Largest pagoda complex beckons tourists, pilgrims

June 19, 2020 - 08:51

It draws pilgrims and tourists who come to contemplate the unique architecture, enjoy the spectacular landscape and learn more about Buddhism.

Tourists enjoy boat tour to Tam Chúc Pagoda Complex. — VNS Photos Minh Thu

Minh Thu

Tam Chúc Pagoda Complex is a special religious tourist site in an awe-inspiring landscape, with its front facing the lake and its back leaning into the mountain.

It draws pilgrims and tourists who come to contemplate the unique architecture, enjoy the spectacular landscape and learn more about Buddhism.

Tam Chúc Pagoda Complex or Tam Chúc Buddhism Culture Centre is located in Kim Bảng District, Hà Nam Province, about 1.5 hours driving from central Hà Nội.

More services will be available at the site to serve tourists including kayaking. 

It’s accessible by cars or bikes as it’s 10km from the centre of Phủ Lý Town, Hà Nam. The site hosted the 16th United Day of Vesak (Buddha's Birthday, Enlightenment and Passing Away) celebrations last year.

The site sits on the foundations of an ancient Tam Chúc Pagoda dating back to the Đinh Dynasty more than 1,000 years ago. Some parts of the new pagoda complex are under construction. The three-gate entrance looks imposing with architecture akin to an old citadel.

From the wharf, tourists get on boats with roofs designed like traditional temple roofs to reach the main area. On the way, they can enjoy the view of Lục Nhạc (Six Bells) Lake. The lake comprises six islands, which legend has it are six bells brought down from heaven.

The Tam Chúc complex covers 5,100ha, of which the pagoda takes up 144ha divided into many parts, such as the Jade pagoda on the peak of Thất Tinh (Seven Stars) Mountain, Tam Chúc Temple, Tam Thế Pagoda (The Main Hall of Buddhas of the Three Times), Kwuan Yin Shrine and Shakyamuni Shrine where the heaviest Buddha statue in Southeast Asia (200 tonnes) is found.

Tam Chúc Pagoda Complex is built and decorated with sophisticated details. To reach the peak of Thất Tinh Mountain, tourists pass Vườn Kinh (Garden of Sutras), a monumental construction of 99 stone pillars. Each stands 13.5m high and weighs 200 tonnes.

It may take one day to view all of Tam Thế Pagoda. Apart from three giant Buddha statues weighing 80 tonnes each carved with gold inlaid bodhi leaves behind, the pagoda displays 12,000 murals depicting legends of Buddha carved on volcano rock by Indonesian artisans.

Three statues, weighing 80 tonnes each, at Tam Thế Pagoda. 

The 13m-high Jade Pagoda is considered a masterpiece of stone architecture. The entire structure is made of red granite weighing more than 2,000 tonnes, with no cement used in its joints. From Jade Pagoda, visitors can enjoy an aerial view of the entire complex. Pilgrims walk on 200 steps to reach the peak where the pagoda is located.

Visitors can use electric cars to discover the whole complex, with round trip tickets costing VNĐ200,000 (US$8.7). 

Tourists can now also go kayaking at Tam Chúc Wharf, as well as enjoy afternoon tea on a boat between 4.30pm and 6.30pm everyday.

Lê Xuân Huy, director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said Tam Chúc Pagoda Complex is the highlight of Hà Nam tourism.

“We have worked closely with travel agents and neighbouring provinces to boost local tourism, and revive the economy after the pandemic,” he said at a conference boosting tourism held last week.

“When the pandemic is under control, reviving tourism is very important. Tam Chúc Pagoda Complex is the highlighted destination as it’s an important religious site and has beautiful landscape. It connects other destinations nearby such as Hương Pagoda Complex and Tràng An – Bái Đính Complex.” — VNS