Life Life

27/08/2021 - 09:07

Shaolin Temple in Hue

Shaolin has long got us to promptly think of the famous ancient temple in China. Little is known of the fact that Hue also has a pagoda called "Shaolin Temple" existing right on Hue land for more than a hundred years.

Three-Door Pagoda Gate seen from outside

That pagoda lies in Thuong I Village, Thuy Xuan Ward, Hue City and just a few minutes’ walk from Nam Giao Esplanade, with the appellation of “Tay Thien (Paradise) Ancestral Pagoda

The pagoda at first just a small temple was named Shaolin Sanctuary by the ancestral founder, the most venerable Thanh Ninh Tam Tinh in 1902 and renamed Shaolin Temple in 1904.

In 1911, the pagoda was renamed Tay Thien (Paradise) Buddhist Palace. The name Tay Thien Ancestral Pagoda or Tay Thien Ancestral Communal House dates back to 1933, when the pagoda was offered a plaque by the king with an inscription “Sắc tứ Tây Thiên Di Đà tự” (Paradise Buddhist Pagoda bestowed by the royal decree).

To reach Tay Thien Ancestral Pagoda, you can follow a small path in front, on the left of Nam Giao Esplanade. Or you can go along Minh Mang Street, to the slope top of Lim Bridge and then turn into the alley on the left according to the sign.

Although called the Ancestral Pagoda, Tay Thien is not in the form of "a large pagoda with big Buddha statue". It is just a humble ancient pagoda blending with nature and plants like many other typical famous ancient pagodas of Hue. The pagoda is only 120 years old, but this place witnessed many events and outstanding monks who contributed greatly to the development of Buddhism in the country.

After ancestral founder Thanh Ninh Tam Tinh passed away, his eldest son, the most venerable Giac Nguyen, continued to reside. Succeeding the master's cause, in 1935, the most venerable Giac Nguyen together with An Nam Buddhist Association decided to establish a large-scale Buddhist Academy at Tay Thien Pagoda, including the elementary, intermediate, and college levels to admit student monks across 17 Central provinces from Thanh Hoa to Binh Thuan.

Tay Thien Buddhist Academy is rated as “the first Buddhist academy with a very scientific organization system, complete concentrated educational method and as a prestigious center for training talented monks in the Central region at present.”

Many student monks that came from this Buddhist academy later became the famous and virtuous monks contributing to the development of Buddhism and national culture such as the most venerable Don Hau, Thien Hoa, and Mat Nguyen. ...

Great Hall of Tay Thien Ancestral Pagoda

In 1951, Tay Thien also became the "School Camp" of the Buddhist Family when it was renamed from the Buddhist Family organization. It stood side by side with Tu Dam Pagoda for the incessant growth of the Buddhist Family organization.

Besides, this was also the cradle of the primary schools, charity clinics to provide help for Buddhists in difficulty.

In 1967, the most venerable Giac Nguyen also established “Tịnh nghiệp Đạo tràng Tây Thiên” (Paradise Monastery for Buddhist Prayer) as a place to study for home clergy. So far, Tay Thien Monastery has maintained and attracted many Buddhists during the summer Buddhist retreat. It is an opportunity for many people to slow down and reflect on the values of truth, goodness, beauty in life.

We, the children, once joined in such a monastery and were fortunately waved back by the most venerable Don Hau to talk. He encouraged and showed us how to exercise and then kindly advised us to do the dutiful things that a child should do. The most venerable Don Hau returned to Tay Thien from Thien Mu to attend the monastery and stayed overnight. That morning, he exercised by the Ancestral Tower.

Tay Thien Ancestral Pagoda is not far away; you should visit once to admire and perceive.

Story and photos: Hien An