Hue City, a beautiful and gentle city, is the place in which many relics and famous temples of Vietnam gather. The oldest temple that attracts more and more tourists to visit is Thien Mu Pagoda. Thien Mu Pagoda, which is also known as Linh Mu Pagoda, is located on Ha Khe Hill, on the left bank of the Huong River, about 5 km west of the center of Hue City. It was officially established in the dynasty of Lord Nguyen Hoang – the first Nguyen Lord of South Vietnam
I. THE HISTORY & LEGENDS OF THIEN MU PAGODA
1. The history of Thien Mu Pagoda, Vietnam
Thien Mu became the earliest pagoda built in Hue City. The legend has it that when coming to Thuong Hoa Village, Quang Nam Province, Lord Nguyen Hoang personally went to consider the terrain to build a mountain for Nguyen Family. On a horseback ride along the Huong River, up to the head of the river, Nguyen Hoang encountered a small hill beside the Huong River named Ha Khe. Recognizing that the earth was like a dragon which turned his head back, in 1601, the lord decided to build a temple on the hill, facing the Huong River and named Thien Mu. In 1665, Lord Nguyen Phuc Tan asked for the restoration of pagodas, small architectural scale.
Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu requested to mold a large bronze bell weighing 3285 pounds, a valuable art. The bell from the temple was peaceful in the heart of the people of Hue in 1710. Then, in 1714, Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu continued to build more magnificent works. It was the largest restoration including Tam Quan Gate, Thien Vuong Temple, Ngoc Hoang Temple, Thap Vuong Temple, Tang Kinh,… In 1844, King Thieu Tri built the Tu Nhan Tower, which was later renamed Phuoc Duyen Tower, with brick and each floor worshiped a Buddha statue. The king built the Huong Nguyen Temple which had three rooms in front of the tower. On the two sides, they set up two stele houses recording the architecture Phuoc Duyen, Huong Nguyen, and many poems of King Thieu Tri. In the early 20th century, the pagoda was badly damaged by the typhoon Giap Thin (1904). King Thanh Thai restored the temple in 1907. Although it was not as large scale as before, it was still dignified and majestic.
2. The legends of Thien Mu Pagoda, Vietnam
Local people said that at night there was an old woman dressed in a red and black color. Her figure appeared on the top of the hill and told people that there would be a godfather who set up a temple to worship for the mighty water”. Therefore, this place was also called Thien Mu Son.
Thien Mu Pagoda also is associated with a love story that has still been told until now. Not only the immigrants but the neighbors often take it to explain why couples who love each other often do not come here to confide in or pray. It is said that the Nguyen Dynasty had a couple whose story was passionate “swear non-sea appointment”. That girl was in a noble family, and the boy was orphan and poor. The girl’s family prohibited them from getting married. In order to prove their love, they came to the Huong River to remain forever together. Ironically, only the boy died and the girl was rescued by the people. Time passed, the girl got married to another charming guy. The soul of the boy lying under the river Huong hatred for his fate and “entered” Thien Mu Pagoda for any couple who come here to coast.
Venerable Thich Tri Tuu, the abbot of the temple, said that: “These rumors are completely unreasonable and people telling this do not know anything about the teachings of the Buddha. Their love for each other on the door of the Buddha’s prayer will be blessed for the lifetime harmony. The development of the Buddha is to be faithful. Therefore there is nothing on the Buddha’s door that makes couples break up or divorce as many rumors blown.”
II. THE ARCHITECTURE OF THIEN MU PAGODA, VIETNAM
Thien Mu Pagoda was built in Tan Suu (1601), during the dynasty of Lord Nguyen Hoang. Under the Kingdom of Vietnam – Nguyen Phuc Chu (1691-1725), following the flourishing and prosperous development of Buddhism in South Vietnam, the temple was rebuilt on a larger scale. In 1710, Lord Quoc required to cast a large bell, which weighed over two tons and was called Dai Hong Chung. Lord Quoc restored the pagoda with dozens of architectural works of great scale such as Thien Vuong, Dai Hung, Tang Kinh,… in 1744. In addition, many of these no longer work today. He wrote his own inscription and engraved on a large stele to remember the construction of buildings here, the people coming to China to buy more than 1,000 Buddhist scriptures put in the floor, and praising the philosophy of Buddhism.
