Opening Hours: from 8 am to 4 pm every day
Entrance fee: free
Dress code: not allowed to wear shorts, mini skirt, and tank-top
Although it’s now set on an islet within West Lake, the pagoda was originally located on banks of Red River before it’s relocated in 1615due to the river’s encroachment. Surrounded by lush greenery, Tran Quoc Pagoda was a favourite amongst the kings and royal families for festivals, full moons, and Tet Festival.
Tran Quoc Pagoda was first erected with the name “Khai Quoc” (Opening a country) during King Ly Nam De Dynasty, between year 544 and 548 on the bark of Red River (approximately within Yen Phu Ward, Tay Ho District now). Till the 15th century, during King Le Thai Tong reign, it was renamed to “An Quoc”, which means a peaceful country.
In 1915, due to a serious landslide ingrained into the pagoda’s foundation that made the incumbent government and people to move the whole construction to Kim Ngư Island on the East of West Lake, and this is Tran Quoc Pagoda’s current location that you can witness in this day and age.
The renaming process didn’t stop until it was changed to the name “Tran Quoc Pagoda”, meaning protecting the country, during King Le Huy Tong dynasty (1681-1705). Through each name of the pagoda, we can see a milestone of the country as well as the wishes of its people attached to this holy sanctuary.
Landscape and architecture
Famous for stunning scenery and sacred sanctuary, Tran Quoc Pagoda used to be a favorite sightseeing place of many kings and lord of Vietnam, especially during festivals, full moon days or Tet. Up until now, the pagoda can still preserve its fame although the landscape has been affected by urbanization.
Besides the front gate facing the crowded Thanh Nien Road, this 3,000m2 complex is surrounded by sliver tide of West Lake, and is designed according to strict rules of Buddhist architecture with many layers of buildings and three main houses called “Tiền Đường”, a house for burning incense and thượng điện. These rooms are connected with each other to form a Công script (工).
The precinct of Tran Quoc Pagoda is highlighted by a high stupa that you may recognize from a far erected in 1998. This stupa is composed of 11 floors with a height of 15m; each floor has a vaulted window holding a statue of Amitabha made from gemstone. On the top stands a nine-storey lotus (Cửu đỉnh liên hoa) and is also gemstone. This stupa is situated symmetrically with the 50-year-old Bodhi tree gifted by former Indian President on the occasion of his visit to Hanoi in 1959. Abbot Thich Thanh Nha of Tran Quoc Pagoda explains the meaning of this correlation: “The lotus represent Buddha while the Bodhi is a symbol of supreme knowledge”.
Not only that, Tran Quoc is also a small museum of priceless antiques dated thousands to hundreds years old like worshiping statues in the front house. These statues are all engraved and polished meticulously by skillful craftsmen, which all bear spectacular features. Among them, the outstanding one is the statue “Thích ca thập niết bàn”, which is evaluated as the most beautiful statue of Vietnam.
With all the historical and architectural values it possesses, Tran Quoc 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.
Highlights of Tran Quoc Pagoda
Passing through gardens, tourists have a chance to see the sacred Bodhi Tree with heart-shaped leaves. The tree was donated to the temple in 1959 by the Indian President Rajendra Prasad. Many people believe that it is a branch of the sacred bodhi tree where the Buddha enlightened. That’s why tourists and pilgrims come here to honor this monument from all over the world.
Besides, a fairly complete system of statues is still preserved in Tran Quoc Pagoda. It can be said that Tran Quoc is a small museum storing priceless antiques. Most of them are hundreds of years old such as some worshipping statues in the front house. Notably, there are statues of Three Sages and ancestor monks of the pagoda. The most outstanding one is the statue of Buddha entering Nirvana (the folk often calls him the Reclining Buddha and Vietnamese calls him “Thich ca thap niet ban”). His statues are rarely seen in the north but mainly seen in Thailand or Laos. And, the statue is evaluated as the most beautiful statue in Vietnam.
Due to its beautiful and peaceful scenery, Tran Quoc Pagoda was mentioned in a lot of poems and parallel sentences of Vietnamese kings and mandarins, especially under Nguyen Dynasty. Until now, there are many poems preserved in the pagoda. You will have a chance to get to know Vietnamese literature style in the past and the country’s history also.
It would be a miss if not mentioning about “Bao Thap Luc Do Dai Sen”. It is an eleven-story which is 15 meters high. Being built in 1998, it has six arched doorways and a statue on each floor. The statues resemble Buddha Amitabha and are made of precious stones. There is a nine-story lotus on the top of the tower and it is called the “Cuu Pham Lien Hoan”.
Tips on Visiting Tran Quoc Pagoda
Because the pagoda is a holy sanctuary, visitors must wear clothes that strictly follow a fixed dress code. Remember to wear an appropriate outfit and do not wear skin-showing clothes.
Just like when you enter any other pagodas in the world, please take off hats, umbrellas, and shoes before coming into the shrines for worshipping. It shows your respect to the gods and the pagodas.
The pagoda is always crowded, especially on the 1st and 15th day of the month in the Lunar Calendar, on which Buddhist monks and tourists visit the site for thurify and sightseeing. If you want to explore the Vietnamese’ religious culture, these two days is always a great time. But if you don’t like huge crowds, it is a good idea to avoid these days.
How to Get to Tran Quoc Pagoda
The pagoda is just 5 kilometers from the city center, so you can reach there by different means of transportation.
By bus: you can catch bus No. 50 that drops you right in front of the pagoda. If it’s not convenient to catch this bus. Please get on bus No. 31, 41, 55A, 55B or 58 to stop at An Duong bus stop, then take a walk around 5 minutes to get there.
By taxi: To get to the pagoda by taxi, it’s better to book one by Grab application on your mobile phone.
By motorbike or scooter: You can rent a motorbike to easily move around the West Lake also. It takes about 12 minutes to get to the pagoda.