Winds From The Past Blow Through Paradise

Vietnam News, 02/Jan/95

Just over 30 kilometres west of Hanoi, near the township of Son Tay, is a famous group of art, architectural and cultural relics. They include Thay pagoda, Va temple, Tram Gian (a hundred compartment pagoda), Incense pagoda, Ao Vua (King's Lake), Dong Mo, Suoi Hai and the ancient commune of Duong Lam. The Thay pagoda festival is held on the 5th, 6th and 7th days of the third lunar month.

Thay pagoda worships the Venerable Bonze Tu Dao Hanh who lives four lives combined into one - Bonze, King, Buddha and Originator of the Vietnamese Water Puppetry. The old curved-roof Water House can still be seen where water-puppetry shows were once performed. On festival days, bonzes are seen performing the ceremony, running around slowly 'dancing', as it were, gracefully, now slowly now quickly reflecting the ceaseless changes of human bondage. The ceremony is accompanied by classical Vietnamese music and stylized dances. The Thay pagoda was built in the 12th century.

Tay Phuong Pagoda is about 40 km from Hanoi. It was built long ago and restored in 1554. The bell was cast in 1660 and the pagoda named the Ancient Tay Phuong pagoda. The bonzes back then were all instructors of the Thieu Lam (Shao Lin) martial arts school. The pagoda was built on a mountain-top. Two hundred and thirty nine laterite steps were built, leading to the pagoda entrance. The courtyards between the three principal buildings reflect beams of sunlight on to the two main temples, lending an eerie atmosphere, both dreamy and cosmic to the whole area with statues of Buddha, altars, decorative patterns and parallel sentences.

The 18 Arahant statues in the Pagoda are the works of Vietnamese sculpture. In this respect, Tay Phuong Pagoda has emerged as one of the most famous pagodas of Vietnam.

The ancient Duong Lam commune boasts a well whose water, from an underground spring, is refreshing and clear. The Cam Lam bridge is an old, covered bridge across the Tich river meandering along the land of legends.

Quan Gian, full of shady secular trees, is alive with birds that appear to come from nowhere. The Temple of Literature, a wind-swept area, is famous for its orchards. Words fail to describe the mixture of loveliness and the breath of winds from the past.

Tay Dang and Chu Quyen communal houses are two typical Vietnamese communal houses. Tay Dang, about 10 km from Son Tay, was restored in the 14th century. It has five large compartments, four roofs and is surrounded by galleries. The roofs curve, flying up into dragons, lynxes, tortoises and phoenixes. The architectural parts are decorated with intricate sculptures typical of traditional communal houses. The Chu Quyen communal house is breathtaking because of its 48 pillars. The site is spacious and looks as if the house is still expanding.

Dong Mo is 50 km from Hanoi. The lake is a stretch of liquid jade, dotted with dozens of small islands protected by gum trees and green pine trees. These islands, as legends have it, are the stones thrown by the God of the mountainous realm to check the advance of the God of the watery realm in the struggle for My Nuong. The whole area is like a huge painting surrounded by the awe-inspiring and meditative Ba Vi mountain, towering at 1,290 metres over Son Tinh peak (1,226 m) and Princess Ngoc Hoa peak (l,lOOm). The place is an ideal hunting ground. Dong Mo Lake, covering 1,800 hectares, is fed by two joining streams, cascading from Ba Vi mountain.

Tram Gian pagoda, as the name implies, has one hundred compartments. It seems to be endowed with some miraculous power taking us back to time immemorial. The moss-covered walls and ancient pillars are reminiscent of the images of pilgrims bustling around, praying for peace and prosperity.

Tram Pagoda is honored with the title "the most beautiful scenery" against the background of Vo Vi and Tram mountains. It used to be the palace of Le Chieu Tong (1516). In 1695, King Le Hy Tong had 48 statues carved out of stone to be worshipped in the cave and the place must have almost been a miniature Venice with flowered boats sailing about from place to place.

Va temple was built in honour of St. Tan Vien. The King's Lake (Ao Vua) is a wind-swept rolling scenic beauty and, it is believed, every step made is in some way associated with a beautiful legend.

Suoi Hai lake, twice as large as Hanoi's West Lake (over 1,000 ha), 16 km from Son Tay, is famous for "wild geese shooting" all year round. And each season on Suoi Hai Lake is lovely, characterised by its own peculiar beauty.

Acknowledgments : Thanks to (Binh Anson) for making this news report available on Soc.Culture.Vietnamese.
Home Page | Scenery | Monuments | People | Art | History |