Yen Tu Pagoda in Quang Ninh Province has long been famous for being the Sacred “Capital” of Vietnam. Here, you can immerse yourself in the peaceful atmosphere and learn about Vietnamese’s historical value associated with this destination.
I. History of Yen Tu Pagoda
Yen Tu Pagoda is located on Yen Tu Mountain, one of the most beautiful mountains in Vietnam. This sacred place, which is surrounded by numerous serene rivers and majestic conifer forests, is famous for being related to King Tran Nhan Tong, one of the most judicious kings of Vietnam. Being a unique combination of pristine landscape, architecture, culture as well as history, Yen Tu pagoda has been recognised as a national relic and is hoped to be a future UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As rumours go, 700 years ago, on a sunny day, King Tran Nhan Tong (1258 1308), who had led Dai Viet (Vietnam’s name at that time) to victory in three fierce fights for freedom and survival against Mongolian army, decided to lead a religious life. Therefore, he left his royal palace and chose Yen Tu mountain as an ideal place for his religious decision. Aslo in this place did he create the Truc Lam Zen sect, a Buddist cultural- rich value of Vietnam. Thanks to this meaningful action, King Tran Nhan Tong has been worshiped as Buddist King of Vietnam.
II. Highlights of Yen Tu Pagoda
Yen Tu is known for its majestic mountains and forests, a sacred Buddha-land, and annually attracts many domestic and foreign tourists to visit. Over time, Yen Tu’s landscape has changed, but basically still retains its ancient and untouched beauty. It represents both material and spiritual values long conceived by Vietnamese people. Perhaps this is a unique attraction that not every tourism place has. The hustle and bustle of city life can be tiring and boresome sometime, so tourists choose Yen Tu Pagoda as a place to refine their souls with natural beauty and Buddhist holiness.
Reasons why Yen Tu pagoda becomes one of the most crowded Buddhist tourist destinations in Vietnam may vary, but its Buddhist architecture seems to be the most noticeable one.
In general, the architecture of the temples and pagodas in Truc Lam Yen Tu is considered to be the standard of Buddhist architecture reconstructed according to the original simulation. Tourists will be astonished at how ancient the pagodas look and at the solemn atmosphere there:
The porch with asymmetrical roof standing majestically above, stepping up the stone, through the stupendous porch, you will enter the main red brickyard. Traditionally, the porch will have three entrances, a floor, and eight roofs. Yen Tu Pagoda has successfully embraced the conventional porch design.
Although the pagodas at Yen Tu have been reconstructed many times, the architecture still preserved Buddhist traditional value and Vietnamese folk values. Yen Tu Pagoda was constructed with expensive material like bronze and ironwood, wide-known for producing very hard timber. The entire system of pillars at Yen Tu pagodas are made of precious ironwood, outside, the veranda pillars are built from stone. Below the pillars, there is always an inner stone for the base.
That there is a stone at the foot of the supports is considered a standard in the religious architecture in Vietnam that has its own meaning. In Vietnamese folk beliefs, the image of a stone pillar and a wooden pillar placed on a stone is a symbol of prosperity. The stone pillar represents the male life energy, the stone represents the female life energy.
This shows Vietnamese people’s wishes for a sufficient and peaceful life. The combination of male and female also represents the wishes for the reproduction of life. And for that reason, Vietnamese travelers coming in flocks to Yen Tu Pagoda pray for happiness, peace, and health for their family.
While the outside of the pagoda is more solemn and majestic, the inside is cozier and more unruffle. The main hall is surrounded by wooden planks, in the front are doors with carved bars, designed so that the hall is always spacious and bright.
To achieve such conditions, the architects and construction engineers spent thousands of hours of hard work to find the ideal direction that fits the regional weather to build the halls. The halls are natural air conditioners themselves too, ventilation holes and windows are placed anticipatorily to ensure the freshest air.
Some new temples were rebuilt using modern materials, but the architecture is still Buddhist. Inside the temple is decorated with gilded details, inlays, altars, hammock doors that are carved in gardenia patterns.
Along with that are the Buddha statues at the throne of the Three Jewels, the La Han statue in La Han Duong, the statue of the Buddha of Thich Ca sitting in the main hall, these places are often decorated with magnificent and majestic worshiping objects.
The space inside the Pagoda is filled with relaxing aroma, calming down whoever walking in. It is the space that gives people a sense of peace, relaxation, leaving all the hustle and bustle behind.
