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Temples in Vietnam
Located in Ha Tay province, 70 km southwest of Ha Noi, Chùa Hương (Perfume Pagoda) is one of the most popular religious sites in Vietnam. Chua Huong is the name of a cluster of temple sites in the mountain area of Huong Son in the province of Ha Tay. Chua Huong is famous for the annual pilgrim site of Buddhists. Yearly, between the first and the third lunar month of the year (February to March), just after the Tết festival (Lunar New Year), the Perfume Pagoda Festival (Hoi Chua Huong) attracts from all over the country. The festival is also a well-known site in the Vietnamese literature attracting poets and painters and a meeting place for young couples. The festival period is the busiest time. At the other time of the year, most of visitors are foreign and local tourists.
There are several sites to visit at the Perfume Pagoda's area: Thiên Trù pagoda, Hinh Bồng pagoda, Giải Oan pagoda, Hương Tích cave, Trình temple, Thanh Sơn Pagoda, Long Vân, Cây Khế, Tuyết Sơn and Mẫu Mẹ temple. Most of the tours take exemplary the Trình temple, the Thiên Trù pagoda and the Hương Tích cave.
The visit of Chua Huong it is normally a day trip from Ha Noi. First it takes an approximately 2 hour drive from Ha Noi to Ben Duc pier. Although there is a road from the pier to the base of pagoda complex, using row boats on Yen Vi river which (ca 55000 Dong) is the more romantic and scenic alternative to reach Chua Huong. The 45 minute boat ride on the Yen River is for some visitors the highlight of the trip.
The first stop of the boat trip will be Den Trinh (Registration Shrine), symbolically, in former time, all visitors to Chua Huong should first "trinh" or register at the shrine to announce their intentions. The boat will arrive next at Thien Tru temple (heavenly kitchen), which is kind of “Outer Temple”, built in the 18th century. Thien Tru temple is embedded within hills and mountains. The rock formations in this area is also called “heavenly kitchen” as they – with some imagination - look like cooks working. Thien Tru temple is renowned for the Thuy Tien tower, a monolith of granite. To the right of Thien Tru temple is Tien Son grotto, famous for the five granite statues and the various formations on the walls of the cave. When you struck one of the formations, it sounds like a “khanh”, a Vietnamese percussion; some other sound like bells.
The visit continues to Dong Huong Tich (Huong Tich Cave or Inner Temple). The very scenic path leading to Dong Huong Tich has an endless number of steps, along narrow and bumpy stairs.. In recent years, a cable car system was built, offering an alternative to not-so-sportive visitors (30000 Dong one-way ticket, an energy saving option is to go up by cable car and walk down). According to a legend, the Huong Tich grotto was discovered 2000 years ago. The inscription "Nam Thien De Nhat Dong" (by Trịnh Sâm, 1767 – 1782, ruler of Northern Viet Nam) at the granite slab at the entrance means "the most beautiful grotto under southern sky". The grotto, which serves also religious events, has several colorful stalagmites and stalactites.
Bai Dinh Temple
Bai Dinh Pagoda is a religious complex covering a total area of 539 hectare, with both the ancient and the newly renovated Bai Dinh pagoda, parks, car parking and lake system.
The old Bai Dinh pagoda is located on the western slope of Dinh mountain and nestles in quiet forest. The pagoda houses an ancestor-worshipping house in the centre, Bright cave on the right hand side which worships the Buddha, the small temple worshipping Genie Cao Son .In addition, on the left hand side of the pagoda is another temple worshipping Saint Nguyen and next to it is Dark cave which worships the Fairy. With fanciful scenery and quiet atmosphere, the pagoda will make visitors feel likely to live in fairy land and they find peace in their minds.
Besides, visitors can explore many other grottoes and caves like Fairy cave with seven smaller ones or cave of Ba Chua Thuong Ngan( The goddess of forests). In these caves and grottoes, there are a large variety of magnificent stalactites and stalagmites with various strange shapes and sizes that will invoke the imagination of visitors
On the other side of Dinh Moutain is new Bai Dinh pagoda. This pagoda has been built since 2003 and covers a 80 ha area. The Bai Dinh pagoda possesses many parts such as Tam The Temple, Phap chu Temple, Quan Am temple (Bodhisattva Temple), Bao Thap, Bell Tower and dormitory area for Buddhist monks.
