Updated: 09 Sep 2020

Tran Quoc Pagoda is considered a cultural symbol of Vietnamese Buddhism partly for it is the oldest pagoda and situated in the center of the capital of Vietnam. Moreover, unlike other ordinary pagodas, the Pagoda was built in a very intricate way. Behind the worshipping shrine is the Buddhist trinity followed by corridors, shrines and the belfry.


This is the first time I have visited Tran Quoc Pagoda (Chùa Trấn Quốc) located beside the dazzling West Lake, on Thanh Nien Road, Hanoi. it is seated on an island linked by a bridge to the causeway between the two most romantic lakes of Hanoi: West Lake and Truc Bach Lake.

According to my guider the construction of the pagoda started in 541 and was completed in 545 under the reign of King Ly Nam De (544-548) under its original name of Khai Quoc (National Founder). It was at first built on the bank of the Red River (then West Lake and the Red River met).

When going inside the pagoda, I saw there were many valuable statues, such as the red lac statue trimmed with gold of Sakyamouni Buddha's Parinirvana, which is a masterpiece of Vietnamese sculptural art, andmany ancient steles, one of which was made in 1639 by Doctoral lau- Nguyen Xuan Chinh, recording the Pagoda's history.

It must be said that the island and pagoda provide a beautiful scenery, especially when viewing at sunset. Standing at one end of  Thanh Nien Road, I could see the towers of the pagoda rising above the lake’s surface. Particurlarly during festivals, full moon days or Tet. Up to now, the pagoda can still preserve its fame although the landscape has been affected by urbanization.

In the pagoda’s garden stands a Bồ Đề (Bodhi) tree, which is attached to a past story. In 1959, on one visit to Vietnam, Indian Prime Minister Razendia Prasat offered the Pagoda a bodhi tree as a gift. The plant was grafted from the holy bodhi tree where Sakyamuni sat in zen (meditation) position and achieved enlightenment in India 25 centuries ago. Today the bodhi tree is easily recognizable from its heart-shaped leaves, taken from a cutting of its original tree. 

Moreover, I still knew that Tran Quoc is also a small museum of priceless antiques dated hundreds years old such as worshiping statues in the front house. The statues are all engraved and polished meticulously by skillful craftsmen, which all bear spectacular features. Of them, the outstanding one is the statue “Thích ca thập niết bàn”, evaluated as the most beautiful statue of Vietnam.

With all the historical and architectural values it possesses, the Pagoda is not only worth visiting as a sacred sanctuary of Buddhism attracting countless Buddhist believers; but also an indispensible destination for cultural explorers to Vietnam. If you have time to visit Hanoi, don't miss come to Tran Quoc Pagoda to explore the culture of Vietnamese Buddhism and to sightseeing view of West Lake.

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