With the natural beauty and scale that was expanded from that time, Thien Mu Pagoda has become the most beautiful temple in South Vietnam. Moreover, Thien Mu Pagoda was used as a temple during the Tay Son Dynasty (around 1788) and was restored many times during the reign of the Nguyen Kings. On the occasion of celebrating the eight-year-old Thuan Thien Cao Empress (the wife of King Gia Long and grandmother of King Thieu Tri), King Thieu Tri rebuilt the temple with more scale. In addition to architectural works, such as Phuoc Duyen Tower and Dai Hung Palace, Thien Mu Pagoda also has many famous places. The statue of the Guard, the statue of the Buddha, Maitreya Buddha statue, Tam The Buddha here mark the golden age of Thien Mu Pagoda.
III. WHERE TO VISIT INSIDE THIEN MU PAGODA, VIETNAM
1. Phuoc Duyen Tower, Thien Mu Pagoda, Vietnam
Phuoc Duyen Tower becomes nowadays a famous symbol that associated with the Thien Mu Pagoda. Being built in front of the temple in 1984, this tower has the height of 21 meters and 7 floors. Each floor has a statue of Buddha. Inside there was a spiral staircase leading up to the top floor, where the former Buddha statue is in gold. In front of the tower, the Huong Nguyen Temple appears. The storm of 1904 destroyed the temple heavily and many buildings, in which Huong Nguyen Temple was completely collapsed (now there are still traces). In 1907, King Thanh Thai rebuilt it; but, the temple no longer kept its big shape as befre. Two sides of the tower have two quadrangles, putting two steles of Thieu Tri. Besides, the deep inside has two hexagonal houses, a stele house and a bell-house for the Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu.
2. Dai Hung Temple, Thien Mu Pagoda, Vietnam
This is the main temple in Thien Mu Pagoda and a magnificent architectural. During the renovation in 1957, all columns, trusses, bands, pedestals … were built of concrete and those covered with a layer of wood paint. In addition to bronze Buddha statues, there is also a large bronze statue which was engraved in the shape of the moon with the words showing that this statue was donated to the pagoda by Tran Dinh An. Inside the temple is Maitreya Buddha statue. It is said that Buddha had ears to hear the suffering of the world, belly to tolerate the tolerance in the world, and wide mouth to laugh the world.
Away from the place of the statue of Maitreya are the three Buddhas in the middle. Both sides are Bodhisattva and Samantabhadra. Going along the side of the street behind the garden, there are a gallery of photographs and a car of Thich Quang Duc, who set himself on fire in 1963 to oppose the regime’s suppression of Buddhism. Next is the tomb of monk Thich Don Hau. In addtition, he was the vice president of the Patriotic Buddhist Association during the anti-American period and instrumental in the revival of Buddhism in Hue as well as in Vietnam.
3. Dia Tang Temple & Kuan Yin Temple, Thien Mu Pagoda, Vietnam
Dia Tang Temple is behind Dai Hung Temple and is separated by a large yard with many bonsai trees. It lies in the background of the trace of the old Maitreya Temple, which is very wide. The road to the left of Dai Hung goes inside the temple. Originally, this was built to worship Quan Cong (since 1907), a fairly common thing in Vietnamese temples in the past, due to the influence of Chinese Buddhism. So far, the major pagodas in Hue still have worshiped Quan Cong. It is said that Quan Cong was sacred after death and knew the yin and yang, good and bad in the future. Therefore, the temple is a place for worshiping not only Buddha but also a set of cards tattoos.
4. The Immortal Car Austin Westminster, Thien Mu Pagoda, Vietnam
In Thien Mu Pagoda, there has an old car which people carefully preserved. Buddhists from far away or tourists should spend a little time to admire the old time-tinted car, the Austin Westminster brand car with the parade and convey the Most Venerable Thich Quang Duc, who burnt himself on June 11, 1963, to oppose the Diem Government.
In 1963, the political atmosphere of the South changed that there had no escape for peace under the Ngo Dinh Diem Government. Exile shoot and fire burned down the sky to suppress the communists and Buddhist circles. During that time, Venerable Thich Quang Duc, the abbot of An Quang Temple, was not willing to suffer the Buddhists being suppressed in the pool of blood and decided to set himself on fire to protest Diem – Nhu Government’s atrocities. Nearly half a century has passed, the Austin Westminster automobile still keeps its modern, comfortable, and luxurious beauty. But over time, it has become old and rusted. However, the car numbered DBA 599 will still live forever with the heroic event of the self-immolation of the patriotic Patriarch Thich Quang Duc.
