A spiritually fruitful visit to Hai Duong City

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VietNamNet Bridge – For a long, long time, the very mention of Hai Duong has conjured up in most Vietnamese minds images of luscious clusters of lychee and stacks of delicious powdery mung bean cake said to be a perfect accompaniment to green tea.

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Lit up: Con Son Pagoda at night.

Therefore, it is less known that the northern province, in particular its eponymous capital city, is also home to numerous ancient pagodas and temples set in picturesque landscapes, offering not just a tranquil getaway from the nation’s capital, but also a rewarding spiritual and aesthetic experience.

To sample this, let’s just take a tour of pagodas and temples in Hai Duong City’s Chi Linh District.

Just 60km away from downtown Ha Noi, the district is easily accessed by all forms of road transport including motorbikes.

We can start the day with a quick visit to Thanh Mai Pagoda in Hoang Hoa Tham Commune, which stands amidst a forest of old maple trees.

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Offering incense: A devotee at Cao Temple in Chi Linh District, Hai Duong City.

The ancient pagoda was built on a side of the Tam Ban Mountain around the year 1329, during the reign of the Tran Dynasty. It was later enlarged by Zen Monk Phap Loa, the Second Patriarch of Truc Lam Zen.

The pagoda is located halfway up the mountain and hidden in the middle of the ancient maple forest. The site attracts visitors in all seasons of the year, but mostly in autumn, when the maple leaves turn red and yellow.

The ancient pagoda is one of three ancestral places of Truc Lam Zen. In 1992, it was recognized as a national heritage.

About 10km from Thanh Mai Pagoda, Cao Temple in An Lac Commune attracts visitors with a beautiful legend about five children of the Vuong family who were very good at working out plans to defeat the nation’s enemies. They helped King Le Dai Hanh defeat the Song invaders from China in 981 and keep the country’s border peaceful. All the five sons and daughters of the Vuong family were honoured as “the best geniuses”.

The temple is also famous for its 54 ironwood trees, which are nearly 1,000 years old and recognised by the Association for Protection of Nature and Environment of Viet Nam as “national heritage trees” in 2011.

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Galloping to heaven: Paper horses readied for a festival at Kiep Bac Temple.

A short drive away from the temple will take you to Van Kiep Commune, where Kiep Bac Temple commemorates General Tran Hung Dao’s victories over northern foreign invaders in the 13th century.

Nestled in a small valley surrounded by splendid scenery, the temple with its unique architectural style is a great place to explore Vietnamese culture and learn about the country’s glorious victories against foreign invaders.

After his first battle against the Yuan-Mongol invaders in 1258, General Tran Hung Dao based his Command Headquarters here, in Van Kiep, and continued to fight off the Yuan-Mongols who attempted twice again to invade Viet Nam from the northeast, in 1285 and 1288. After his death, locals built a temple dedicated to Tran Hung Dao, showing their gratitude for his great contributions to the nation. They also honoured him as a Saint.

“While there are thousands of temples dedicated to Gen Tran Hung Dao, this land, Van Kiep, is closely associated with his life and career as it was his military headquarters and the place where he lived his whole life. So, the temple is considered particularly holy,” said Nguyen Thuy Lien, deputy head of the Con Son Kiep Bac Relic Management Board.

The Kiep Bac Temple festival, held from the 15th to the 20th of the 8th lunar month, marks the death anniversary of national hero Tran Hung Dao. The festival features rituals dedicated to the hero, processions, a prayer ceremony for peace, a festival of floating lanterns on the Luc Dau River, trance ritual performances, and folk games.

On that day, fishermen from around Viet Nam participate in a boat race to pray to Saint Tran for favourable weather and a bumper catch. Following the ceremony, there are cooking competitions, boat races, wrestling matches, and folk song concerts.

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Bright lights: Con Son Pagoda at night. — VNS Photos Bach Lien

A few steps away from Kiep Bac Temple stands Con Son Pagoda, a perfect place to finish your tour as the sun sets and the moon rises. Contemplating the pagoda decorated with lanterns and lights is a memorable experience.

The pagoda, built in the 10th century and expanded in the 13th century during the reign of the Tran Dynasty, is located at the foot of the Con Son Mountain.

In its ancestors worshiping hall, there are statues of King-Monk Tran Nhan Tong, Venerable Monk Phap Loan, second founder of Truc Lam Zen sect and his successor Huyen Quang, high-ranking mandarin Tran Nguyen Dan and national hero Nguyen Trai.

Con Son Pagoda embodies the royal architectural style, distinguished by a half-moon lake and a three-door temple gate at the front. A path lined with ancient pine and lychee trees leads to the bell tower before reaching the main sanctuary.

When you are here, make sure you visit the newly restored nine-storeyed lotus tower in the pagoda. It is believed as that if you circumambulate the tower as you pray, your prayers will be delivered to heaven.

Bach Lien

Source: VNS

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Via : Sapa Luxury Travel

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