As Hanoi prepares to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of its founding, take a close look to four temples built to protect the city from all direction
1. East: Bach Ma Temple
The oldest of the four sacred sites is Bach ma (White Horse) Temple, located at 76 Hang Buom Street, Hanoi. Bach Ma Temple was built in the ninth century to worship Long Do (Dragon’s Belly) - a patron saint of Hanoi. Legend has it that Cao Bien, a Tang Dynasty official, try to use his magic power to overcome a deity, but lost. He is said to have built an altar to exorcise the spirit on this site
In 1010 King Ly Thai To decided to move his capital from Hoa Lu to Thang long. But each time he tried to build a citadel on the new site, it collapsed. The King sent his staff to Long Di temple to pray to the supernatural powers for help in building his citadel. Suddenly, the saw a white horse racing from temple
The king ordered the citadel to be built on the path taken by the galloping horse. This time, the construction was successful. King Ly Thai to elevated Long Do to the position of tutelary deity of Hanoi. From that time onwards, the temple was known as White Horse
The first among the four Thang Long Tu Tran, Bach Ma Temple still contains many important relics, such as stone steles recording the temple origins and the resident deity, and royal ordinances on deification rites and the process of restoration dating from the Le to the Nguyen Dynasties
2. West: Voi Phuc Temple
The temple that defends the west is Voi Phuc (Kneeling Elephants) Temple, built during the reign of King Ly Thanh Tong (1054-1072) to whorship Saint Ling Lang. According to a legend, Saint Ling Lang was the fourth price of King Ly Thanh Tong and Lady Hao Nuong, his ninth imperial concubine
When Chinese Sung dynasty sent a strong army to invade Vietnam, the king was very worried. He dispatched his messengers to recruit talented people to fight the invaders to save the country. Hearing the news, the price asked the king to give him command of the troops. The king agreed and provided him with a red flag, along spear, and two elephants. After arranging his troops, the prince stood before the elephants and shouted: ‘’ I am the general from heaven “ the elephants immediately knelt down, then carried him to the battlefield where he and his troops defeated the invaders. Since then, the temple was known as Voi Phuc
When peace was restored, King Ly Thanh Tong held a feast to reward his troops and expressed his intention of abdicating the throne to the prince. However Ling Lang refused the King‘s offer. A short time later, the prince was stricken with a disease. Resting his head on a square rook, Prince Ling Lang turned into a dragon and disappeared into West Lake. King Ly Thanh Tong conferred the title of Grand Prince upon him
Later under the Tran and Le Dynasties, Ling Lang reappeared as a genie to help the King to defend the country against enemies. To commemorate the prince contributions, these dynasties conferred him the title “Superior Genie. Settlements within sight of his red flag all built temples to worship and honor him
3. South: Kim lien Temple
The temple that guards Hanoi to the South is Kim Lien temple. this temple was built as an altar to saint Cao son, who, as legend has it, was the son of the son of Vietnam’ s first couple, Lac Long Quan and Au Co, Cao Son was reportedly one of the 50 siblings who followed their mother to the mountains. It is said that Cao Son had helped Son Tinh (Mountain Genie) to defeat Thuy Tinh (Water Genie) and bring peace to the people
According to document kelp in the temple, King Ly Thai To ordered the temple’s construction shortly after the establishment of Thang Long. In 1509, Le Tuong Duc marched his troop from Thanh Hoa to Thang Long to squash Le Uy Muc’s rebellion. When passing the temple , he went in to pray to Cao Son for support . Shortly thereafter Le Tuong Duc successfully restored the Le Dynasty. In return for the saint’s support, King Le Tuong Duc had the temple replaced with a bigger and more beautiful one in King Hoa ward, which was then close to Thang long. He also ordered his historians to compile epitaphs on the saint’s merits so that his deeds would be remembered through the generations. the temple contains a huge stone Stele of 2.43 meters tall, 1,57 meters wide and 0,22 meter thick dedicated to Cao Son. It is carved with records of saint miraculous deeds and verses to pray him composed by historian Le Tung in 1510. The throne stele was erected in 1772. Every year, a traditional festival is held here on March 16th of the lunar year and offerings of thanks are made to the saint
4. North: Quan Thanh Temple
Quan Thanh Temple- also called Tran Vu temple is dedicated to Huyen Thien Tran Vu a deity mentioned in both Vietnamese and Chinese legends. He is credited with having helped Vietnamese people to drive away ghosts, evil spirits, and foreign invaders.
