Buddhist temples in Hue, Vietnam

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Vietnam Backpack Travel Guide – Buddhist temples in Hue have long been an important part of the city’s consciousness. The city was founded during the Nam tien southward expansion of Vietnam in the 16th century and Buddhism was introduced to the lands of the former territory of Champa, which was Hindu. The ruling Nguyen lords were noted for their patronization of Buddhist temples in the city, something that continued during the Nguyen Dynasty that unified modern Vietnam. Hue was long regarded as a centre of Buddhist scholarship and consciousness in Vietnam, and in 1963, the temples of the city were at the centre of international attention when they were at the heart of the beginning of the Buddhist crisis, a series of protests against President Ngo Dinh Diem’s religious discrimination. The temples were the base of Buddhist protests and government attacks, the result of which was a political crisis that precipitated a military coup that saw the deposal of Diem.

Buddhist temples in Hue (Photo – Mark Turner)

©Bản quyền hình ảnh : Trong bài viết có sử dụng một số hình ảnh được tìm kiếm thông qua công cụ Google Image của các tác giả kimdokhac, Mark Turner, Sơn Trung, tamngu, Aeroflug, Break_away, architectp29photography, nguutonthat nhằm minh họa rõ hơn cho nội dung bài viết. Bản quyền những hình ảnh này thuộc về tác giả. Chính sách của Cùng Phượt về bản quyền hình ảnh các bạn có thể theo dõi tại đây.

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Thiên Mụ pagoda

Chùa Thiên Mụ (Ảnh – kimdokhac)

Built in 1601 on the order of the first Nguyễn lords, Nguyễn Hoàng, who at that time was the governor of Thuận Hóa (now known as Huế). The Nguyen Lords were in name, officials of the ruling Lê Dynasty in Hanoi, but was the de facto independent ruler of central Vietnam. According to the royal annals, Hoang while touring the vicinity, was told of the local legend in which an old lady, known as Thiên Mụ (literally “celestial lady”), dressed in red and blue sat at the site, rubbing her cheeks. She foretold that a lord would come and erect a pagoda on the hill to pray for the country’s prosperity. She then vanished after making her prophecy. Upon hearing this, Hoang ordered the construction of a temple at the site, thus the beginning of Thiên Mụ Tự.

In 1695, the Zen Master Thích Đại Sán, a member of the Tào Động sect, arrived from China. He had been invited to come to Huế as a guest of the Nguyễn Lords to start a Buddhist congregation and oversee its development. He was a noted Buddhist scholar of the Qing Dynasty and was patronised by the ruling Lord Nguyễn Phúc Chu and was appointed as the abbot of the pagoda. In the seventh month of 1696, he returned to China, but conferred bodhisattva vows on Chu.

In 1710, Chu funded the casting of a giant bell, which weighs 3285 kg, and was regarded as one of the most prized cultural relics of its time in Vietnam. The bell is said to be audible 10 km away and has been the subject of many poems and songs, including one by Emperor Thiệu Trị of the Nguyễn Dynasty who ruled in the 1840s.

In 1714, Chu oversaw another series of major expansions and construction projects, the largest expansion phase in the pagoda’s history. The main set of triple gates were erected, in addition to different shrines to the heavenly realms, the Jade Emperor, the Ten Kings, halls for preaching dharma, towers for storing sutras, bell towers, drum towers, meditation halls and halls to venerate Avalokiteshvara and the Medicine Buddha and living quarters for the sangha.

Chu also organised for the staging of the vassana retreat which occurs annually between the full moon of the fourth and the seventh lunar month. The tradition had been inaugurated in the time of Gautama Buddha in ancient India to coincide in the rainy season. During this time, monks would stay in one place and pursue their spiritual activities, rather than wandering around and expounding the dharma to the populace, since they were prone to step on living beings during this time due to the water covering their paths. He also organised an expedition to China to bring back copies of the Tripitaka Canon and the Mahayana sutras, which comprised more than one thousand volumes, and interred them in the pagoda.

During the 19th century, the pagoda was patronised by the emperors of the Nguyễn Dynasty, which was founded in 1802 by Emperor Gia Long after his unification of modern Vietnam. His successor Minh Mạng funded further expansion and renovation of the temple.

The stone turtle with a stele on its back
Emperor Thiệu Trị, who succeeded Minh Mạng, erected the Từ Nhân Tower in 1844, which is now known as the Phước Duyên tower. The brick tower stands 21 m and is of octagonal shape and has seven stories, each of which is dedicated to a different Buddha. The tower has stood there since, overlooking the Perfume River, and has become synonymous with the landscape of Huế and the Perfume River. Its impact is such that it has become the unofficial symbol of the city.

The temple also contains a statue of a large marble turtle, a symbol of longevity. Beside the tower on either side are structures that record the architectural history of the tower, as well as various poems composed by Thiệu Trị.

The pagoda and its buildings were severely damaged in a cyclone in 1904. Emperor Thanh Thai authorised reconstructions in 1907 and it has continued to the current day, although it was still substantially less grand and expansive as its halcyon days of the Nguyễn Dynasty before the storm. Today, a tourist facility is also present among the gardens and grounds of the temple, and a stupa has been erected in honour of Hòa Thượng Thích Ðôn Hậu, the abbot the pagoda during its resconstruction phase in the 20th century. His holy body is entombed in the stupa, which is a garden of pine trees.