All materials are collected from local area and neighbouring provinces. To build the pagoda requires about five hundred craftsmen and many groups of workers from famous traditional craft villages such as Phu Loc wood making village, Ninh Van stone carving village Y Yen bronze casting village, Van Lam embroidery village and so on. Such people used Vietnamese materials for instance, green stone of Ninh Binh or ceramic tiles of Bat Trang to create Vietnamese features for the architecture of Bai Dinh pagoda
The most important emphasizing point of these great religion works are Tam the Temple and Phap Chu Temple. Two temples cover a total area of 1,000 square meters. The height of Phap Chu Temple is up to 22m and it contains five partitions. In the centre of this temple is a bronze Buddha Sykamuni statue with 10 meters high and 100 tons heavy which is certificated as the biggest statue in Vietnam. This statue is casted by the pure bronze bought from Russian, casted and installed by the famous artisans of casting bronze statue in Y Yen, Nam Dinh. Moreover, there are several national records in this temple such as three largest horizontal lacquered boards (hoanh phi) and three biggest "Cua Vong" ( a kind of door which is sophisticatedly sculpted and engraved ) .In Tam The Temple , there are three Tam The statues representing the past, the present and the future. Each statue is 12 m high and weighs 100 tons.
Another special feature in Bai Dinh pagoda is "Great Bell" with the weight of 36 tons was casted and located in Bell Tower. In addition, there is 70 -ton bronze drum on the floor of the Tower. What's more, coming to Bai Dinh pagoda, visitors have a chance to see the biggest Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva statue in Bodhissattva Temple. This statue looks so marvellous with thousand hands and eyes to present the protection and universal salvation for common people
Furthermore, visitors will be astonished at the collection of 500 Arahat statues on the hill on the right - hand side of Phap Chu Temple. The 500 Arhat statues with the height of 2.3m, carved by Ninh Binh stone have different positions and gestures that create magic space and lively atmosphere
Without a doubt, Bai Dinh pagoda is masterpiece of both nature and men and it is the pride of Vietnamese people in terms of unique architecture, culture and historical value.
Thien Mu Pagoda Hue
Lord Nguyen Hoang, the ancestor of the Nguyen dynasty, erected this Buddhist monastery in 1601. Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue was renovated in 1844 under King ThieuTri's sovereignty. As the legend has it, the people around the area used to see a vision of an old lady sitting on this small hill. The old lady dressed in a red long dress and green trousers claimed that this place belonged to the supernatural power and that someday a great leader would build a pagoda at this site to bring peace to the country. After saying that, the lady disappeared in the cloud. As the story of this heavenly lady traveled, Lord Nguyen Hoang upon hearing the story, ordered the construction of the pagoda here in 1601 and named it Chua Thien Mu - Heavenly Lady Pagoda.
The Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue is also known as the pagoda of the old celestial goddess. The phrase 'Thein Mu' translates to mean a fairy woman. The pagoda overlooks the southwest bank of the Perfume River and panoramic views beyond. Although, the 21-meter tall tower is the centerpiece of the temple, a 2000-kilogram bell cast in 1710 and a steal from 1715 displayed in the temple are other prime attractions of the temple.
The Thien Mu Pagoda or the Heavenly Lady pagoda has two sections. The front of the Pagoda houses the Phuoc Duyen tower, visible from various points in the city and can be accessed from the Perfume River. The 2000-kilogram bell cast in 1710 is also present in this area of the temple along with the tortoise bearing a great stele carved in 1715.
The other section of the pagoda is its rear portion, which houses the main hall where Buddha is enshrined. It is in this area that the monks of the temple live and practice Buddhism. The Pagoda was the center of Buddhism in central Vietnam. In 1963, in an act of defiance against the Diem regime, Thich Quang Duc torched himself in downtown Saigon. Today, the pagoda visitors can see the car that took him to Saigon kept in the rear of Thien Mu Pagoda.
Vinh Nghiem Temple, Ho Chi Minh City
Vinh Nghiem Temple in Ho Chi Minh City is the most spectacular of all the Buddhist temples. Located in South Vietnam, the famous Vinh Nghiem Temple dates back to 1971. Its construction was based on the design planned by Mr. Nguyen Ba Lang and associates.
Like any other Buddhist temples in the city, Vinh Nghiem besides being a popular tourist destination, is also frequently visited by the local people for their weekly worship. This active pagoda, standing in the northern part of the city on the way to the airport, is popular for its association with the attached school and also for the daily activities of the monks and nuns residing in it.
- The huge slanting Chinese-style roofs, upturned cornices are some of the distinguishing features of Vinh Nghiem Temple.
- The seven-story pagoda or the Avalokitesvara Stupa, standing at the left of the upper courtyard, is the largest of all the Buddhist structures in Vietnam. The ancient Asian architectural style of the Vinh Nghiem Pagoda is worth mentioning. This pagoda was constructed between 1964 and 1973 with the funds provided by the Buddhist of the Truc Lam Zen sect who belong to Bac Giang province of Vietnam.
- A huge bell contributed to the temple authority by Japanese Buddhist Sangha, hangs right next to the giant seven-story tower.
- The ground floor of this famous temple houses a library, the auditorium and offices.
- The second floor of the temple with its grand sanctuary remains closed for the visitors very often.
When you are on a trip to Ho Chi Minh City, don't miss the majestic Vinh Nghiem Temple.