Tam Chuc Pagoda, Vietnam’s largest, is a stunner – from the spectacular landscape it is set in to the architecture and sublime artworks that adorn it.
The pagoda is part of the Tam Chuc spiritual tourism complex, which is spread over 5,000 hectares – almost one-fifth of it as lakes and most of the rest as dense forest spread over mountain ranges and valleys. The spectacular Tam Chuc Lake is at the heart of this complex.
Located around 65 km from Hanoi in Ha Nam Province’s Kim Bang District, the pagoda put Vietnam firmly on the international Buddhist map last year when it hosted the UN Vesak Day in May, celebrating the birth and the enlightenment of the Buddha. Thousands of guests from more than 100 countries and territories attended the event.
The pagoda dates back to the Dinh Dynasty (968-980), but its latest makeover makes it a rare monument that stays true to tradition.
The complex’s location allows visitor to reach it by boat (VND200,000 or $8.67 per person) or electric car (VND90,000 per person) from the parking lot.
The boat trip allows visitors to take in the natural beauty that is often compared to Vietnam’s premier natural wonder – the Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province.
The trip also allows visitors to enter the ancient Tam Chuc communal house on an slet in the middle of the lake. The boat ride takes about 50 minutes and an evening trip offers the rare opportunity to watch the sunset in unique surroundings.
The Tam Chuc communal house has as its deities Dinh Tien Hoang, the first Vietnamese emperor who took power following the liberation of the country from the Chinese Southern Han Dynasty in the 10th century, his wife Duong Thi Nguyet as well as the Goddess Bach Ma.
The story is that Dinh Tien Hoang came to this area to recruit soldiers and after becoming an emperor, ordered the communal house to be built on the islet.
A rustic bridge over the Luc Ngan Lake charms visitors and brings out the cameras as it connects the communal house with Tam Chuc Pagoda.
The complex features several beautiful constructions like the Tam Quan gate, Quan Am Temple, Pillar Garden, Phap Chu Temple, Tam The Temple and Pearl Pagoda. Just a walk around the complex takes 90 minutes to two hours.
Quan Am Temple hosts a 100 ton bronze statue of the Bodhisattva Guanyin. The complex is a repository of amazing works of sculpture.
The walls of Tam Chuc Pagoda carry carvings that depict stories about the Buddha.
Tam The Temple has a ceiling that is 39 m high and an area of 5,400 square meters. It can accommodate up to 5,000 people during important occasions.
At the very heart of the temple stand three colossal Buddha statues made of black bronze, representing the past, the present and the future. Each statue weighs over 200 tons and has an intricately carved lotus petal behind that is inlaid with gold. The statues radiate beauty and peace that calms the mind.
At night, an elaborate lighting system shows off Tam Chuc Pagoda in all its dazzling majesty.