The six famous unique pagodas in Vietnam

The six famous unique pagodas in Vietnam

Hanoi Thua Thien Hue Da Nang - Quang Nam Dong Thap - An Giang 15.07.2021

These six pagodas in Vietnam not only have unique architecture, but they also attract tourists thanks to their sacredness and mysterious anecdotes.

Translated by nguyendo

Written by giangdt

Dong Pagoda - Yen Tu

Yen Tu is known as one of the main Buddhist centers of Vietnam with many ancient works which were mainly built during the Tran dynasty, including the famous Dong Pagoda as one of them. The Pagoda is located on the peak of Yen Tu range at an altitude of 1,068m and is also known as Thien Truc Tu (The Pagoda for Buddhism). The pagoda is recognized by the Vietnam Record Book Center as the largest bronze pagoda at the highest altitude in Vietnam. Tourists often come here to pray for peace and visit its campus in the spring.

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The most unique pagoda in Vietnam as it is made of bronze. Photo: ahalong.com

Legend has it that a concubine of Lord Trinh asked to cast Dong Pagoda in the late Le Dynasty (17th century). While common pagodas at that time were built of wood, the Dong Pagoda was made entirely of bronze. Initially, it was too small for a person to get through. Over the years, the pagoda was recast many times, particularly in 1740 and 1930. In 1933, a man named Nguyen Son Nam (an overseas Vietnamese in the US) and overseas Buddhists recast the new pagoda with the architecture in the shape of the letter “Dinh”, which is also the characteristic of pagoda architecture in Vietnam. In 2006, Dong Pagoda was cast based on the design of architect Tran Quoc Tuan. The expenses to build the pagoda were funded from the contribution of people from all over the country and abroad. On January 30, 2007, the construction of Dong Pagoda was completed with the present appearance.

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Dong Pagoda weighs up to 70 tons. Photo: phatgiao.org.vn

Dong pagoda was cast according to the prototype of Dau pagoda in Thuan Thanh district, Bac Ninh province. The pagoda is 4.6m long and 3.6m wide, while the height from the foundation to the roof is 3.35m with a weight of 70 tons. The patterns and motifs feature the style of the Tran dynasty. All of the crossbars and longitudinal girders are cast in the majestic and unique shape of a dragon's head, and the four roofs of the pagoda are shaped like a blooming lotus. On both sides of the pagoda, there are bell racks, while behind the pagoda lies a house for the monks who take care of the pagoda. As Dong pagoda is located on the peak of Yen Tu mountain, in addition to offering incense and worshiping Buddha, visitors can also enjoy the majestic mountain scenery here.

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A beautiful view from Yen Tu peak. Photo: innotour

Bai Dinh Pagoda - Ninh Binh

Bai Dinh Pagoda is located in Gia Sinh commune, Gia Vien district, Ninh Binh province - in the complex of Trang An - Ninh Binh relics. The pagoda features traditional architecture with a lot of areas, including the ancient Bai Dinh pagoda, the new Bai Dinh pagoda, Buddhist academies, and surrounding parks.

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The complex of Bai Dinh pagoda. Photo: Vietnam Booking

The current Bai Dinh pagoda complex covers an area of 539 hectares, including 27 hectares of the ancient Bai Dinh pagoda area (with a history dating back to the Dinh Dynasty) and 80 hectares of the new pagoda built in 2003. Surrounding the pagoda are tall and massive limestone mountains, which form a majestic and dignified scene. With the current scale, Bai Dinh pagoda is considered to be one of the biggest pagodas in Vietnam.

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Bai Dinh pagoda complex seen from above. Photo: dulichninhbinh

Bai Dinh Pagoda stands out with the typical block architecture of Vietnam. The construction of the pagoda utilized local materials such as Ninh Binh natural stone, Tu Thiet wood and Bat Trang tile. The works are built on terrain from low to high with a total of 5 levels along the main road, namely Tam Quan Noi, Bell Tower, Bodhisattva Shrine, Phap Chu Shrine, and Tam The Shrine on the peak.

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The largest gilded bronze Buddha statue in Asia. Photo: cattour

The statue of Shakyamuni Buddha sitting on a lotus in the main hall of the Phap Chu Shrine has been set a record by the Asian Record Center as the largest gilded bronze Buddha statue in Asia. The statue has a height of 10m, a weight of 100 tons of pure gold-plated copper, and is placed on a 1.5m high pedestal.

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The largest bronze Maitreya Buddha statue in Southeast Asia. Photo: toplist

Bai Dinh pagoda also has the largest bronze Maitreya Buddha statue in Southeast Asia, which is placed in the shrine of Tam The Phat. The statue weighs 80 tons and is 10m high, attracting many tourists to come here to admire, pilgrimage and worship.

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The tallest stupa in Southeast Asia. Photo: viettourist

Another place visitors should not miss when coming to Bai Dinh pagoda complex is the stupa, which is located to the west of Tam The Shrine. Xa Loi is known as the tallest stupa in Southeast Asia with 13 floors, a hexagonal circumference of 24m, and a height of 99m. The architecture of the stupa features the characteristics of Buddhism in the Ly Dynasty. The top floor of the stupa is the place to preserve and worship the relics of the Buddha brought back from India.

