This article is submitted by guest writer: Nga Vu – Second year candidate for Master of Science in Energy System Engineering program at University of Michigan. It is in no means to promote or condemn the religion and/or teachings of Buddhism.
Vietnamese architecture expresses a graceful aesthetic of natural balance and harmony that is evident in any of the country’s vast numbers of historic temples and monasteries. The pre-eminent architectural form is the pagoda, a tower comprised of a series of stepped pyramidal structures and frequently adorned with lavish carvings and painted ornamentation. Generally speaking, the pagoda form symbolizes the human desire to bridge the gap between the constraints of earthly existence and the perfection of heavenly forces. Pagodas are found in every province of Vietnam. Vietnam has long been a predominantly Buddhist country. In fact, it was one of the first places outside India to become a center for Buddhism. Like wise, the large community temples in Vietnam are also part of everyday life both in large cities and small villages. Following is a list of some popular temples/pagodas in Vietnam:
Chùa Dâu (Hà Bac): Dâu pagoda is in Thuan Thanh district, Bac Ninh. It is about 30km away from Hanoi. Chau Dau is comprised of Phap Van, Phap Vu, Phap Loi, and Phap Dien to contain the word four Phap. The pagoda is at the centre of the prominent historical and cultural sites in northern Bac Ninh Province: the Luy Lau ancient citadel, Si Nhiep temple, and a system of pagodas, temples, villas, roads, markets, tombs, brick and pottery kilns. It is built on the site of an important 3rd century Buddhist centre, Dâu Pagoda in its present form was constructed by M?c Ð?nh Chi during the 14th century and underwent numerous renovations during the following centuries. It incorporates the three-storey, 17-metre high Hòa Phong Tower, which houses a large bronze bell cast in 1793, a bronze gong cast during the 18th year of the reign of Nguyen king Minh Mang (1817) and various Buddhist statues.
Dau Pagoda Festival takes place every year on April 8th following Lunar calendar in celebration of Buddha Man Nuong form of lower female children. This is one of the Buddhist festivals of the delta region and Northern area of Vietnam.
Chùa Côn Son (Hai Hung): Con Son Pagoda, also known as Hun Pagoda or Thien Tu Phuc Monastery, is located in Cong Hoa Commune, Chi Linh District in the northern province of Hai Duong. It was built in the 13th century and repaired and expanded with more intricate features in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The pagoda which has undergone several restorations during recent years, has 83 rooms with 385 statues; some of which are two to three meters tall. The first statue to come into sight is the 3 meters high Amida statue, on a large pedestal in the pagoda. Behind the pagoda and separated by a small yard in an ancestor house are statues of Truc Lam (Bamboo Forest) three ancestors (Tran Nhan Tong – Phap Lao – Huyen Quang) and Tran Nguyen Dan and his wife. In addition, other two statues have just been identified as the statues of the great national hero Nguyen Trai and his concubine Nguyen Thi Lo.
Chùa Keo (Thái Bình): Keo temple is a temple in Vu Thu District, Thai Binh Province, Vietnam. The temple was constructed in 1061 under the Lý Dynasty near the Red River. It was built in 1067 and has been upgraded many times. Keo pagoda is well-known for its annual Autumn festival which attracted about 30,000 visitors each year. Legend has it that a humble fisherman in the 11th century achieved enlightenment as a Buddhist monk and could thereby fly through the air, walk on water and tame snakes and tigers. The holy man Duong Khong Lo (1016-1094) secured his name firmly in his country’s history books when he used his gift to save the life of the ailing King Ly Nhan Tong (1066-1127). Over 900 years later, residents of Thai Binh Province’s Vu Thu District still honor the Buddhist hero with a festival as mystical as the legend it recognizes.
Chùa Tran Quoc (Hà Noi): Tran Quoc Pagoda is the oldest of all pagodas in Hanoi. It is located on a small peninsula on the eastern bank of Ho Tay, the West Lake of Hanoi. It is said that, the pagoda was built under the reign of King Ly Nam De (544-548) under its original name of Khai Quoc (National Founder) on the bank of the Red River. In the 17th century, Khai Quoc Pagoda was moved to its present side and was renamed Chua Tran Quoc. Historian learned all this from a stele found on the premises which dates back to 1639.
Chùa Mot Cot ( One Pillar Temple): To the right of the Ho Chi Minh Museum is the unique One-Pillar Pagoda (Chu?a Mô?t Cô?t), a wooden structure built in 1049 that sits on stilts over a lake. King Ly Thai Thong had it built after having a dream in which Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, the goddess of mercy, presented him with a lotus flower. The existing pagoda is a miniature reproduction of the original, which was said to represent a lotus emerging from the water.
Chua Huong (Perfume Pagoda): Perfume Pagoda is 75 km south of Hanoi, Hatay province. This is the biggest pagoda complex, where it hosts the longest festival in Viet Nam (first three months of the Lunar Year). On your trip to Chua Huong, you will have a chance to enjoy the marvelous sceneries combined between mountains and river streams. It comprises a complex of pagodas and Buddhist shrines built into the limestone cliffs of Perfume Mount (Huong Son), scattering alongside the mountain up to its peak. The complex’s center is right inside Huong Tich cavern (or in other words, Inside Pagoda).
Chùa Thiên Mu (Thua Thiên – Hue): Thiên Mu pagoda sits on the northern bank of the Perfume River, around 3 km from the Citadel of Hue. The temple was built in 1601 in the order of Nguyen Hoang, the head of the Nguyen Lords. Its stupa, Phuoc Duyen tower, has seven stories and is the tallest in Vietnam. The pagoda’s name comes from a legend: Long time ago, an old woman appeared on the hill where the pagoda stands today. She told local people that a Lord would come and build a Buddhist pagoda for the country’s prosperity. Lord Nguyen Hoang, on hearing that, ordered the construction of the pagoda of the “Heavenly Lady”.
Chùa Giác Lâm (TP.HCM): is a historic Buddhist pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam. It is one of the oldest temples in the city and a National historical site. It was built by Lý Thuy Long, a native of Minh Huong, in the spring of 1744 during the reign of Nguyen Phúc Khoát of the Nguyen Lords.
Chùa Xá Loi (TP.HCM): is the largest pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was built in 1956 and was the headquarters of Buddhism in South Vietnam. The pagoda is most well-known abroad for the Xa Loi Pagoda raids, in which the Army of the Republic of Vietnam Special Forces loyal to Ngo Dinh Nhu, the brother of the Catholic President Ngo Dinh Diem, raided and vandalised the pagodas on August 21, 1963. The name “Xa Loi” is the Vietnamese translation for “sarira”, a term used for relics of Buddhists. The bell tower of Xa Loi Pagoda was opened in 1961. The tower stands 32 m, has seven stories, and is the highest bell tower in Vietnam. On the highest level, there is a bell weighing two tons, which was cast in the model of the bell of Thien Mu Pagoda.
Chùa Vinh Nghiêm (TP.HCM): is a pagoda in an area of 6,000 m² at 339, Nam Ky Khoi Nghia street, Ward 7, District 3 Ho Chi Minh City. This is the first pagoda in Vietnam to be built in Vietnamese traditional architecture style but with concrete The highest structure in this pagoda is the 7-story, 40m-high tower. This pagoda houses and worship one buddha and two bodhisattvas. The model and namesake of the pagoda was the 11th century Vinh Nghiem Buddhist temple in Duc La Village, Trí Yên Commune, Tang Giang County, Bac Giang Province, which dates the reign of Lý Thái To during the Lý Dynasty.