Vietnam has many famous pagodas strewn across the length of the country. Visiting a temple gives travelers an idea of the Vietnamese culture, their customs and day-to-day lives. Here is a guide to one that is a little off-the-beaten-track—Hoang Phuc Pagoda.
Hoang Phuc Pagoda is a temple located in Quang Binh Province in the north central coast of Vietnam. The temple is the most ancient one of the region, and one of the oldest in the whole country.
The pagoda has gone through several name changes. According to ancient history, in 1301, king Tran Nhan Tong of the Tran Dynasty, visited the temple during the time when it was called Tri Kien temple. The king gave lessons on Buddhism at the pagoda as he was also a monk.
Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu, a lord of the Nguyen dynasty that followed, changed the name of the temple to Kinh Thien Tu in 1716. Then lastly, in 1821, it was named Hoang Phuc by King Minh Mang who was also of the Nguyen dynasty.
At first glance, the temple looks rather modern. The façade is immaculate looking—white walls, unchipped statues, orange tiled roofs not missing any piece. The only part of the premise that looks obviously ancient is the multiple century-old tree with crazy, untamed roots, that is protected by a fence. When you take a closer look, you will realize that the wild roots are wrapped around a structure—a gate. This was the original gate of the temple, left untouched, letting nature take its course.
There is a reason for the temple looking so new. Over the years, the pagoda has been rebuilt several times. What you see now is from the most recent reconstruction that began in 2014.
In 1985, the whole structure was severely damaged by a tropical hurricane. What remained apart from the gate and the foundation of the temple was the bell that weighs 176 pounds (80 kilograms) and some Buddha statues.
The reconstruction had a fund of over 55 billion Vietnamese Dong (2.4 million US Dollars) gathered through donations. After the reconstruction, on 16th January 2016, the new pagoda was complete. It was then recognized as a national historical relic of Vietnam by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
The pagoda is interesting to explore. While to us it is mostly a tourist site to take pictures, to the local residents it still serves as a site of religious importance and is a place of prayer. It is certainly an experience to witness their unique rituals. Perhaps your mind will wander back in time to when you followed your parents to church, mosque or temple. See how prayer differs in this part of the world. The similarities will make you smile.
The inside is strikingly golden. You will find plenty of statues of Buddhist deities and of significant historical figures.
The details are extremely intricate and inviting—you cannot resist running your fingers over them.
By the statues you’ll see offerings made by people as a sign of respect, mostly either flowers or fruit.
The smell of incense will guide you around the premises. Pick some up yourself and don’t be afraid to follow what the locals do. Just as you are intrigued by them, they will be intrigued by you!
You can find the pagoda in the Thuan Trach Village of the My Thuy commune. It is about five miles (eight kilometers) away from the memorial house of general Vo Nguyen Giap. The temple stands out in a land devoid of many structures and is very hard to miss.