Dong pagoda nearby Yen Tu Pagoda
2. The Most Famous Pagoda Dong Pagoda
Yen Tu pagoda’s most famous and highest located pagoda received its name, Chua Dong which is The Bronze Pagoda in English, for its original construction made completely from copper.
Dong Pagoda embraces all the conventional values of Buddhism and Vietnamese folk beliefs, it is said to be a place of harmonization of cosmic and can bring people luck, health, and enlightenment of religion.
Entitled to the largest and highest located copper pagoda in Vietnam by the Vietnam Record Book Center, Dong pagoda is also regarded as one of the most unique pagodas in the world. It is considered by many people to be the new “wonder” at the Yen Tu tourist interest.
Behind the pagoda is the chasm with precipitous cliffs of Bac Giang province territory. Tourists visiting Yen Tu Pagoda are all determined to climb up to 1000 meters of cliff path to admire Chua Dong’s spectacular architecture.
The pagoda was constructed with copper material in the Late Le dynasty as a charity structure. It then got destroyed in a storm and rebuilt many times, it is not until 2007 that the pagoda is substantially transformed into today’s monumental construction.
The blueprint of Dong pagoda was inspired by a lotus flower the elegant symbolic flower of Buddhism. The giant lotus consists of many beautifully blooming rock petals. On the east side is a steep sloping cliff, and the west side is a vertical cliff that only fits one adult foot.
According to the abbot, Dong pagoda’s architecture resembles the front hall of Dau pagoda (Thuan Thanh district, Bac Ninh province), with the four square roofs, whose shape is the duplicate of traditional boot-like shoes. At the corners of the roofs are the Tran era’s style dragon heads.
In order to build the Yen Tu pagoda at an altitude of more than 1000m, admired by both the international and millions of Buddhists, the artisans of that era spent a period of long and effortless construction.
Dong Pagoda is completely unique and different from any other metal artwork in the world, no matter architecture or sculpture. It is the perfect combination of elegance, from the lotus design and stamina, from the copper materials and sharp configuration. It is the result of Vietnamese people’s both hard work and intelligence, both of which are highly valued quality of Vietnamese people.
Another highlight of Yen Tu Pagoda is the breathtaking nature. In the past, the only way to go to Yen Tu mountain and reach the legendary Phu Van peak was to follow the walking path, weaving along the trail over the immense trees and trees, under the canopy of bamboo and pine forests.
Now, visitors have one more option: to follow the modern cable car over the distance of 1 km to be able to see Yen Tu mountain and forest from above, then continue walking to visit other points in the scenic area.
However, many people still choose the traditional travel route to visit the whole tour because they can slowly visit all that nature has created here. It is a road over 6 km long, reinforced by thousands of stone steps, very sturdy and convenient despite the steep slope. It is said that you will have to pass more than 6000 steps to get to the pagoda.
On your way to the famous Bronze Pagoda, you are presented with the best natural scenery of Quang Ninh. Travelers can look out to sea, take a glimpse of Ha Long Bay, let the white clouds float around your body, and feel the gentle breeze. Climbing up a vertical slope, visitors enjoy the beautiful natural scenery named Truc Lam, which is Bamboo Forest in Chinese-Vietnamese.
The whole forest of green bamboo is half covered when the wind blows through the clouds, creating a poetic scene that can be compared to a picture with vivid colors created by the most talented artist. Then the bamboo forest appeared again when the white clouds passed away. Travelers may feel like they are lost in the fairy realm.
Leaving the fairytale to Bao Sai Pagoda, climbing by the cliffs, continue to Van Tieu Pagoda, 4000m away from the foot of the mountain, where it is considered the precepts between real life and the fairy realm. From here, the higher you get, the cooler it is. Looking down, you can only see the green color of the forest. Next comes the toughest path of the whole journey. The cliff is so steep that it almost looks vertical.
Continuing the road, visitors will encounter large, flat rocks that force people to zigzag under the rocks. The sound of the wind blowing against the rocks gave off a melodious, deep sound created by two musicians, the wind and the rock, as if they were performing a continuous music piece of nature. These rocks still embrace the vestige from thousands of years ago with conches and shells attached to them.
Upon reaching the peak of Yen Tu Mountain, where the renowned Dong Pagoda is located, tourists experience true serene in the soul, after a difficult journey, walking to this place, seeing white clouds floating around like streams, feeling the steam condensing on your skin and hair in cool dewdrops. Every breath is filled with relaxation.
