of Truc Lam came to practice his asceticism. He created the study room of Quynh Lam Vien, home for the training of monks. There was at the time 5000 volumes of Tripitaka (Dai Tang). At each explanation session participated 600 to 1000 religious. The Tich Quang stone tower (1727) at the pagoda gate is a tribute to friar Chau Nguyen who lived in this monastery at the end of the Le dynasty (XVIIIth century). In the middle of XIX century, big repairs had made of this temple an imposing pagoda which should later fall ruins because of fire and war. Only the garden of steles at the entry and stone vestiges are left.
Source: Vietnamese Studies No 2 - 1993, Hanoi, Vietnam
Computer typesetting: Lydia Quang Nhu