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The heaviest bronze bell in Vietnam. Photo: dantri

The pagoda's bell tower also attracts a lot of visitors as it has the heaviest bronze bell in Vietnam. The bell is nearly 7m high and weighs up to 36 tons. The bell body is carved with Chinese characters and a sophisticated flying dragon.

Bai Dinh Pagoda also has other records such as: the longest Arhat Corridor in Asia, the largest Jade Well in Vietnam, and the largest number of Bodhi trees in Vietnam.

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The longest Arhat Corridor in Asia. Photo: HTCamera

Linh Ung Bai But Pagoda - Da Nang

Linh Ung Bai But Pagoda is located on Son Tra peninsula, Son Tra district, Da Nang city. This is the largest pagoda in Da Nang city with an area of more than 20 hectares. Venerable Thich Thien Nguyen is currently the abbot of the pagoda.

Legend has it that, during the reign of King Minh Mang (19th century), there was a Buddha statue drifting on the beach here. Fishermen discovered it, considered it a good omen and then set up a shrine. Since then, people have been living peacefully thanks to the good weather. Therefore, the beach where the Buddha statue was found was named “Bai But'' (Buddha Beach), and this is also the location of Linh Ung Bai But pagoda today.

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18 Arhats are arranged in 2 rows, leading to the main hall of the pagoda. Photo: Flynow

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The main hall of the pagoda. Photo: Wikipedia

The pagoda was constructed in 2004 and completed in 2010. Linh Ung Bai But Pagoda includes many massive works such as: Main Hall, Hau To, Sangha Area, Lecture Hall, Guest House, Phuong Truong, Library, Statue of Bodhisattva, Xa Loi stupa, Buddha statue of Nirvana, etc. Some small works which can be listed are Lumbini and Loc Uyen Garden. Right from the entrance of Tam Quan, you will be impressed by 18 majestic Arhats lined up in 2 rows leading to the main hall. The main hall is majestic with a statue of Buddha Shakyamuni in the middle; on the right is a statue of Bodhisattva; and on the left are statues of the Bodhisattva Earth Store and Four Heavenly Kings.

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The largest statue of Bodhisattva in Southeast Asia. Photo: taidanang

The highlight of Linh Ung Bai But pagoda is the statue of Bodhisattva, which is considered the largest in Southeast Asia. The 65m-high statue leans back on Son Tra mountain and faces the sea. While one hand of the statue holds a vase, the other hand performs a mudra. For the fishermen catching fish on the sea, whenever they look at the mainland, they will immediately see the Buddha statue, which lifts up their spirits.

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From Linh Ung Bai But Pagoda, visitors can see Da Nang Bay with turquoise water. Photo: godidigo

From Linh Ung Bai But Pagoda, you can see not only Da Nang Bay with turquoise water and a part of Son Tra peninsula, but also Ngu Hanh Son and Cu Lao Cham from a distance. In the evening, from the pagoda gate, you can admire the panoramic view of Da Nang city with countless sparkling electric lights.

Thien Mu Pagoda - Hue

Thien Mu, also known as Linh Mu, is a pagoda located on Ha Khe hill, on the left bank of the Huong River, about 5km west from Hue city center. This is a familiar destination for many tourists coming to Hue.

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The pagoda is located on the left bank of the Huong River. Photo: timchuyenbay

Thien Mu is the first pagoda to be built in Hue in 1601. According to historical documents, when Lord Nguyen Hoang came to Thuan Hoa province to examine the terrain to prepare for the battle strategies, he came across a small hill named Ha Khe when riding a horse along the Huong River. Realizing that this place looked like a dragon turning its head, the Lord built a pagoda facing the river and named it Thien Mu. In 1862, King Tu Duc changed his name to Linh Mu as he was afraid that Thien (meaning Heaven) would offend Gods. It was not until 1869 that King Tu Duc allowed people to reuse the previous name “Thien Mu”. Therefore, today people still call the pagoda by both names “Thien Mu” and “Linh Mu”.

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The campus of the pagoda. Photo: mytour

Visiting the pagoda, you will be able to admire many large-scale complexes inside such as Thien Vuong Palace, Dai Hung Palace, Lecture Hall, Tang Kinh Library, etc. All of these works are located on a rectangular hill in the direction of the North and South, surrounded by an extremely solid stone wall. The most prominent work here is Phuoc Duyen tower (also known as Phuoc Duyen Buu Thap) which was built in 1844. The tower has an octagonal shape with seven floors (the floors get smaller as they go up), each of which worships a different Buddha. The tower has a spiral staircase leading to the top floor. Only the sixth and seventh floors have wooden stairs.

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Phuoc Duyen Tower, also known as Phuoc Duyen Buu Thap, was built in 1844. Photo: Cattour.vn

Due to an ancient beauty, coupled with a dreamy natural scenery, Emperor Thieu Tri composed a poem called "Thien Mu Chung Thanh" for this pagoda. The poem is carved on a stone stele near the gate of the pagoda.

