Hanoi Capital is known as a long-standing historical land with a thousand years of civilization. This scenic city is famous for thousands of sacred ancient temples and pagodas. Tran Quoc Pagoda is among the most ancient spiritual destinations in Vietnam and apparently a top must-visit place for everyone visiting Hanoi.
Being over 1500 years old, Tran Quoc Pagoda is one of the oldest temples not only in Hanoi, but also in Vietnam. Thanks to the ideal location on an eastern island of West Lake, the open space and lush nature in Tran Quoc Pagoda complements its ancient beauty gracefully. In the feudal era, Tran Quoc Pagoda is the spiritual center and the most scenic spot in Thang Long Citadel. Such timeless beauty that the Thrillist site voted Tran Quoc Pagoda in Hanoi as one of the most beautiful temples in the world.
Tran Quoc Pagoda is over 15 centuries old
According to historical records, the pagoda was built near the banks of the Red River, belonging to the land of Yen Hoa village (later known as Yen Phu). Initially, the temple had a very meaningful name of Khai Quoc (Start a country). At that time, Ly Nam De (541 - 547) has just gained national independence and named the country Van Xuan. The king built the capital in the To Lich estuary, only some distance away from this village.
Under the reign of King Le Kinh Tong (around 1615), the pagoda was moved to Yen Phu dike and was built on the old foundation of Thuy Hoa palace (Ly Dynasty) and Han Nguyen (Tran Dynasty).
In 1639, the Trinh lord repaired the gate and built corridors on both sides. Around the time of Chinh Hoa (1680 - 1705) in the reign of King Le Hy Tong, the pagoda was named Tran Quoc.
Tran Quoc Pagoda was officially named under the Le dynasty
The building with many exquisite details was constructed according to the architectural philosophy of Buddhism. This work consists of three main houses called "Tien Duong" , “Thuong Dien" and a votive burning house. The houses are connected in the letter "Cong" (工) shape, with the “Tien Duong" faces towards the west. Therefore, looking from the front, the pagoda looks like a blooming lotus and that’s what makes the pagoda’s architecture so unique.
Behind the “Thuong Dien" is a bell tower, which is a three-room house. On the left is the “Nha To" used for worship the gods and goddesses; on the right is a house built to preserve the 14 precious plaques with the description of the building course and the restoration of Tran Quoc Pagoda.
Inside the pagoda
Passing through the gardens, visitors will see the Bodhi Tree with heart-shaped leaves. In 1959, Indian President Rajendra Prasad donated this bodhi tree to the temple. It is believed that this is a branch of the sacred bodhi tree where the Buddha enlightened. Tourists and pilgrims from all over the world come here to honor this monument.
The unique tower structures in Tran Quoc Pagoda
The tower named “Luc Do Dai Sen" was built in 1998 and is symmetrically positioned with the Bodhi tree. The tower is 15 meters tall and consists of 11 floors. On each floor, there are six doorways where the Amitabha Buddha statues are placed. The top of the tower has a large sculpted lotus flower. The lotus is the symbol of Buddhism, and the tree represents endless knowledge.
The high tower in the pagoda
The museum in the temple is small but certainly worth exploring. Visitors can see amazing antique statues from hundreds to thousands of years old.
Sunset is when the grace of the pagoda comes to live - the pink and orange clouds shimmering on the horizon behind the pagoda and tower.
After visiting and praying at the temple, visitors can explore 2 nearby attractions: one is Phu Tay Ho located on the west side of the lake and the other is Quan Thanh Temple, which is close to Thanh Nien road.
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The Liberation Ceremony is one of the unique cultural features of Vietnamese people, often held on January 15 (Lunar Calendar) or Vu Lan Festival (in July according to Lunar Calendar). The ceremony is an activity where people release animals such as fish, turtles, snails ... or even birds to show the compassion of humans and make wishes for a prosperous year. Many people choose to carry out the release is Tran Quoc Pagoda as they believe this is the most sacred place.
The set-free ceremony at Tran Quoc Pagoda
Tiny animals sold at the front gate
You can easily spot people selling tiny creatures for the rituals at the gate of Tran Quoc Pagoda, but most of the time, the price can be ridiculously high. If you wish to partake in the activity, visit the Dong Xuan market or Long Bien market. Snails can cost VND 8,000 - VND 10,000/ kg, small goldfish cost VND 2,000 VND each, and turtles are VND 10,000 each. Another note is that tourists should not buy red-eared turtles for release, as this animal is harmful to the environment.
Opening hours: 7:30 AM - 11:30 AM | 1:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Entrance fee: free
The pagoda is breath-taking at night
The pagoda is only about 4 kilometers from the city center. If visitors go by cars or motorbikes, it only takes about 15 to 20 minutes to transport. You may have to pay for a parking fee at Tran Quoc Pagoda.
Read more on Can Tourists Drive in Vietnam?
If visitors want to travel by bus, there are 2 bus routes that have a very close stop to the temple gate which is bus route 33 (Yen Nghia bus station - Xuan Dinh) and bus line 50 (Long Bien - My Dinh National Stadium).
This beautiful site is not so far from the city center
Tran Quoc Pagoda is always crowded with worshipers, usually the locals on the 1st and 15th day of the month according to the Lunar Calendar. If visitors want to explore the religious culture of Vietnam, these two days of the month are always a wonderful time. But if you don't fancy huge crowds, it will be a good idea to avoid these two days.
The site can be overly crowded on weekends and on special occasions.
Just like any pagoda in the world, Tran Quoc Pagoda doesn't allow worshipers and visitors to wear skin-showing clothes to the pagoda. The appropriate outfit must be tops with sleeves and bottoms with the length of over the knees.
When coming into the shrines for worshipping, remember to take off hats, umbrellas, and shoes to show respect for the gods and the pagodas.
For visitors who are highly interested in a spiritual tourist attraction, Vietnam is surely a must-visit country. And once setting foot on this beautiful country, don't miss the chance to pay a visit to the global-scale beautiful Tran Quoc Pagoda.
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© Written by Emily Le for itourvn.com