Thien Mu Pagoda

Beez Neez now Chy Whella
Big Bear and Pepe Millard
Thu 11 Jan 2018 23:47
Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue
On the Sacred Destinations website we read: Built in 1601 between a river and a pine forest, the Thien Mu Pagoda ("Heavenly Lady Pagoda") in Hue is one of the oldest and prettiest religious buildings in the country. Among the many interesting artifacts housed at the complex is the car that took the monk Thich Quang Duc to his self-immolation in 1963 Saigon. Well, here we are then.....

The iconic pagoda was built on a hill overlooking the Perfume River, four kilometres south west of the town, the pagoda is a symbol of Hue city and is much loved throughout Vietnam. The tower stands at twenty one metres, the tallest in the country and is octagonal in shape and this tower was constructed by emperor Thieu Tri in 1864.

The name of the pagoda derives from a special legend. Once upon a time, an old woman appeared on the hill where the pagoda stands today, telling local people that a Lord would come and build a Buddhist pagoda for the country's prosperity. The initial temple was in a very simple form of construction, but as time went by, it has been redeveloped and expanded with more intricate features.

Each of its seven floors is dedicated to a manushi-buddha – a Buddha that appeared as a human. The pagoda was originally founded in 1601 by Nguyen Hoang, governor of Thuan Hoa province. Over the centuries the buildings have been destroyed and rebuilt several times, the pagoda was heavily damaged in 1943, but was fully renovated thirty years later. Since the 1960’s it has seen its fair share of political demonstrations. 



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To the right of the tower is a pavilion containing a stele dated from 1715. It is set on the back of a massive marble turtle, a symbol of longevity, and is 2.58 m high. A short, pithy title to Khai Dinh’s poem......



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To the left of the pagoda was a matching ‘hut’ to the one that held the turtle. This one contained the Great Bell. We began walking toward the gatehouse and saw a huge stele, this one engraved with a text titled Ngu kien Thien Mu tu referring to the restoration of Thien Mu Pagoda by Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu (1675-1725). Date:1715.



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The gatehouse has three arches, each with a pair of Buddhist guardians. If you stare at them long enough, they start to look like people you know.



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Through the gatehouse, we found a very long tiled path to the sanctuary. Passing the joss stick urn we saw that Buddha was one of the laughing kind and chose not to take our shoes off for a closer look.





We enjoyed the bonsai trees in the monastery garden so much, they ended up with their own blog.





To the bonsai trees left was a very unusual sight. An old Austin Westminster.



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On the lintel above were a set of three framed pictures. A picture of Thich Quang Duc, an explanation of what he did and a picture of his heart. Much has been written about what he did and we all remember the powerful Pulitzer prize winning image taken by Malcolm Browne of the monk in flames. President Kennedy said "No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one." After the event his supporting monks covered his remains with orange robes and placed him in a coffin. He was given a cremation service but his charred heart remained intact. Propaganda at the time said it was a publicity stunt or that Thich had been drugged and his followers had organised the event against his will....... On the 21st of August, the ARNV Special Forces of Nhu attacked Xa Lợi and other Buddhist pagodas across Vietnam. The secret police intended to confiscate Duc’s ashes, but two monks had escaped with the urn, jumping over the back fence and finding safety at the U.S. Operations Mission next door. Nhu's men managed to confiscate Monk Thich’s charred heart. I cannot find information as to its whereabouts now. There is a monument to Thich Quang Duc on a busy crossroads in Sai Gon.

In a nutshell: The self-immolation was done in protest to the South Vietnamese Diem regime’s pro-catholic policies and discriminatory Buddhist laws. In particular this was a response to the banning of the Buddhist flag, just two days after Diem had held a very public ceremony displaying crosses; earlier in his rule he had dedicated Vietnam to Jesus and the Catholic Church. The growing resentment of Buddhists under Diem was one of the underlying issues of South Vietnam, and eventually led to a coup to put in place a leader who would not alienate Buddhists, who made up 70-90% of Vietnam’s population.

Buddhist discontent erupted following a ban in early May on flying the Buddhist flag in Hue on Vesak, the birthday of Gautama Buddha. A large crowd of Buddhists protested the ban, defying the government by flying Buddhist flags on Vesak and marching on the government broadcasting station. Government forces fired into the crowd of protesters, killing nine people.



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After that, we went to stand by the garden pond. Stare at a lovely lily and watch as a catfish came up showing his splendid beard.




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We passed a wonderful tree, well its roots were, a long walk  by a lantern to a ‘little pagoda’ at the back of the property.



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From here we could just make out the pink monastery, which we headed back to.





Looking back to the little pagoda, couldn’t find out out exactly why it was there.





Back to the gatehouse.




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On leaving the pagoda, we saw a catamaran dragon boat that needed to be filled or we could take a single.



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A very pleasant half an hour on the Perfume River.................



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....................after I had refused to buy anything from the hard-hitting-saleslady who expected more from a trapped tourist and she had a shop with lots of ‘high quality goodies....’. Actually, I would have bought some cards from her but when she said “four dollars” – the same as we had seen in the night markets for one dollar, it became easier to refuse. She offered me a pyjama-looking suit and I pointed out I was too tall. She offered Bear a tee shirt and when he politely declined she slammed it on the floor and began to stow the clothes in locked cupboards under the step up into the back of the boat, Tutted as she passed us and covered her shop in table cloths...... Another one off the Christmas card list........



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We had a really tasty supper in a restaurant called DMZ complete with army uniforms, staff with name badges giving them a rank and wooden cut-out guns as ceiling decorations.




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The short walk to our digs passed a restaurant that had just opened. Good luck bouquets outside.



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Still find it a pest to have all pavements solid with parked motorbikes. Short step through the sand (no further progress with the sewer pipes going in), up the stairs and here we are at our shared balcony looking down. Considering the fine rain that fell all day we had kept ourselves busy.

                     STANDARD, TATTY PAGODA