King Ly Thai To had the temple built in 1010 to protect the north border of Thang Long Citadel. The temple contains a giant black bronze statue of Huyen Thien Tran Vu sitting on a stone pedestal 1.5 meters high. The statue has a solemn, majestic look and depicts a man with a square face, a long beard, and long hair. He is wearing a hermit costume and has bare feet. The lest hand of the statue oases magic and the right hand holds a sword shrouded by a snake propped against the back of a tortoise ( a snake symbolizes strength and a tortoise represents immortality. The statue is a symbol of Vietnamese people’s undying resistance to invasion
Cast in black bronze, it stand 3.966 m high and weighs four tons. this beautifully-made sculpture was made in Ngu Xa Village ( Truc Bach Lake) during the reign of King Le Huy Tong in 1677
Quan Thanh Temple boasts a three-door entrance. In front of the entrance stand four large pillars. In addition to the statue of Huyen Thien Tran Vu, the temple also boasts other precious artifacts most notably a big bell dating back to 1677, a bronze musical bell cast in 1794 a bronze plate made in 1841 and stone stele recording the restoration of the temple ( 1857)
Together, Bach Ma, Kneeling Elephants, Kim Lien and Quan Thanh temples form the four sacred guardians of Thang Long- Hanoi. These temples and historic and cultural treasures that symbolize the artistry strength, self-reliance, and independence of Vietnamese people
5. Activities to celebrate 1000th Thang Long – Hanoi anniversary, Vietnam
1. Opening day (October 1)
* The opening ceremony will be held by the Hanoi authorities and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism at the Ly Thai To statue, Dinh Tien Hoang road and the space around the Hoan Kiem Lake in the morning of October 1.
* The exhibition of economic and social achievements of Vietnam and Hanoi will open in the afternoon October 1 at the Giang Vo Exhibition Centre.
* The exhibition of literary works of Vietnam through various periods at the Cultural and Art Exhibition Centre, 2 Hoa Lu, Hanoi.
* A general cultural and art performance organised by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in Hanoi in the evening on October 1. The show will have the contribution of foreign experts.
2. Activities from October 2, 2010
a. Cultural and art activities
* Cultural exchange festival for ethnic groups in Vietnam to celebrate the 1000th Thang Long – Hanoi anniversary in Hanoi
* A week for historical films in Hanoi
* “Thang Long impetus and the song for the country” music show at the Hanoi Opera House
* Performance of selected new songs to celebrate the 1000th Thang Long – Hanoi anniversary at the Ba Kieu Temple stage
* Street festival and cultural-art programme of young Hanoians at various places in Hanoi
* The first international festival for young bands in Vietnam at the My Dinh National Convention Hall
b. Tourism activities
* A tourism festival in Hanoi
* An exhibition of antiques, documents and objects about Thang Long – Hanoi in the Thang Long ancient citadel, Hanoi
* Exhibition of ornamental trees and flowers in the Thang Long ancient citadel
* Festival for craft villages in Hanoi
3. Other activities to celebrate the 1000th Thang Long – Hanoi anniversary in Hanoi from October 1, 2010
* A special circus show entitled “Hanoi – The city for peace” at Thien Quang Lake, Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc square and the National Circus.
* Music concerts by famous Vietnamese artists at the Hanoi Opera House.
* Performance of ancient dances of Thang Long – Hanoi at the Ly Thai To Flower Garden.
* International music and stage festival with the participation of art troupes from some 1000 year-old cities in the world (around 29 troupes).
* A big concert performed by Vietnamese and foreign orchestras at the Hanoi Opera House.
* A parade and performance by contestants in the Miss World 2010 pageant in Vietnam.
* The national press awards ceremony about 1000th Thang Long – Hanoi anniversary.
* The awards ceremony of the international competition on knowledge about Thang Long – Hanoi, entitled “Hanoi – Your Rendezvous”.
* The awards ceremony of the contest on knowledge of Thang Long – Hanoi for Vietnamese citizens.
* Photo exhibition of Hanoi at 93 Dinh Tien Hoang street and 45 Trang Tien street.
* A calligraphy exhibition and festival at Van Mieu (Temple of Literature).
* Bat Trang ceramic – Tradition and Modernity exhibition on Yen Phu road, Bat Trang village.
* Exhibition of famous battlefields and campaigns in the military history of Vietnam at the Vietnam Military History Museum.
* Exhibition of national heroes and famous scholars of Vietnam at the Revolution Museum.
* Exhibition entitled “Hearts to Thang Long – Hanoi”, which will display products of individuals and organisations presented to Hanoi on the occasion of the 1000th Thang Long – Hanoi anniversary at the Hanoi Friendship Palace.
* Ancient Thang Long – Hanoi exhibition at the Hanoi Museum.
* Performance of traditional ao dai.
* Hanoi food festival.
* A kite-flying festival.
* The launching ceremony of a collection of books about Thang Long – Hanoi
* The announcement ceremony of a national research work about 1000 years of Thang Long – Hanoi.
Written and contributed by VietnamHeritageTravel