Tran Quoc Pagoda is located beside the dazzling West Lake, on Thanh Nien Road, Hanoi. Particularly, 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 (They are two famous Lake in Hanoi).
Tran Quoc Pagoda is regarded as the most ancient pagoda in Hanoi with its history line of more than 1,500 years.
Located on a small penisula on the East side of West Lake, Tran Quoc Pagoda is regarded as the most ancient pagoda in Hanoi with its history line of more than 1,500 years. The architecture of this Buddhist center is a subtle combination between the solemn and beautiful landscape on the peaceful and quiet ambiance of West Lake’s surface. Thanks to these historical and architectural values, Tran Quoc Pagoda attracts many tourists to pay a visit, both inside and outside of Vietnam.
The Trấn Quốc 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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.