Yen Tu Pagoda, especially the Yen Tu Bronze Pagoda, is famous for being extremely sacred. According to the perception of the ancient people, Dong Yen Tu pagoda is a place where people can invoke cosmic vitality for all aspects of life, which can only happen in a land that unites certain conditions and converges the divine flow of the universe. Perhaps that is why the Dong pagoda is a place where followers and Buddhists rely on when they want to be immersed in that boundless vitality.
There are many myths around the temples in Yen Tu Pagoda, of which the most well-known is the myth about the name of the mountain. Legends say that more than two thousand years ago, Master Yen Ky Sinh settled down in this mountain to pursue supernatural power and practice the remedy for immortality. He gathered and planted many herbs and medicinal plants and saved the lives of many people. After his death, to memorize his kindness, the local residents named the mountain after him.
Another myth is about the Giai Oan Coc. It is said that when King Tran Nhan Tong gave the throne to his son, Tran Anh Tong, and then went to the Buddha realm, many concubines and beauties followed him and tried to bring him around to return but they all failed and took their own lives as a result. King Tran Nhan Tong sympathized with them and decided to set up a pagoda to memorize them since then the pagoda and stream were named Giai Oan Coc.
Yen Tu Pagoda preserves noble values in history, culture, and civilization through the ages. It is the place to nourish the spirit, guide people to goodness, and return to their own true selves. For nearly a thousand years, this has been a place of spiritual practice and enlightenment of a large number of notables in Buddhism.
III. What to Do in Yen Tu Pagoda?
From my observations and experience of going to Yen Tu pagoda, Tet holiday is considered as the tourist season as a huge number of visitors converge on this pagoda to celebrate the Spring Festival held on an annual basis. During this time, thousands of people flock to Yen Tu for spring travel and prayers for themselves, their family, relatives and friends in the hope for a new year of freshness, luck, happiness and prosperity. Besides traditionally showing respect for spiritual beliefs, there are a variety of other activities, especially for expats who are clueless about or not used to our long-standing customs.
1. Making a Pilgrimage
Yen Tu festival takes place every year and lasts for about three months, beginning on 10th January and finishing at the end of March according to the Lunar Calendar. There is a solemn ritual at the foot of Yen Tu mountain, followed by a sacred activity, namely thousands of pilgrims heading for Yen Tu pagoda situated on the top of the mountain. Visitors to Yen Tu pagoda festival wish to rid themselves of all worldly material, desire, sorrows and sadness for a while and show aspirations for belief by going on a pilgrimage to Buddha land amid the majestic nature.
2. Sightseeing and Taking Photos
Because of the panoramic breathtaking view of nature offered here, sightseeing is the most favourable activity, to say the least. In Yen Tu, the wide ensemble of vestiges consists of many shrines and pagodas built with different styles, but all of which feature architectural characteristics of Vietnamese ancient history and exude an air of ancient cultures. This system of pagoda serves as a tourist attraction accompanied by precious cultural and traditional values preserved here, thereby maintaining a stable number of visitors annually.
As regards domestic tourists, in addition to their wish to have a change of scene and enjoy the fresh air here, visiting Yen Tu pagoda is also a way of upholding our well-established cultures and showing appreciation for our ancestors. Almost every pagoda here has a mysterious story, so if you want to unravel these mysteries, come check Yen Tu Pagoda out.
3. Mountain Climbing
Yen Tu pagoda lies on the top of Yen Tu mountain. The distance is quite long, roughly 30 kilometers. In the past, to get to Yen Tu mountain, to the legendary Phu Van summit, there was one way only by the walking path. Now, visitors can follow the modern cable car over a distance of 1 kilometers, enabling them to admire Yen Tu mountain and forests from above, then continue visiting other destinations on foot in the scenic area. However, many people still opt for the traditional travel route to slowly enjoy the tour to the fullest.
Along the stairs, you may catch a glimpse of some minor signs leading to Dong pagoda. Personally, this is out of this world as a mountain climbing enthusiast. Reaching the top gives you a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of walking on clouds. Moreover, this summit overlooks the impressive northeastern landscape of our country, so there is nothing better than immersing yourself in the pure nature, taking some photos and sending them to your friends or posting them on facebook to share your amazing conquering experiences.
IV. How to Get to Yen Tu Pagoda
1. By Shuttle Bus
Normally, people often go to Yen Tu Pagoda Combination from Hanoi. Tourists can get on a shuttle bus from Hanoi to Yen Tu, Quang Binh in any Hanoian big station, for example: Giap Bat station, My Dinh station, Nuoc Ngam Station or so on. According to experienced travellers, those shuttle buses will take you directly to Trinh Temple, the first destination in Yen Tu combination. Then, you can start your sacred adventure there.
