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Bac Ninh



Bac Ninh old area :
Bac Ninh Province is situated partly on the lowlands and hills of North Vietnam. It borders Bac Giang Province in the north, Hai Duong Province in the east and south east, Hanoi in the west and Hung Yen Province in the south. Situated 30 km from Hanoi, Bac Ninh Town is a hub of the South-North and East-West transport routes, both on land and the waterways. In particular, the waterway transport system is favourable for the development of the commercial economy and culture.
Archeological studies show that thousands of years ago the ancient Viet inhabited this area. They established populous villages and hamlets on the banks of the Cau, Dau and Duong Rivers. The ancient Viet lived mainly by growing wet rice.
One of the old cities of Bac Ninh area, which fairly flourished from the 2nd to the 10th century was Luy Lau. It was a big city and an international-level trading centre. Through the process of interaction the Viet people became dynamic and capable of living with other cultures, which helped preserve their own culture during their development. Today there remain many material relics of this ancient city in the Dau area.

Bac Ninh is one of the cradles of Vietnamese civilization and a hub of numerous big cultures and religions. Many legends still exist in the minds of the Viet, such as the legends of Mr Dung and Madame Da, King Duong Vuong, Lac Long Quan and Au Co, Thanh Giong, My Chau and Trong Thuy. These legends are closely connected with the historical and artistic relics, which have been well preserved, such as the grave of King Vuong and the temples dedicated to Lac Long Quan, Au Co and Phu Dong Thien Vuong. Bac Ninh was the native place of the Ly dynasty (1010-1225), which developed the Dai Viet civilization. At present the Do Temple in Dinh Bang Village, Tien Son District worships 8 kings of the Ly dynasty. After the Nhu Nguyet River victory in 1077, the poem Nam quoc son ha (the mountains and rivers of Vietnam), which is considered the first independence declaration of the Vietnamese nation, was read on the bank of the Cau River.

Bac Ninh is also the native place of many great men of culture, history and military of Vietnam, such as Ly Van Hanh, Ly Cong Uan, Ly Nhan Tong, and Nguyen Phi Y Lan. This area has a tradition of love for learning and is well known for having had many doctoral laureates. Over the 800-year history of the Vietnamese feudal examinations Bac Ninh had more than 600 doctoral laureates and 17 first-rank laureates, accounting for one third of the doctoral laureates and first-rank laureates of the whole country.

Bac Ninh is the homeland of temples and pagodas as well as festivals and folk rituals. It is a renowned centre of Buddhism with many big and ancient temples and pagodas. These temples and pagodas are architectural and sculptural works reflecting the expertise of the Viet artisans. The most well known of these works are the Dau, Phat Tich, But Thap and Dam Pagodas which host many great festivals and cultural activities.  Bac Ninh villages and hamlets have been preserved and developed for thousands of years. Each village has its own fetes and rituals, which are organized annually with diverse and attractive cultural activities and artistic performances.  In Bac Ninh there are a lot of art villages, such as Dong Ho Village engaged in making folk paintings, the ceremonial song-singing village of Thanh Tuong, the water puppetry village of Bui Xa, and Da Hoi, Dong Ky, Tam Lu and Tam Bao villages which have quite a few classical opera troupes and renowned artists.

Bac Ninh Province has developed with several urban areas being formed, such as Bac Ninh and Tu Son Towns. Activities in trade, handicrafts, tourism and agricultural production flourish. This province has implemented international projects with the aim of tapping its potentials in culture, production, commerce and tourism.

But Thap Pagoda :
But Thap Pagoda is situated on the dike of the Duong River, Thuan Thanh district, Bac Ninh province.  The pagoda was built in  the 17th century, during the late Le dynasty.  Its founder was Chinese Buddhist Priest Zhus Zhus, who died in 1644. Queen Mother Trinh Thi Ngoc Truc requested that Lord Trinh Trang enlarge the pagoda in 1646.