In the main hall, there is a statue of Maitreya Buddha, flanked by Bồ Tát Văn Thù Sư Lợi and Bồ Tát Phổ Hiền.

During the summer of 1963, Thien Mu Pagoda, like many in South Vietnam, became a hotbed of anti-government protest. South Vietnam’s Buddhist majority had long been discontented with the rule of President Ngo Dinh Diem since his rise to power in 1955. Diem had shown strong favouritism towards Catholics and discrimination against Buddhists in the army, public service and distribution of government aid. In the countryside, Catholics were de facto exempt from performing corvée labour and in some rural areas, Catholic priests led private armies against Buddhist villages. Discontent with Diem exploded into mass protest in Huế during the summer of 1963 when nine Buddhists died at the hand of Diem’s army and police on Vesak, the birthday of Gautama Buddha. In May 1963, a law against the flying of religious flags was selectively invoked; the Buddhist flag was banned from display on Vesak while the Vatican flag was displayed to celebrate the anniversary of the consecration of Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc, Diem’s brother. The Buddhists defied the ban and a protest that began with a march starting from Từ Đàm Pagoda to the government broadcasting station was ended when government forces opened fire. As a result, Buddhist protests were held across the country and steadily grew in size, asking for the signing of a Joint Communique to end religious inequality. Thien Mu Pagoda was a major organising point for the Buddhist movement and was often the location of hunger strikes, barricades and protests.

In the early 1980s, a person was murdered near the pagoda and the site became the focal point of anti-communist protests, closing traffics around the Phú Xuân Bridge. The communist government responded by arresting monks on the charge of disturbing traffic flow and public order.

The temple also houses the Austin motor vehicle in which Thich Quang Duc was driven to his self-immolation in Saigon in 1963 against the Diem regime. It was the first of a series of self-immolations by members of the Buddhist clergy, which brought the plight of Buddhists to the attention of the international community.

Some photos about Thien Mu pagoda

Phuoc Duyen tower (Photo – tamngu)
Huong Nguyen temple (Photo – Sơn Trung)
Giant bell (Photo – Aeroflug)
The stone turtle with a stele on its back (Photo – Mark Turner)

Từ Đàm pagoda

Từ Đàm pagoda (Photo – Break_away)

The temple was built and opened under the direction of Zen master Thích Minh Hoằng, who was the 34th in the lineage of the Lâm Tế Zen lineage. The temple was built in the late 17th century under the rule of Emperor Lê Hy Tông, on Long Sơn hill. However, the area was then under the rule of the Nguyễn lords, who nominally declared their allegiance to the Lê Dynasty but in reality ran their own independent state, under Nguyễn Phúc Chu.

At the time, the temple was also known as the Ấn Tôn Temple. In the 18th century in 1703, the ruling Nguyễn Lord, Nguyễn Phúc Chu gave the title “Sắc Tứ Ấn Tôn Tự”. In 1841, Vietnam had been unified in its modern state by the Nguyễn Dynasty and Emperor Thiệu Trị ordered that the temple be renamed so that it did not conflict with his name.The temple was one of the three national pagodas in Huế during the Nguyễn Dynasty era.

Over the last 150 years, the temple has been one of the main spiritual facilities of Huế and the surrounding central region of Vietnam. Over the years, the temple has been renovated and expanded many times, under the direction of Thích Thiệt Vinh, Thích Minh Hoằng and Thích Đạo Trung. Under Thích Từ Vân, two major bells were cast and installed. In 1932, a nun, Thích Diệu Không, created a monastery for nuns. For a period the Association of Buddhist Studies of central Vietnam was based at the temple, during which time the main ceremonial hall was rebuilt.In 1939, Suzanne Karpelès, Secretary General of the Buddhist Studies Association of Phnom Penh in Cambodia, arranged for a bodhi tree offshoot to be taken from the original bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya under which Gautama Buddha achieved enlightenment, to be brought to the Từ Đàm pagoda. It was planted in the front yard of the temple, where it was grown up and become a permanent fixture.

In 1951, the temple was the venue for a meeting of 51 notable Buddhist monks from across Vietnam, representing six different groups, to create a unified nationwide Buddhist organisation for all of Vietnam. At this meeting Thích Tịnh Khiết was chosen to be the head of Buddhism in Vietnam. It was during this meeting that the internationally designed Buddhist flag was first flown on the grounds of the pagoda.As Decree No. 10 by Bảo Đại prohibited the use of the name “church” by any other religion aside from the Catholic Church, the body called itself the General Association of Buddhists. In 1961, the administration of the temple along with the Association for Buddhist Studies organised for the construction of the a variety of buildings to increase the amount of activities that were able to be hosted by the temple.

