The cadle of Vietnamese Buddhism
On the way to Bac Ninh Province in northern Vietnam, we were told that Phat Tich is an ancient pagoda at the foot of Phat Tich Mountain. But upon arrival, we were surprised at what was seen there. Almost everything, especially wooden structures, is new.
Nearly US$9 million has been spent over the past four years on a project to restore the pagoda. Why so? For celebration of Thang Long-Hanoi millennium in 2010. Phat Tich is the cradle of Vietnamese Buddhism. It was the first place where Indian Buddhism was introduced.
Also known as Van Phuc, the pagoda in Tien Du District was built between the 7th and 10th centuries and renovated throughout the years before its destruction in 1947 during the war against the French. Since it was important to Buddhist life, it was roughly rebuilt in 1958.
Along the moss-covered path to the main hall are two lines of stone horses, buffaloes, rhinos, elephants and lions on their knees, which are among a few vestiges of the ancient pagoda.
During the Ly Dynasty in 1057, a tower was built at the pagoda but it later collapsed, thus exposing what was described as the country’s largest Buddha statue, which is 1.85m high. It is a real treasure. There are also a dozen of lower towers said to hold the remains of senior monks.
Visitors can also see a giant stone statue of Buddha on the peak of Phat Tich Mountain, which took three years to build. The statue is 27m tall and weighs 3,000 tons, making it one of the largest stone statues in Southeast Asia.
Actually, the architecture of the pagoda is quite similar to that of others in northern Vietnam but it is worth dropping by it to get a glimpse of the birthplace of Vietnamese Buddhism.