The pagoda was built according to "Noi Cong Ngoai Quoc" architectural style, and includes 10 buildings spread over 100 meters, from the three-entrance gate to the bell-tower and back house. Two 13-m towers, Ton Duc and Bao Nghiem, are made of white rock, making the pagoda seem higher, more majestic and peaceful. Some remains of the 17th century are kept here such as statues, valuable donations, Nine-Story Lotus Tower, Tuyet Son statue, Bao Nghiem tower, and Xa Ly tomb.

Dau Pagoda :
Dau Pagoda, also known as Dien Ung, is situated in Dau, Thuan Thanh district, Bac Ninh province.  Built in the 3rd century, Dau Pagoda is the oldest pagoda in Vietnam. In the beginning, the pagoda was a Buddhist center well known throughout the country and abroad. At the end of the 4th century, Ch’an Master Vinitaruci gave lectures, and the first Vietnamese Buddhist doctrine was produced there.  King Mac Dinh Chi enlarged the pagoda in the 14th century, and the pagoda underwent several renovations during the following centuries.


In the pagoda’s yard, there is a three-storey tower called Hoa Phong. In the tower, there is a large bell produced during the Canh Thinh dynasty (1793), a big bronze gong produced during the 18th year of the reign of Minh Mang (1817), and statues of Phap Van, Kim Dong, and Ngoc Nu, followers of the Goddess of Mercy according to Buddhist legends.

Dinh Bang Communal House :
Dinh Bang Communal House, located in Dinh Bang village, Tien Son district, in Bac Ninh province, 20 km from Hanoi, is very famous in the north of the country.

Construction started in 1700 and finished in 1736. The house is a place of worship for three tutelary spirits: Cao Son Dai Vuong, God of land, Thuy Ba Dai Vuong, God of water, and Bach Le Dai Vuong, God of harvest. The main part of the communal house, Bai Duong, is rectangular, 20 m long, 14 m wide, and consists of 7 rooms. It is very imposing due to its large roof and ironwood pillars. There are approximately 60 ironwood pillars with diameters ranging from 55 to 65 cm. The design of the components is very complicated and the structure is very sturdy. There is a panel inscribed with Chinese characters that can be read in Vietnamese as "Ba Ma Quan Phi," which means "Eight Running Horses."

Do Temple :
Located in Dinh Bang village, Tien Son district, Bac Ninh province, 15km from Hanoi on National Highway 1A.  Formerly, the Do Temple was famous for its architecture, highly praised through the verses:

The architecture of the Do Temple is marvelous,
Worthy to the thousand-year-old history of Thang Long

However, the Temple was heavily damaged by the French colonialists in 1952 and is now under urgent reconstruction. The local elderly remembered the Temple’s past structure and concluded around 20 categories needed to be restored, as follows:

"In front of the Temple lies a semi-circular lake, 9,500 sq. in area, with clear and full water all the year round. The lake is connected with two ponds at both ends of the village, with the Tieu Tuong River in front of the village. In the center of the lake stands a square house reserved for water puppetry performances with two beautiful tiered roofs. To the south of the lake, there is a huge pavilion to preserve stone slabs inscribed with the merits of the eight Ly kings, and to the north of the lake, a 5-compartment floating house for visitors to take a rest.

"The Temple's gate includes five doors made of hard wooden plates assembled together and carved on top images of dragons waiting upon the moon. When the door opens. Its two leaves are wide apart, and the two dragons on top of the doors seem to be soaring. On day, the dragons' eyes when catching the light', shine like gemstones.

"Along the three-step staircase, are carved two stone dragons with clouds around, on a green stone floor, symbolizing the Thang Long (Soaring Dragon) capital.

Passing the gate and a large yard, a green stone paved road leads visitors to a square house, with eight tiered roofs and three compartments. 70 sq. in area. Then there is a 7-compartment front worship house, 220 sq.m in area, whose front walls are hung with two big posters displaying capital letters: "Eight Kings together brightening" and "Co Phap commune - a foundation of the Ly dynasty".

