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Thap pagoda

Update: 28/05/2024
Thap Pagoda is a renowned ancient temple in Ninh Binh. The pagoda is located in Yen Lieu Ha village, Khanh Thinh commune, Yen Mo district, Ninh Binh province. People often call it Thap Pagoda, because there is an 8m high brick tower here, an ancient, beautiful and tall tower rarely seen in Ninh Binh. With outstanding value, Thap Pagoda was ranked a national architectural-artistic relic by the Ministry of Culture and Information in 1994.

Pagoda Tower is a complex of religion and belief, including: pagoda worshiping Buddha; Temple of Dinh Dien – one of the four pillars in the Royal court of the Dinh Dynasty along with his wife, Princess Thuong Tran Truong and Zen master Kieu Moc; furthermore, there exists a shrine of God of Water.

The origin of Thap Pagoda is closely linked to the life and career of historical figure Dinh Dien during his twilight years. Dinh Dien (924 - 979) - a famous general of Dinh Bo Linh, from Truong Yen district, was a close friend of Dinh Bo Linh. In his youth, along with his peers Nguyen Bac, Trinh Tu, and Luu Co, he participated in mock military practices for buffalo herding children, they called Dinh Bo Linh the "general". Growing up, he followed Dinh Bo Linh to fight and suppress the rebellion of 12 warlords, achieving many great victories. When the country was unified, Dinh Bo Linh ascended the throne, taking the title Dinh Tien Hoang, naming the country Dai Co Viet, and he was promoted to the title of Ngoai Giap, overseeing military affairs in all dimesions.

In the middle of the relic is the pagoda, consisting of two construction entities: the Front Hall and Upper Hall. The Front Hall consists of a double roof and 5 compartments. On the two sides of the Front Hall, there are two ancient earthen statues of Dharma Protectors, with exquisite and majestic features. The central compartment of the Front Hall is connected to the brick courtyard behind. The Upper Hall is located behind the Front Hall, away from a small brick yard. The Upper Hall runs along, perpendicular to the Front Hall, it is 9m long, and has 3 compartments. The center of the Upper Hall is decorated with statues of Buddha and Bodhisattvas, on the further left corner are two statues of Hue Thanh and Hue Tinh - disciples of Zen master Kieu Moc, who had the merit of carrying the relics of Dinh Dien and his wife to the pagoda tower.

Located on the left of the pagoda (east) is Dinh Dien temple. The temple was built according to the shape of the letter " nhị ", including 2 construction entities: the Front Prayer Hall and the Rear Hall. The Prayer Hall has a double roof, the front and back sides don’t have any walls. The Rear Hall has a foundation parallel to and a small yard away from the Front Prayer Hall. The Rear Hall has a double roof. Previously, the original roof was made in an ancient style with 2 separate roof, but now it has been made into one double roof.

On the right of the pagoda (west side) is a shrine worshiping the Water God. The temple is built in a vertical shape, with 3 roofs, the front porch has 2 curved corners, and the front porch is decorated with tiger pattern. The shrine has 3 compartments, 1 wing, and a wooden frame structure with 4 rows of columns. In the second row of columns, there is a set of turntable door, creating a space of forbidden palace inside. The carved decoration is concentrated on the outermost rafters, in which the roof rafter is embossed with a large tiger pattern, and the side rafters are carved with patterns of scroll and leaf. The decorative lines are embossed quite large, in the style of 19th century art, equivalent to the date of Thanh Thai's 15th year (1903) carved on the central roof beam of this temple.

Behind Dinh Dien temple is an ancient brick tower. This is an architectural work of historical and artistic value. According to the book of God, the tower was built during the Ly Dynasty. The tower is currently 8m high, square foundation, 2m x 2m in size. Previously, the tower had 7 floors. At the end of the Le Dynasty and early Nguyen Dynasty, a storm caused the top 2 floors to collapse. The tower currently has 5 uneven floors, gradually shrinking towards the top, with a shape of wine gourd attached to the top of the tower. The bricks used to build this tower were fired to a ripe old age, like porcelain. There are sporadic bricks engraved with the word "Phuong" (in Chinese) and a star fruit flower image. The body of the tower is plastered, the 4 sides of the tower on the 2nd floor are decorated with images of four sacred animals, the couplets in Chinese characters are now missing many lines and cannot be read. On the third floor, the four-sided boxes are decorated with pattern of flowers of the four seasons. This is a rare ancient tower left in Ninh Binh, which is the origin of the name of the pagoda: Thap Pagoda.

The Sino-Nom sources currently kept at the pagoda are also very diverse and have historical and cultural value. At the relic, 12 ordinations of the Later Le and Nguyen dynasties are still preserved for those worshiped in the pagoda; and legends about Dinh Dien and the Water God. In addition, there is a system of worship statues, great characters, and Chinese couplets dating back to the Nguyen Dynasty. These are valuable documents that contribute to researching and learning about the history, culture and people of this land, especially about the historical figure Dinh Dien.The Thap Pagoda relic area has unique historical and cultural value. Here there is a blend of religion (Buddhism) and folk beliefs (worship of the Water God) of the Vietnamese people. It is both a place to practice religion for monks and Buddhist followers, as well as a place to worship and commemorate Dinh Dien - a historical figure with great contributions to unifying the country, contributing to establishing Dai Co Viet in the 10th century, the first centralized feudal state in our country's history. The presence of the Water God temple in the relic complex partly proves the origins of this land. The relic also has ancient architectural works, preserving many precious artifacts and documents of high historical and cultural value, demonstrating the rich historical and cultural traditions of the people of Ninh Binh in particular. and of our nation in general.

Source: Phòng Quản lý Di sản văn hóa, Sở Văn hóa và Thể thao tỉnh Ninh Bình
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