5. Dai Hong Chung Bell, Thien Mu Pagoda, Vietnam
In 1710, Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu required to cast a bell called “Dai Hong Chung” to worship the nation. For 300 years, Dai Hong Chung Bell has still retained the majesty and immense beauty. Dai Hong Chung is 2.5 meters high and located within the Thien Mu Pagoda. On the bell inscribed, Dai Hong Chung weighs 3,285 pounds and has the inscription of Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu that describes his hope for rain, peaceful country, peaceful people, and all the people were Buddhists. The pattern decorated on Dai Hong Chung was sophisticated with high art level. Its motifs are very flexible in view of each other. On the bell’s body, there have eight letters which were written in different ways. Besides, legend has it that Dai Hong Chung in Thien Mu Pagoda was the largest treasure in Hue at that time. Therefore, Hue people brought their own pride in the bell.
IV. WHERE TO VISIT AROUND THIEN MU PAGODA, VIETNAM
1. Hon Chen Temple, Vietnam – The relic having most legends in Hue City, Vietnam
Hon Chen is located on Ngoc Tran Mountain, Ngoc Ho Village, Huong Ho Ward, Huong Tra Town, Thua Thien Hue Province. People named the ancient Ngoc Pagoda after Huong Uyen Son, which means the cup of jade. But, people now still call it Hon Chen due to the relation of the anecdote about King Minh Mang dropped the jade cup. Hon Chen Temple became the temple of goddess Po Nagar (Goddess Mother of the country) of the Cham people. According to Cham folklore, Po Nagar was the son of the emperor, who was sent down to make earth and all kinds of wood and rice. The woody and masculine timbre symbolize the spirit of the goddess. She also had a sweet smell of rice and encouraged people to grow the bodhi tree. Today, Hon Chen Temple becomes famous because it is a religious relic and a landscape architectural monument.
2. Minh Mang Tomb, Vietnam – The resting place of the second king in the Nguyen dynasty
Minh Mang Tomb (built by King Thieu Tri), is located on Cam Khe Mountain, where the two tributaries of Huu Trach and Ta Trach formed the Huong River. In February 1820, King Gia Long passed away the fourth prince. Nguyen Phuc Dam, the son of King Gia Long, earned the title Minh Mang. Being king for 7 years, Minh Mang started looking for the land to build his tomb. The geographer Le Van Duc chose a good land in Cam Ky Mountain, near Bang Lang Fork, where the confluence of two sources Ta Trach and Huu Trach formed the romantic Huong River. However, it took 14 years to decide. Until 1840, the king decided to build his mausoleum in this place.
Minh Mang fell ill in January 1841. King Thieu Tri came to the throne, only one month later (February 1841) and sent his corpses Ta Quang Cu, Ha Duy Phien, and Nguyen Tri Phuong to command nearly 10,000 soldiers and construction workers to follow the plan of the father left. On August 20, 1841, Minh Mang’s corpse was buried in Buu Thanh; but, the construction of the tomb was only completed in 1843.
3. An Hien Garden House, Vietnam – The peaceful place in Hue City
Located at the prime location (58 Nguyen Phuc Nguyen Street, Xuan Hoa Village, Huong Long Commune, Hue City) facing the romantic Huong River, An Hien Garden House becomes the most beautiful garden home now in Hue. In addition to the architecture of the citadel, royal palace, mausoleum … An Hien Garden House still retains its own beauty, which is both noble aristocratic and traditional folk colors. Over a century of existence, An Hien still intacts both in terms of landscape and architecture.
The entrance leading to the house is a small porch. Along the entrance, two rows of white plum trees knit together soaring and shade make people impressed. Turning left and crossing the ancient antique vase, there is a rectangular lake covered entirely by lilies, lotuses, and ornamental plants. On the other hands, An Hien Garden House is a 3-room house and most of its area is located in the center and sculpted exquisitely. Besides,its whole frame structure of the house was made of wood. Moreover, the artists made the roof tiles paralyzed in many layers. Its roof of each side embraces the dragon, in the middle of the rooftop has the shape of the lotus.
