Tran Quoc Pagoda
This pagoda is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi, built in the 6th century CE. The site is full of amazing Buddhist symbolism that visitors can learn more about.
The Tran Quoc Pagoda in Hanoi is the oldest pagoda in the city, originally constructed in the sixth century during the reign of Emperor Lý Nam Đế (from 544 until 548), thus giving it an age of more than 1,450 years. When founded the temple was named Khai Quoc (National Founding) and was sited on the shores of the Red River, outside of the Yen Phu Dyke. When confronted with the river’s encroachment, the temple was relocated in 1615 to Kim Ngu (Golden Fish) islet of Ho Tay (West Lake) where it is now situated. A small causeway links it to the mainland.
The last major repair to the temple was undertaken in 1815 when the main sanctuary, reception hall and posterior hall of the dead were renovated. The pagoda is one of the main parts of the Trấn Quốc Temple for it holds the important monk’s ashes. Most of the pagodas were made in the 17th century but the tallest pagoda was remade in 2004. The pagodas are red because in Chinese and Vietnamese culture red symbolizes luck and prosperity.
Monks have lived at the Trấn Quốc Pagoda for centuries, teaching the ways of Buddhism to the public. Before the visitors start arriving, the monks pray at the multiple shrines spread around the grounds. Monks do not get married and therefore do not live with families at the pagoda. Over the years, the temple was variously named An Quoc (Pacification of the Realm) and Tran Bac (Guardian of the North) as well.
There is a great deal of Buddhist symbolism at the Trấn Quốc Temple as well. The eight-spoked wheel is the symbol of Buddhism because it represents the Noble Eight-fold Path. At the Trấn Quốc Pagoda, there are many lotus flower statues. These symbolize purity of the mind, body and speech. The lotus flower also symbolizes enlightenment and achievement. The stone wall at the side of the pagoda has multiple carvings of lotus flowers engraved in the stone. The carvings express the beauty of nature in Vietnam.