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Buddhist Temple at Vietnam: Thay Temple

By Devik Balami at
Buddhist Temple at Vietnam Thay Temple

Thay Temple is also known as Chua Thay or Master's Temple which is situated at Quoc Oai District Vietnam. This Buddhist temple is also popularly known as Thien Phuc Tu. This temple was established during the reign of Emperor Nhan Tong of Ly dynasty, 11th century. It is regarded as one of the oldest Buddhist temple in Vietnam which is dedicated to Vietnamese Thien Master Tu Dao Hanh. The temple welcomes most of the pilgrimage during the festival Tet, Vietnamese New Year.

Tu Dao Hanh, Chief monk of Thay Temple

The monk, Tu Dao Hanh was also known as Minh Khong. He was very famous not only he was a monk but he had special powers within him. He was the choreographer of the traditional water puppetry, an inventor, and also a medical man. He also used to do the mystic acts in the village like burning his finger to usher in rain and curing local people of disease by blessing them.

As per local belief, he had incarnated thrice, once as a Buddha in the form of Shakyamuni, then as the son of King Ly Nhan Tong and then finally as a monk.

Features of the Thay Temple

It has been learned that the temple is established dedicating to three main dedications: King Ly Than Tong, Gautam Buddha and his eighteen arhats, and the Buddhist monk and Thien master Tu Dao Hanh. The temple has been built in a typical Vietnamese architectural style which has been renovated several times.

The temple is divided into three parts: the entrance hall, the middle chamber, and the back chamber. The entrance hall is meant for the prayer. This main prayer hall has nearly 100 colorful images of different periods. There are also two large clay mixed papier-mache images of the 7th century at the entrance to the shrine. These images weights about a ton and are considered the largest images in Vietnam.

The middle chamber consists of Buddha statues which are surrounded by demons, made up of lacquer and garbed in red-colored attire. These vietnam Buddha statues are the temple's oldest images which are there from the temple's foundations. The middle chamber also constitutes 13th-century wooden statue of bodhisattva seated on a lotus throne and draped in yellow. This statue was made akin to the likeness of the master Dao Hanh in a pensive mood.

The back chamber has the statues of the monk. The statues mainly comprise of Tu Dao Hanh and his reincarnation in the form of Ly Thanh Tong.

Within the temple complex, there is a small shrine referred to as Chua cu in Vietnamese and in English, it's the old temple. This small shrine was founded by King Ly Thai To in 1132 CE and it has been renovated several times till now.

The two arched bridges, named Sun and Moon, which connects to the temple was built in 1602. One of the bridge leads to a small island while another one leads to a limestone hill. The small island consists of a small Taoist temple representing the elements of earth, air, and water. During the last stage of Dao Hanh's life, he walked up to the limestone hill and then disappeared in a cave. The cave is located in the middle of roots of banyans and is between small temples which are built in honor of the monk's parents. Both of these religious places have a beautiful view of the entire valley. There is also a limestone grotto popularly known as the hang Cac Co, or the Mischievous.

Festivals at Thay Temple

Thay temple festival which is celebrated from the 5th to 7th days of the third lunar month is held in the honor of the monk, Tu Dao Hanh. During the festival, puppet groups present water puppetry stage shows at the open-air theater in the lake. The wooden statue of the monk, Tu Da Hanh is also moved with intertwined strings.