Located on Tay Phuong mountain, Yen village, Thach Xa commune, Thach That, Hanoi, Tay Phuong Pagoda is also called Sung Phuc Pagoda. This sacred pagoda features unique sculptures and valuable Buddhist statues. Thus, visitors to the pagoda are easy to be mesmerized by these striking characteristics.
According to historical documents, Tay Thien Pagoda was built in 1632, under Le dynasty (King Le Than Tong) based on the Sino – Vietnamese character Tam (three), featuring three sections: 3 sanctums, back palace, and 20 lobby rooms. Moreover, the pagoda has been renovated several times since then.
In 1794, under Tay Son regime, it was completely renewed and named “Tay Phuong Co Tu” (Ancient pagoda of the West). It comprises of three paralle constructions: the Hall of Prostration (Ha – Lower pagoda), the main Shrine/ Sanctum (Trung- Middle pagoda), and the Sanctuary/ back palace (Thuong – Upper pagoda). It seems that this architectural arrangement is inspired by Buddhist and Confucianism thought: the three constructions symbolize the three forces governing the world. Each pagoda has a doubled-layer roof, the rustic walls made of Bat Trang red bricks, and the wooden columns are on the green rocks with the lotus carvings inside. Although they have distinctive features, they combine to create an overall “perfect” architecture.
Tay Phuong pagoda is also featured by special soaring corners, built in two-layer style, creating an airy space. Additionally, the double tier of the roof is worth mentioning because it contributes greatly to the overall unique architecture of the pagoda.
After climbing 239 stone steps from the foot of the mountain, you will reach the peak of the mountain as well as the gate of the pagoda.
Moreover, this sacred pagoda preserves and conserves many national engraving and sculpturing masterpieces.
All the wooden items in the pagoda are engraved and sculptured in the shapes of familiar patterns such as mulberry leaves, lotus, chrysanthemums, dragons, phoenix, unicorns, etc. These rustic items turn into sophisticated Arts thanks to the talented carpenters in the traditional Chang Son village, an ancient and famous carpentry village of Xu Doai (this name is no longer used. It refers to the former province of Son Tay (now called Son Tay Town), one of 13 provinces founded earliest in the North in 1831. It covered the whole area of Vinh Phuc Province, the Northern part of Phu Tho Province, a part of Tuyen Quang Province and present-day Hanoi).
There are totally 72 wooden statues of the round shape that are considered as the most sophisticated ancient sculptures in the country. The statues are engraved by priceless wood and, then, illuminated. Some are carved higher than real a person, for instance, 8 solemn and kind-hearted statues of Vajrapanis (Kim Cuong, English name is diamond) and Arhats (La Han, English name is Saint) with the height of about 3 meters. Most of them are thought to be sculptured in the late 18th century while others in the mid-19th century.
The statues include the Three Buddha (past, present, future), the statue of the three statues, Sakyamuni in medication at the foot of Tuyet Son (Snow mountain) which are accompanied by other statues. Noticeably, there are 16 Arhat statues of real human size in different postures on both long walls of the Upper Palace. As the famous poet Huy Can described, each of them has their own pain, gestures, and postures that indicate different characters. Thus, they are quite rare and lively in ancient sculpture Art.
Tay Phuong Pagoda, particularly the typical series of 16 Arhat statues in the 18th century, is definitely a typical religious work of Vietnam Arts during Hau Le Dynasty. The ancient pagoda organizes the annual festival on the 6th, March of the lunar calendar. This is an opportunity for locals and visitors to burn incense to the Buddha, visit magnificent works of the old Xu Doai. Sauntering around the pagoda, your mind will stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city life, more importantly, feel relaxed and peaceful in your soul.
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