Ngoc Son Temple
An architectural masterpiece in Hanoi
Located on the northern islet of Hoan Kiem Lake, bearing in itself the ancient beauty through the ups and downs of history, Ngoc Son Temple is always the pride and spiritual symbol of Vietnamese people. The temple is not only regarded as one of the most impressive architectural masterpieces of Vietnam but also a famous tourist attraction as well as a unique symbol of Hanoi by many domestic and international tourists.
Together with Hoan Kiem Lake and The Huc Bridge, Ngoc Son Temple has gone into many beautiful poems and melodies for generations. Traces of thousand years of history are still imprinted on every wall, tile roof, and even on the curving The Huc Bridge across the bank to the gate of Ngoc Son Temple, bringing a gorgeous and splendid but magnificent and ancient beauty to this famous landmark. For that reason, Ngoc Son Temple is one of Vietnam’s special national monuments.
The history of Ngoc Son Temple
The temple, which was built in the 19th century, has a long and special history. At first, it was named Ngoc Son Pagoda but later changed to Ngoc Son Temple. The temple worshipped Van Xuong De Quan – the master of Literature and Education and Tran Hung Dao – the hero who defeated the Nguyen army in the 13th century.
When King Ly Thai To issued the Edict on the transfer of the Capital to Thang Long, the name of the temple was Ngoc Tuong, and the Tran Dynasty changed its name into Ngoc Son. During this period, the temple was used to worship fallen heroes who died in the resistance against Nguyen – Mong armies. Under many reigns of Vietnam’s dynasties, the temple went through many renovations, constructions and name changing. Not until 1865 that a talented scholar named Nguyen Van Sieu brought a totally new and special appearance to the temple and it remains intact until today.
Along with Ngoc Son Temple, The Huc Bridge, But Thap (Pen Tower), and Dai Nghien (Ink Slab) have created a wonderful and symbolic architectural masterpiece of Hanoi capital.
The perfect balance between architecture and nature
The architecture of Ngoc Son temple expresses clearly the harmony of religion over thousands of years of civilization, making it a typical space and architectural masterpiece.
The main campus of Ngoc Son Temple consists of three parts – Tran Ba Pavilion, the main shrine and the harem. The shrine bears the typical characteristics and features of Taoism, where Van Xuong – a prestigious scholar is worshipped, along with other gods and goddesses. The harem is devoted to Tran Hung Dao, a hero of Vietnam in the 13th century who defeated three major Mongol invasions. Tourists visiting the temple not only feel the presence of Confucianism but also Buddhism’s with the appearance of Buddha statues and the Gods of Mountain and Earth.
Moreover, the reconciliation of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism is not only evident in worship but also in architecture, construction, parallel sentences system, horizontal diaphragm, decorative objects in Ngoc Son temple. To reach the temple, visitors need to cross a red bridge called The Huc ( the place where morning sunlight settles) and walk through Tam Quan ( Three Gates). Across the bridge situates a two-floor pavilion, Dac Nguyet Lau (Moon Gazing Pavilion). The right and left side of the temple is guarded by symbols of Dragon and Turtle, bringing a touch of Eastern Philosophy and Taoism.
Besides, the three gates also show a distinctive symbol of Taoism. Coming through the first gate, tourists will catch sight of the red-painted Chinese letters: Phuc ( Happiness) in the right and Loc (Prosperity ) on the left. The second gates welcome the newcomers with a symbol of a dragon on the right and a tiger on the left. These symbols send a message of stability, strength and prosperity of a large construction. The final gate impresses tourists with a huge stone representing an inkpot – Dai Nghien.
The Confucianism has made its impression on the architectures of But Thap (Pen Tower) and Dai Nghien(Ink Slab). Inside the first gate locates the Pen Tower (Thap But), a ten-meter high stone structure resembles a writing brush. The body of the tower was carved three letters “Ta Thanh Thien “(Writing on the clear blue Sky), reminding the descendants of trust and honesty. Dai Nghien appears as a half peach and three mouth-opening frogs, which devotes to the invaluable contribution of teachers. These two architectures are especially dedicated to literature and poetry, showing the importance of education and wisdom.
Furthermore, Ngoc Son Temple has occupied a special place in Vietnamese people’s heart because it is the convergence of historical, cultural and spiritual symbols, bearing the hope of peace, knowledge and wisdom of Vietnam. As a country that had gone through many fierce wars in the past like Vietnam, its citizens, more than anyone, have felt the pain of loss and destruction the wars brought. The desire for peace is always burning inside each Vietnamese person and they put their hope in the construction of Ngoc Son Temple.
The legend of King Le Loi returning the sword to the golden turtle at Hoan Kiem Lake means to put off weapons, end the wars and rebuild the country. The construction of But Thap and Dai Nghien right after that expresses the Vietnamese’s traditional values and fondness of knowledge, education and talents.
In addition, it would be a mistake not to mention Tran Ba Pavilion, an elegant and poetic architecture, with four wooden and four stone pillars supporting two layers of roofs. Tran Ba pavilion is a symbol of the firm and stable standing in the chaotic waves of culture.
Through the ups and downs of time and history, the complex of Ngoc Son Temple has always been an ancient symbol, a representative of thousand years of civilization and an enormous pride of Hanoian in particular and the whole country in general.