Recommended Shuttle Bus Firms:
KUMO VIET THANH
- Main Office’s address: 20 Pham Hung Street, Tu Liem, Hanoi
- Tel: (+84)43 768 9874 or (+84)98 588 009
- Depart every 35 minutes from 5: 00 to 18:30
- Price range: ~ 100.000 VND
- Duration: 3.5 – 4 hours
DUC PHUC EXPRESS BUS
- Main Office’s address: Yen Vien, Uong Bi, Quang Ninh
- Tel: (+84)333 856 244 or (+84)123 228 8389
- Departs every 30 minutes
- Price range: 120.000 VND
- Duration: 4 hours
2. By Car
This is sure to be a harsh adventure if you decide to visit Yen Tu by self-drive cars. Therefore, a highly recommended alternative for this will be to get a long distance taxi from Hanoi to Quang Binh. Evidently, as this way of commuting will neither make you tired of driving nor forcing you to wait at the station, this is one of the most convenient commuting ways. However, this type of commuting still has a minor, which is its price. As long distance taxis often cost users a lot, you should be prepared for the price if deciding to take this choice.
Recommended car service agencies:
HTS TOUR AND TRANSPORTS
Address: 21 Ma May street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Tel: (+84)243 938 2391
MINH DUC TRANSPORT
Address: 1/267 Lane, Ho Tung Mau, Nam Tu Liem, Hanoi
Tel: (+84) 983 372 885
3. By Motorbike
For tourists who enjoy stopping by on the way to Yen Tu Pagoda, this would be a perfect choice. Normally, travelling long distance by motorbike is often for adventurous travellers (because the way will be harsh sometimes), who are strong enough and want to enjoy not only the sacred combination but also the way leading to it. In order to choose this means of transport, travellers have to be a skillful user and have already known the way Yen Tu Pagoda thoroughly. The weather condition, maps, as well as the driver license should also be checked carefully before you start your long journey.
Recommended motorbike-hiring services:
BON BON MOTOR
Address: 246 Ton Duc Thang, Dong Da, Hanoi
Tel: (+84) 125 5222 555
HANOI MOTOR TOUR
Address: 22 463 Lane, Doi Can, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
Tel: (+84) 928 290 000
V. Useful Tips
The ideal travel time to Yen Tu is 1 day 1 night, or you drop by and go home within a day.
Keep in mind that it is likely to be crowded but vibrant if you intend to enjoy the Yen Tu festival. And if weekdays are your choice, it is quite comfortable, calm and refreshing.
If you choose to walk and climb to Yen Tu mountain, you should bring a pair of sports shoes (e.g. bata) or hiking shoes, lightweight clothes tailored to the season, a small compact backpack to hold a little food and water and other personal belongings. Another point worth noticing is that because the surrounding landscape is surrounded by dangerous mountains, you should bring a sufficient amount of cash with you in lieu of ATM cards to have a convenient travel and beware of pickpockets.
Remember to buy a bamboo cane at the foot of the mountain (5,000 VNĐ) if you want to go for a walk. It will help you stay strong enough, maintain your stamina and avoid getting your knees hurt until getting to the top. It is advisable to carry a camera or a phone to capture picturesque scenes along the path and keep photos as memories of your journey to Yen Tu.
With regard to means of transportation, you can take a bus or use your private car. In general, in spite of many buses to Yen Tu, there are two primary bus stations in Luong Yen and My Dinh. Although it is not too complicated to get here, if you go by car on your own, you should carefully check the route and bring all necessary items.
As a visitor to Yen Tu pagoda, you are expected to dress politely as this is a sacred place, have a proper code of conduct, preserve the landscape and not litter indiscriminately. A rule of thumb is that if you feel too tired or exhausted, just break your journey for a while to take a deep breath and drink a little water to help you recharge your battery and be able to carry on your trip.
Yen Tu Pagoda is both a sacred destination and a peaceful tourist destination for the first days of the new year. Hopefully, my sharing in this blog will help you, your family and friends with your upcoming trip. Traveling to Yen Tu pagoda is not just a journey to be back to the land of Buddha but also a perfect spring trip for family, friends and businesses as New Year comes.
Keyword: Yen Tu Pagoda – Sacred “Capital” Of Vietnam