One Pillar Pagoda - Hanoi

One Pillar Pagoda has many alternative names, such as Dien Huu Tu or Lien Hoa Dai. The highlight of this pagoda is its unique architecture - an altar placed on a single pillar - which makes it one of the must-visit attractions in Hanoi.

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The unique architecture of One Pillar Pagoda. Photo: Huongphucan.vn

Legend has it, the One Pillar Pagoda was built based on the dream of King Ly Thai Tong (1028-1054) and the recommendations of the monk Thien Tue. In 1049, the king dreamed that the Guanyin Buddha led him to the lotus. After that, the king told this story to the courtiers, then he was advised by the monk Thien Tue to build a pagoda based on the shape of the lotus of Guanyin Buddha. After the pagoda’s construction, the monks went around it and chanted sutras to pray for luck. That is why the pagoda was named Dien Huu (long-lasting blessing).

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One Pillar Pagoda in 1896. Photo: Firmin André Salles

The original One Pillar Pagoda was constructed at the end of 1049 and completed in 1105 under the reign of King Ly Thanh Tong. After that, the pagoda was repaired many times. In 1954, it was destroyed by the French, but then was rebuilt in 1955 by architect Nguyen Ba Lang based on the design from the Nguyen Dynasty.

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Due to its uniqueness, One Pillar Pagoda was recognized by the Asian Record Organization as "The pagoda with the most unique architecture in Asia" in 2012. Photo: phathocdoisong

In terms of architecture, the One Pillar Pagoda is based on the shape of a square lotus. Each wooden side is 3 meters long with four curved roofs and two dragons adoring the moon. At the center of the pagoda, there is a statue of Guanyin Bodhisattva sitting on a giant wooden lotus, which is painted vermilion. The pagoda is located on a lake, and a lot of lotus are planted here, representing the purity. Due to its uniqueness, One Pillar Pagoda was recognized by the Asian Record Organization as "The pagoda with the most unique architecture in Asia" in 2012.

Phuoc Dien Pagoda - An Giang

An Giang is known as a "sacred land" with ancient and majestic pagodas imbued with many traditional values of architecture and folklore. Phuoc Dien is one of the pagodas that attracts many visitors coming to sightsee and pray for luck.

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Phuoc Dien is also known as Hang Pagoda. Photo: Wikipedia

Phuoc Dien, also known as Hang Pagoda, is located on a slope of Sam mountain, Chau Doc city, An Giang province. “Phuoc” means “blessing”, while “Dien” means “land”. The name “Phuoc Dien” can simply be understood as “the land bringing blessings”.

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Phuoc Dien Pagoda is associated with a mysterious legend. Photo: thamhiememkong

Legend has it that the pagoda was constructed around 1840 - 1850. Initially, it was just a small pagoda made from bamboo and leaves, which was built by Mrs. Le Thi Tho (1818 - 1899) as a place for her to lead a religious life. Mrs. Le Thi Tho (religious name Dieu Thien) was a tailor in Cho Lon. Previously, Mrs. Tho had a family, but as her husband was so strict, she moved to Sam mountain to lead a religious life at Tay An pagoda. After a while, in 1850, she left Tay An to find a more peaceful place as she dreamed of. On the way, she found a cave about 1km from Tay An pagoda and set up a small pagoda - which was the origin of Phuoc Dien pagoda. In 1885, due to the admiration of nun Dieu Thien's virtue, Mr. Phan Thong (Nguyen Ngoc Cang) in Chau Doc and the people in the region used their own money to rebuild the pagoda using precious wood, bricks and tiles. In 1937, the pagoda was upgraded for the second time.

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The stair leading to the pagoda. Photo: Thai Bung Bu

The scene of the pagoda is both charming and sacred. From the gate, you can follow a stone stair (with a length of 300m) to reach the pagoda. Phuoc Dien pagoda has a width of 11m and a length of 10m. It was built of materials such as natural stones, cement, and reinforced concrete columns. Inside the pagoda, there are many horizontal lacquered boards and parallels which are exquisitely carved. In front of the pagoda, there is a flagpole with a height of more than 20m. On the pagoda stair, there are a couple of cement lion statues. The unique feature of the pagoda is also reflected in the type of outdoor bridge next to the mountain with steep and dangerous cliffs. The pagoda was built next to these cliffs, which makes it like a giant bas-relief which is carved meticulously.

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The outdoor bridge next to the mountain. Photo: thamhiememkong

This pagoda is more than one hundred years old today. From the pagoda, you can have an extremely open view with a quiet and solemn atmosphere.

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An extremely open view with a quiet and solemn atmosphere. Photo: Vietnam Tourism

Vietnam not only has beautiful beaches, islands and nature that “steal people's hearts'', but it also leaves a strong impression on visitors by the folklore, religion and unique works. The above-mentioned pagodas will definitely surprise you.

References: Innotour, Danangfantasticity, Thamhiemmekong