Discovering An Hien Garden House is sure to be one of the most unforgettable things before you return to Hue. An Hien Garden House is home to many kinds of fruits such as mangosteen, durian, jackfruit, and grapefruit. Moreover, many trees are more than ten years old. It is also a garden of rare plants all over Vietnam. Therefore, An Hien Garden House is sure to be one of the unforgettable experiences in Hue’s tourist trip!
4. Hue Citadel, Vietnam – The famous place for check-in when coming to Hue City
The citadel of Hue is a citadel in the imperial capital of Hue. This was where the capital of the Nguyen dynasty stood for 143 years from 1802 until its abdication in 1945. Currently, Hue Citadel is one of the monuments that belongs to the complex of Hue Ancient Relics. UNESCO recognized it as World Cultural Heritage. Its construction was started in 1805 and completed in 1832 under the reign of King Minh Mang. Hue Citadel has two parts, which are the Imperial Citadel and the Forbidden City. The Imperial Citadel consists of about 100 works built on an almost square land with 600m long sides. Its main gate of the Imperial City is Ngo Mon Gate facing south. Besides, the other three are Hien Nhon, Chuong Duc, and Hoa Binh.
Most of the buildings inside the Citadel had the axis of symmetry according to men’s and women’s literature of martial arts. Its impression of this work shows the harmony with nature. Most of the palaces have lakes, flower gardens, stone bridges, islands, and perennial trees. The Forbidden City is in the heart of the Imperial Citadel and was also built symmetrically through the main axis. It has 7 doors and dozens of large and small architectural works. In particular, the most notable is the Can Chanh, where the king worked. Moreover, there are places for the king and the royal family. If you have enough free time to travel outside the city, you should visit Lang Co Beach – one of the most beautiful beaches in Central Vietnam.
V. TIPS FOR TRAVELING TO THIEN MU PAGODA, VIETNAM
1. Information about Thien Mu Pagoda, Vietnam
Address: Nguyen Phuc Nguyen Street, An Ninh Thuong Village, Kim Long Ward, Hue City
Open hours: All day
Entrance fee: Free
Other sightseeing tips: Visiting Thien Mu Pagoda with Hon Chen Temple, Minh Mang Tomb, An Hien Garden or Dai Noi to save time.
2. How to get to Thien Mu Pagoda, Vietnam
You can easily go to Thien Mu Pagoda from the sites, such as the Citadel or Dong Ba Market by bike, motorbike or taxi. Moreover, you can also take a boat ride on the Huong River from the Kham Court to Thien Mu Pagoda or take a cyclo from any location in the city center. In conclusion, please refer to read the transportation guide to Hue including Hanoi to Hue, Danang to Hue, and the ultimate travel guide to Hue, Vietnam to get more information about traveling to Thien Mu pagoda.
3. When to go to Thien Mu Pagoda, Vietnam
The most pleasant weather in Hue is from January to February. This is the best time for you to visit the Thien Mu Pagoda. If you want to admire Thien Mu Pagoda in the flowers season, you can visit in May or June.
4. Tips for buying souvenirs in Thien Mu Pagoda, Vietnam
At Thien Mu Pagoda, there are also other souvenirs such as ao dai, hats, and handicrafts. However, the situation of merchandise souvenir bowl is now causing troubles for tourists. The situation results from the bustling business on the management team of buses and boats at Thien Mu Pagoda. They have taken advantage of the premises of the yard. In addition to the development of 10 food service stalls and beverages, they also sell souvenirs. So, you should pay lower than the price the sellers mention and avoid buying outside the pagoda.
5. Dragon boat service on Huong River to Thien Mu Pagoda, Vietnam
|Visiting Thien Mu Pagoda||Single dragon boat: VND 300,000
Double dragon boat: VND 450,000
|Visiting Thien Mu Pagoda and Hon Chen Temple||Single dragon boat: VND 600,000
Double dragon boat: VND 800,000
|Visiting Thien Mu Pagoda, Hon Chen Temple, Minh Mang Mausoleum||Single dragon boat: VND 900,000
Double dragon boat: VND 1,200,000
Tips when traveling by dragon boat:
- Maximum of a single boat is 8 guests and a double boat is 30 guests
- Prices can change on special holidays
- The prices do not include VAT
- For more review about this experience, you can refer to Tripadvisor.com to get more details.
Hue Tours Company
Address: 22 Nguyen Hue Street, Hue City, Vietnam
Phone: (+84) 546 288 288 – (+84) 914 242 096