Nestled on a small eastern peninsula of West Lake, Tran Quoc Pagoda stands as the oldest and holiest Buddhist pagoda in Hanoi, boasting a rich history spanning over 1,500 years.
Originally established as the Buddhist center of Thang Long (Hanoi’s former name) under the Ly – Tran dynasties, the pagoda has evolved into a captivating spiritual destination, drawing a significant number of visitors annually. In 2016, Tran Quoc Pagoda gained global recognition, securing a spot on the Daily Mail’s list of the world’s 16 most beautiful pagodas.
Historical Evolution of Tran Quoc Pagoda
Initially named Khai Quoc Pagoda, it was constructed in 541 during the early Ly Dynasty. Situated along the banks of the Red River at its inception, the pagoda faced relocation inside the Yen Phu Dam near the Kim Nguu islet following the dam’s collapse in 1615, during the reign of King Le Trung Hung. Subsequently, during the 17th century, the Trịnh Lords commissioned the construction of the Co Ngu Dam (now Thanh Nien Street) to connect with Kim Nguu islet. It was during the reign of King Le Hy Tong (1681 – 1705) that the pagoda assumed its present name, Tran Quoc Pagoda, signifying a place of refuge from natural disasters and a haven for a tranquil life.
In the past, Tran Quoc Pagoda served as the focal point of Thang Long Imperial citadel, with Kings Ly and Tran making frequent visits during holidays and Tet, praying for the nation’s prosperity and peace. This historical connection is evident through the construction of various palaces like the Thuy Hoa Palace and the Ham Nguyen Palace.
Architectural Splendor of Tran Quoc Pagoda
Having undergone significant renovations in 1815, Tran Quoc Pagoda boasts an expansive area exceeding 3000m2, encompassing the tower, garden, ancestral house, and upper hall. Adhering to the principles of Theravada Buddhism, the pagoda’s architecture consists of three main layers: Tiền Đường (the front house), Thượng Viện (upper hall), and Nhà Thiêu Hương (incense crematorium), interconnected in the form of the word Công (工).
The pagoda’s front house faces west, with the Tam Bao house situated behind it, flanked by two corridors alongside the incense crematorium and the upper hall. The bell tower, positioned on the axis of the main hall, features a three-room architecture with a roof stacked like matches. Notably, the hexagonal lotus-shaped tower (Bảo Tháp), completed in 2003, graces the temple’s garden, adorned with 11 floors and white precious stone statues of Amitabha Buddha on each level. Opposite the tower stands a Bodhi tree, a gift from the President of India in 1959, originating from the Bodh Gaya tree where Shakyamuni Buddha practiced his religion over 25 centuries ago.
Tran Quoc Pagoda continues to safeguard numerous valuable statues of Buddha and Bodhisattva, prominently displayed in the upper hall. Noteworthy among them is the wooden statue of Buddha Shakyamuni entering Nirvana, meticulously painted with varnish.
Despite the passage of time, Tran Quoc Pagoda remains a majestic presence, imparting a sense of peace and antiquity to the vibrant city of Hanoi. Each year, the pagoda attracts not only Buddhists from around the world but also local and international tourists eager to explore Vietnam’s religious heritage.
Practical Information for Visitors
Opening Hours: Tran Quoc Pagoda welcomes visitors daily from 8:00 AM to 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM to 4:00 PM. On the full moon day and the 1st day of each lunar month, the pagoda extends its hours from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM. On New Year’s Eve, Tran Quoc Pagoda remains open throughout the night for Buddhists to usher in the new year with prayers and reflections.
Ticket Price: Entrance to Tran Quoc Pagoda is free of charge.
Dress Code: While there is no strict dress code, visitors are encouraged to dress modestly and respectfully. Attire should cover shoulders, chest, and knees, with both men and women avoiding sleeveless tops, shorts, and miniskirts. To show reverence, it is customary to remove shoes, umbrellas, and hats before entering the pagoda and shrines.
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