In the first days of the Lunar New Year, Vietnamese go to the pagoda to pray for a peaceful and prosperous year for family and friends. This is a time honoured Tet tradition.
Jade Emperor Pagoda, also known as Phuoc Hai Tu, is the most sacred ancient pagoda in Saigon and was recognized as a national architectural and artistic heritage site in 1994. The pagoda is also one of the choices for a Tet pilgrimage. It became even more famous when the United States President Barack Obama visited in May 2016. Jade Emperor Pagoda was built in the early 20th century in a Chinese style. The walls are made of brick and at the corners of the yin-yang tile roof are many ceramic statues. In front of the pagoda is a small temple holding a Dharmapala statue. The pagoda consists of three buildings – Front Hall, Middle Hall, and Great Hall. In the Great Hall, the ineffable Jade Emperor, Zhenwu Emperor, and Taoist celestial army are worshiped. The campus has a lotus pond and an overcrowded pond containing thousands of turtles. This is where the life release practice takes place by visiting Buddhists.
Another famous place is Hoang Phap Pagoda, located at Tan Thoi 3 Hamlet, Tan Hiep Commune, Hoc Mon District. Praised for its sacredness, the pagoda draws families who wish to worship on special occasions, such as Full Moon and New Year. Unlike other ancient pagodas, Hoang Phap Pagoda is decorated by Vietnamese writing art, instead of Hanzi (Chinese characters) and modern construction materials maintain the traditional architecture. The highlight of this pagoda is the Nhi Nghiem tower where the body of Monk Ngo Chan Tu – the abbot who founded this pagoda – is laid. In front of the tower is a copper censer for Buddhists to burn devotional incense sticks.
For the Southern people, visiting temples in the new year is very simple. They usually do not bring offerings. But, if they do, it is fruit, candles, coconuts and rice, not meaty foods. Most locals only light one or three incense sticks then place them in the large incense burner in front of the pagoda. This is because some pagodas do not allow incense sticks in the main hall. In the South, prayers are also simple, not precise rhymes. Whatever you wish, you ask for it, and writing in Hanzi is not necessary.
Thien Mu Pagoda (also known as Linh Mu Pagoda) is the oldest in ancient Hue. It is located on Ha Khe hill, north bank of Huong river, Kim Long Ward, and is about five kilometres west from Hue city centre. Thien Mu Pagoda was built in 1601 by Lord Nguyen Hoang, the first Nguyen Lord of the Southern provinces of Vietnam between 1558 and 1613. Thien Mu Pagoda has been restored many times over the years. In 1844, Emperor Thieu Tri ordered Tu Nhan Tower built and it is now known as Phuoc Duyen tower. Every Tet, local people come to pray for good luck and peace for family and friends.
Bao Lam Pagoda is located at the base of Chop Chai mountain, 3.5 kilometres north of Tuy Hoa city center. It was founded by Zen Master Dao Trung at the beginning of the 19th century. In front of the main hall is a statue of Guan Yin standing on a lotus. In the middle, there is a statue of Gautama Buddha that is 18 metres high and was placed there in 1998. The road to the temple has many stone steps and is surrounded by gardens that calm the minds of visitors as they approach. Bao Lam Pagoda is a spiritual place that attracts many visitors to worship when spring is in the air.
Besides the two famous temples above, an interesting point that visitors need to know is that every place has its own legendary story and historical elements. The ancient pagodas in the Central region are strongly associated with the development of the nation and include Tu Dam Pagoda, Sung Nghien Dien Thanh Pagoda and Hoang Phuc Pagoda.
Perfume Pagoda (Huong Pagoda), is also known as the most beautiful cave in the North. This pagoda is located in the Huong Son scenic area of Huong Son commune, My Duc District, Ha Noi. This special national monument has many Buddhist pagodas, temples and communal houses. And at the center is Huong Pagoda in Huong Tich grotto. Every Lunar New Year, millions of Buddhists and visitors gather to celebrate the Huong Pagoda festival. The festival begins from January 6 and lasts until March of the lunar calendar. Visitors have the opportunity to boat on the peaceful Yen stream and enjoy the beautiful mountain landscape in the spring. Many people come here not only to enjoy nature’s beauty, but also because this place is said to be where Guan Yin used to appear.
Bai Dinh Pagoda is one of the largest temples in Vietnam as well as the largest temple complex in Southeast Asia. The temple is located in the scenic complex of Trang An and Ninh Binh. The atmosphere of Bai Dinh Pagoda is very pure and cool. In the temple, there are many Bodhi trees descended from ones brought from India. Surrounding the temple is the corridor of Arhat statues. Coming to Bai Dinh Pagoda, visitors calm their minds in front of the majestic, natural scenery, and pray for a peaceful new year. They also have the opportunity to visit places with mysterious stories such as the light caves, a dark grotto, the temple of Nguyen Lord, and the Jade green well. People in the North bring offerings when visiting pagodas at Tet. Trays must have enough incense, flowers, joss paper, meaty foods and a note written in Hanzi Chinese characters, which states wishes for a lucky year. Reportedly, prayers often rhyme with deep treble tones.
This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt