Ancient Chuong Pagoda located in Nhan Duc village, Hung Yen province, guards a number of precious historical relics. It is part of the Pho Hien Special National Relic Site.
Built in the 15th century, ancient Chuong pagoda has been upgraded twice, in 1702 and in 1711.
Tour guide Nguyen Thu Lien explains why the pagoda is often called Golden Bell Pagoda: “Legends say that in a huge flood thousands of years ago, a wood plank drifted to the region carrying a golden bell. Nhan Duc residents tried to bring the bell ashore but it wouldn’t move. When the monks of the pagoda came, they managed to bring the bell to the pagoda.”
“The locals built a bell tower in the pagoda to show their gratitude to Buddha. The sound of the bell is said to echo for thousands of miles away,” she added.
The pagoda was designed symmetrically on an axis leading from the triple gate to the Main Worshipping Hall, to the Ancestors Worshipping Hall, to the Mother Goddess Worshipping Hall, and then to the Bell Tower. The pagoda faces south.
Architectural features of the later Le dynasty can be seen in the pagoda gate and roofs. The gate has three levels and 12 curved roofs. It is decorated with Vietnam’s sacred animals: dragon, unicorn, turtle, and phoenix. After the gate there is a stone bridge across the Dragon Eye pond.
Tour guide Lien said, “This is a rare, ancient bridge in Hung Yen. It was built in 1702, across the Dragon Eye pond, following the Buddhist philosophy of facing East, the direction of the good and West, the direction of the bad. At the two ends of the bridge are 4 stone guardian lions dating back to the later Le regime.”
Crossing the bridge, visitors enter a large yard made of Bat Trang tiles. There’s a path in the middle of the yard that leads to the Front Hall and the Upper Hall where an ancient incense pillar has stood since 1702. The incense pillar is called Thach Tru meaning axis linking earth and heaven.
The Bell pagoda contains a collection of Buddha statues that are ranged along sides of each corridor. The pagoda’s 18 Arhat statues made of clay in the 16th century are one of the most beautiful collections in Vietnam.
One of the most valuable items in the pagoda is the stone stele on the left side of the pagoda.
Ms Lien said, “The pagoda has a valuable stone stele dating back to 1711. On the front side of the stele is a poem praising the beauty of the pagoda and on the back side is a story about the busy trading scene in Pho Hien in the old days when Hanoi had 36 guilds and Hung Yen had 23 guilds and 36 markets that drew traders from across the country. The area also attracted a lot of foreign traders.”
On the first day and 15th day of every lunar month and on Buddha’s birthday, the pagoda is a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims.
Dinh Tran Nam, a Hung Yen local, said, “This is a historical relic site that we are proud of. We hope our children, grandchildren and future generation will preserve it.”