Located on a small peninsula on the eastern part of West Lake, (near the end of Thanh Nien road, Ba Dinh district), Tran Quoc Pagoda is one of the most ancient pagoda in Hanoi and in Vietnam. With more than 1500 years of history since constructed, this pagoda was as famous as the most hallowed Buddhism center in Hanoi that it attracts a large numbers of Buddhists and tourists coming here every year.
Tran Quoc Pagoda was first built under the name “Khai Quoc” (Opening a country) during King Ly Nam De Dynasty, between year 544 and 548 on the bank 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”, (peaceful country). However, in 1915, due to a serious landslide ingrained into the pagoda’s foundation, the incumbent government and people had to move the whole construction to Kim Ngư Island on the East of West Lake, which has not been changed until nowadays. Finally, in King Le Huy Tong dynasty (1681-1705), the pagoda was renamed into “Tran Quoc” (protecting the country). 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.
Famous for stunning scenery and sacred sanctuary, Tran Quoc Pagoda used to be a favorite sightseeing place of many kings and lords of Vietnam, especially during festivals, full moon days or Tet’s holiday. 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).
Looking from the far distance, Tran Quoc Pagoda is prominent by its high stupa that was 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 indispensable destination for cultural explorers to Vietnam.