Báo Quốc pagoda

Báo Quốc pagoda (Photo – Internet)

Báo Quốc pagoda was built in 1670 by Zen master Thích Giác Phong, a Buddhist monk from China, and it was initially named Hàm Long Sơn Thiên Thọ Tự during the reign of Nguyễn Phúc Tần, one of the Nguyễn lords who ruled central Vietnam during the period. In 1747, Nguyễn Phúc Khoát, gave the temple a plaque with the name Sắc Tứ Báo Quốc Tự.

During the era of the Nguyễn Dynasty, which was founded in 1802 by Emperor Gia Long,the pagoda was frequently renovated and expanded. In 1808, Empress Hiếu Khương, wife of Gia Long, patronized various construction projects, that included the construction of a triple gate, the casting of a large bell and a gong. The named of the pagoda was changed to Chùa Thiên Thọ. The abbot who oversaw these changes was Zen master Thích Phổ Tịnh. In 1824, Emperor Minh Mạng, the son of Gia Long, visited the temple and changed its name to its present title. He held the imperial celebration for his 40th birthday at the temple in 1830.

Over the years, the temple began to decay, and in 1858, a series of renovation efforts began under Emperor Tự Đức, Minh Mạng’s grandson, which were directly funded by the royal family. These continued until the end of the century.

In the 1930s, Báo Quốc was the scene of a revival in Buddhist education in Vietnam. In 1935, a school for teaching Buddhism was opened, and in 1940, a monastery for training monks was created, which is still operating to this day. In 1957, the latest phase of construction and renovation occurred under the auspices of the provincial Buddhist association, and overseen by the abbot of the temple and the director of Buddhist studies in the region, Thích Trí Thủ.

Từ Hiếu pagoda

Chùa Từ Hiếu (Ảnh – architectp29photography)

The pagoda is located at Duong Xuan Thuong III hamlet, in Thuy Xuan village, 5km southwest of Hue. It faces the southeast and uses Ngu Binh mount as a front screen.

The pagoda was originally a small hut built by Nhat Dinh in 1843, who was formerly recognized by royal authority as the monk of Giac Hoang Pagoda. In 1848, the pagoda was restored by monk Cung Ky with the help of the king’s eunuchs and courtiers. Tu Hieu hence became a large pagoda.

In 1894, it was rebuilt by Cuong Ky with the support of King Thanh Thai and the King’s eunuchs created the half-moon lake. In 1962, the pagoda was renovated by Most Ven. Chon Thiet. And in 1971 the three entrance gate and the staff houses were rehabilitated by senior monk Chi Niem.

The pagoda was built in the shape of the Chines,e character “Khau” (mouth), with the main building consisting of three rooms and two wings. The main sanctuary is devoted to the worship of Buddha. Behind there is a room honoring former monks of the pagoda. Across a courtyard, the Quang Hieu Duong Hall houses an altar dedicated to local Buddhist devotees on the right, another to the deity Quan Cong in the center, and a third to the eunuchs on the left. A separate altar in this hall honors Le Van Duyet, an outstanding mandarin during the reign of Emperor Gia Long. On the left side of the courtyard are the living quarters of the monks (Ta Lac Thien) and to Tu Hieu right is the guest-house (Huu Ai Nhat).

The entrance gate to the pagoda is a curved two storey structure. On the second storey, a statue of the guardian spirit Ho Phap protects the pagoda. Inside the gate is a crescent-lotus pond. On both sides of the courtyard are stele houses engraved with the history of the pagoda.

Huyền Không pagoda

Huyen Khong Son Thuong pagoda (Photo – Internet)

Huyen Khong and Huyen Khong Son Thuong are in Huong Tra district, some 12 kilometres from Hue. The road, located upstream the Huong (Perfume) River, first leads to Huyen Khong, or Huyen Khong 1, a Nam Tong Buddhism pagoda in Nham Bien hamlet. Nam Tong is a small, conservative branch of Buddhism following the Pali scriptures and the non-theistic ideal of self-purification to nirvana.

Huyen Khong is built with concrete, iron and steel, in harmony with the architectural styles of the ancient capital, as well as the picturesque scenery of the suburban area where it is located. Bas-reliefs featuring images of the four supernatural creatures – dragon, unicorn, tortoise and phoenix – decorate the main temple. Next to it is a lush green garden called Thanh Tam, which can be roughly translated as “pure mind”. On the main temple’s right is a Japanese style house called Yen Ha Cac, decorated with pot plants and orchids.

(Photo – Internet)

The second Huyen Khong pagoda is Huyen Khong Son Thuong, or Huyen Khong II, a complex of cottages located on Hon Vuon mountain, 309 metres above sea level in Huong Ho commune. Residents of the pagoda have planted 60,000 pine trees, creating a 56-hectare evergreen forest at the foot and up the slope of Hon Vuon – a mountain with thousands of pine trees called Van Tung Son by locals.

Thiền Lâm pagoda

Gate in Thien Lam pagoda (Photo – nguutonthat)

Thien Lam pagoda (also named as: the Standing Buddha – the lying Buddha pagoda). It was established in 1960 by Ho Nhan Buddhist priest. In the pagoda, tourists can be interested in finding many different architectures such as statue, the tombs, Buddhist stupas…located on different sites.

Standing Buddha (Photo – nguutonthat)

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