"Then comes a three-compartment house, 80sq.m in area, with eight tiered roofs. These three compartments are spacious and ventilated and on the axis leading to the Co Phap ancient back pavilion, 180sq.m in area, and with the floor space in the shape of a Cong letter..."

Different parts of the Do Temple are being restored one after another by skilful craftsmen. A rolling of drumbeats was suddenly heard, signaling the start of a procession to bring the tablet of King Ly Thai To from the Do Temple to the Ung Tam Pagoda where the King's mother was worshipped for a reunion of the King and his mother. The procession was attended by a thousand of people, who expressed the spirit of the Vietnamese, i.e. "when drinking the water, think of its source".

Duc La pagoda :
From the Bac Giang provincial capital, a crooked red soil trail runs off Route 13, just past Tan An district town, to Duc La pagoda, also known as Vinh Nghiem Tu (80km north of Hanoi).  The pagoda is situated in an area of rolling hills. In the background is the Co Tien mountain range and to the left is the batiks of the Luc river.

Farther away is the Thuong river which converges with the Luc River to form the Phuong Nhon junction. In front of the pagoda are vast rice fields dotted with villages and hamlets hidden behind green bamboo groves. Looming in the distance is the 99Nham Bien mountain range, wrapped in a poetic and mystical air.

Duc La pagoda, built in the 12th century, was the centre of the Truc Lam trinity: King Tran Nhan Tong, Phap Hoa and Huyen Quang resident monks who opened a school of Buddhist preaching and established the Truc Lam religious sect. They were in command of believers across the country.

The main architecture of the pagoda lies on a Southwest axis and is composed of four principal blocs. The first bloc houses the Ho Pagoda, Thien Huong Palace, and Buddhist Temple.

The interior of the Ho Pagoda is adorned with many statues; at the two gables there are two Thap Dien niches, two colossi as high as the roof, as well as statues of Thien Wong, Dia Tang and Long Than. The Thien Huong Palace is splendidly decorated with three horizontal panels and a gilded door; the first compartment is for bonzes to say prayers, the second is for the display of Buddha statues and statues of Arhats. The Buddhist Temple is a world of Buddha statues bearing many architectural imprints of the Le dynasty.

A brick yard separates the second bloc from the first and is an ancestral shrine built in a simple architectural style with wooden planks and cloud-like decorations. The panel is inscribed with the words "Truc Lam ho thuong" (A rendez-vous of the Truc Lam trinity) in Chinese characters and is seen above the three statues of the Truc Lam Trinity.

The third bloc is the two-roofed bell tower and the fourth is the second ancestral shrine hosting two statues symbolic of the art of sculpture in the Nguyen dynasty.

Over 700 years have elapsed but all four architectural structures remain intact. Duc La Pagoda remains a major training centre of Buddhism with wooden shelves for the printing of Buddhist sutras still conserved as evidence of the important role of Vinh Nghiem Tu.

The local authorities and people have maintained the complex well, making the area an eternal sanctuary of the Vinh Nghiem Buddhist sect

Phat Tich Pagoda :
Phat Tich Pagoda, where Buddhist monks were trained in the past, is located on Mount Phat Tich, in Phuong Hoang commune,  Bac Ninh province.

The pagoda, also called Van Phuc Pagoda, was built between the 7th and 10th centuries, and underwent several transformations throughout the years. It was first renovated during the Ly dynasty. In 1057, King Ly Thai Tong  had a tower erected and a golden statue made. Later in the 17th century, the pagoda was enlarged. Unfortunately, the pagoda was ravaged by the war in 1947 and was rebuilt again in a simpler style in 1958. However, since 1991, the pagoda has been reconstructed following ancient architectural designs.

Among the remains of the pagoda is a statue of Lord Buddha. The columns are decorated with intricately carved lotus flowers and various types of traditional musical instruments.

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