Buddhism in Vietnam
Phat Tich Pagoda - Bac Ninh province
25/03/2010 00:50 (GMT+7)
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Phat Tich Pagoda or Van Phuc Pagoda originally named Thien Phuc Tu - is situated on the side of Lan Kha mountain, Phat Tich village, Tien Du district, presently Phuong Hoang village, Tien Son district, Ha Bac province.

Tourists from Ha Hoi who want to visit the pagoda can take either of the two routes: the first one will take you along the left bank of the Duong river. Go along the dyke for 15km, turn left and go on 1km further down the road you will reach the pagoda. You may also take the other route by passing Mountain Lim. Then turn right and go on for about 15km, you will arrive at Phat Tich village, looking out on the Duong river, just about 1km from the dyke.

As recorded in the historical stele "Van Phuc Dai Thien Tu bi" set up in the 7th Chinh Hoa year (1686) , "King Ly Thanh Tong(the 3rd king of the Ly dynasty) in the Long Thuy Thai Binh 4th year (1057), built an exquisite tower of one hundred truong* in height, set up a gilded statue 6 thuoc ** high. He also granted over a hundred plots of rice field, built over a hundred temples"

This recording stele also praised the beautiful sight of the pagoda: "Let's watch the beautiful spot of Tien Du : the famous mountain of Phat Tich is surrounded in the south by the Phuong Linh mountain (Phoenix mountain), on the left by the Thanh Long (blue dragon) winding stream, on the right by the Bach Ho (white tiger) mountain. On the summit there stands a stone table"

In 1071, King Ly Thanh Tong, on his visit to the pagoda, wrote himself the Chinese character meaning :"Buddha" 6.44m long and had it engraved on a stone stele to be set up in front of the pagoda. Next, in the Tran dynasty the pagoda was renamed Van Phuc. King Tran Nghe Tong ordered to establish the Bao Hoa Buddha shrine and the library Lan Kha near the pagoda. It was recorded in the "Dai Nam Nhat Thong Chi" that in 1384, the King held the Examination "Thai hoc sinh" in this pagoda to select bright scholars for the service of the country.

In the Chinh Hoa 7th year, under King Le Hy Tong's reign (1686), the pagoda was rebuilt on an enormous scale and brought up to a high value of art. This reconstruction owed its main support to Princess Tran Ngoc Am, the first royal maid of Lord Thanh Do Vuong Trinh Trang, when she had left the imperial palace to become a nun in this pagoda. The stele "Van Phuc Dai Thien Tu Bi" has recorded: "On the mountain summit, stands a stone building as splendid ass glittering gem… On the front veranda are displayed 10 animal statues. In the rear are wide ponds. High storeys are adorned with painted images of phoenixes and twinkling bright stars and the Moon palace embellished with colourful flowers…"

The pagoda was built in the shaped interior, shaped exterior" model with over one hundred compartments. In front of it, stands the "cloud-reaching tower" as described in the poem "Tien Du Van PhucTu" by Nguyen Xuong. In the rear are stone houses which are used as lecture rooms. Close to the pagoda is the Queen Fairy shrine for the worship of Lady Tran Ngoc Am, in which we can see a pair of parallel sentences written to honour the lady's good deeds.

First imperial maid back to Buddha land

Thirteenth royal court lady to Fairy village

In the war against the French invasion, Van Phuc pagoda was destroyed by the foreign invaders. The remains are now the ruined foundations of 3 floors cut in the mountain side, of rectangular shapes, each one about 60m in length and 33m in width. Here, by the years 1940-11941, archaeologists found large bricks with the dates of Long Thuy Thai Binh 4th year (1057) and Chuong Thanh Gia Khanh 7th year (1065) clearly inscribed on them. Among the remaining sculptural masterpieces were found 5 pairs of animal statues: lion, rhinoceroses, elephants, buffaloes, horses, lying on lotus pedestals carved out of large stones, slabs about 2m in height. There were also wall stones, pedestals… with carved images of dragons, musicians, dancers…

The name of Phat Tich Pagoda was associated with the Buddha statue - a famous sculptural masterpiece which is now worshipped in the small pagoda built subsequently. A legend has it that once the tower of the pagoda suddenly collapsed and the statue came out amid the ruin. Since then, Hoa Ke hamlet located by the side of the pagoda was renamed Phat Tich Hamlet. This statue, carved out of stone, is 1.85m high, or 3m high including the pedestal. The statue represents Buddha sitting in a meditation posture on a lotus throne. The pedestal is adorned with, images of dragons, flowers and leaves. The face of the statue has refined features with an air of serenity and compassion. The fineness of the carving shows an excellent workmanship.

Translated by Thuy Duong and Nguyen van Nghe

Source: huongdaoonline.com.au

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