After a few months of be-ing up to our ears in work, we decide to break away from noisy Ha Noi. Phat Tich Pagoda, a place of peace and quiet, seems like an ideal option for a day trip.
Serene pinnacle: Tourists can see the giant Buddha Amitabha statue and a rebuilt tower on Lan Kha Mountain. (Photos: VNS)
The pagoda, 25km north-east of the capital, is located on Lan Kha Mountain in Tien Du District's Phat Tich Commune, Bac Ninh Province. It was built in 1057 during the reign of King Ly Thanh Tong (1054-72).
In 1066, the king ordered a tower to be built at the south of the mountain. Legend has it that a monolithic green stone Buddha statue showed up right when the tower later collapsed.
The pagoda was reduced to ashes by French colonialists in 1948 and only restored in 1987.
Entering via the main gate, a beautiful stone paved road leads us to the main Buddha worshipping place. My friend walks slowly beside me, enjoying our little "pilgrimage". Five pairs of kneeling stone kylins, elephants and horses welcome guests from afar.
These figures, along with the Buddha statue, which survived during wartime, were recognised by the Viet Nam Records Book as the biggest stone Buddha from the Ly dynasty and the largest carved sacred animals in the country.
Memorials: Towers containing ashes of the pagoda's head monks are located behind the temple.
We stop for a while to pray to the Buddha for happiness, health and success in life. Going deep inside, we are surprised by a row of 18 Arhat statues with different appearances; one with folded hands paying obeisance to the Buddha and another meditating on a lotus pedestal. There are also altars of Ly and Tran kings, who first built and expanded the pagoda.
We leave for the giant Buddha Amitabha statue, installed outdoor on the mountain in 2010. Nguyen Bich Huong from Ha Noi said, "I am really curious about this statue after reading about it on the internet. To reach it, I have to walk and climb a lot. It's like a pilgrimage."
The stone statue is 27m tall and weighs 3,000 tonnes. It was adapted from a similar structure from the Ly Dynasty.
When excavating the pagoda from 1949-51, archaeologists found many old stone sculptures carved with flowers and dragons, bird goddess statues from the 17th century and a piece engraved with the head of a fairy. These are now on display at the National History Museum.
Big day: People flock to the pagoda to take part in the festival.
Referring to Phat Tich Pagoda, people often recall Tu Thuc Gap Tien (Tu Thuc Meets a Fairy). In the old days, there were a lot of peonies on Lan Kha Mountain and in the pagoda. One day, a young woman visited the pagoda to see the flowers. She carelessly broke a branch from a tree and was fined by the monks. Lucky for her, a local scholar Tu Thuc also visited the pagoda and took off his coat to compensate for the broken branch. They became friends and often met at the pagoda. The woman invited Tu Thuc to visit her house. She took him to a peony forest and a cave on the mountainside. Upon entering, he saw an imperial palace with high walls and stone footsteps. She revealed that she was a fairy and they got married.
Every year, people flock to the pagoda to take part in a peony festival on the fourth day of the first month in the lunar calendar. They enjoy watching the flowers, listening to quan ho (love duets) and poem recitations while playing traditional games.
At the end of our trip we feel indisposed to return to Ha Noi and our busy office.
Source: Viet Nam News
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