There is a pagoda in Hanoi worshipping a mandarin from Southern Vietnam. It’s quite strange, right? Who is he? What did he do so that locals had a sincere respect for him?
Cua Bac pagoda is in the center of Hanoi but you can enjoy the peaceful, serene atmosphere here. For locals, it’s a meaningful, sacred place that awake the memories of a great mandarin, who devoted his whole life for the country.
The pagoda worships Thoai Ngoc Hau, a mandarin mainly working in Southern Vietnam, but having a short time in the North. He was born in 1761, in Quang Nam province. Thoai Ngoc Hau is mentioned to have many contributions, merits in building Nguyen dynasty in the first period. His achievements could be listed as: building Vinh Te Ha, kinh Dong Xuyen and other dams and bridges, setting up the village, in painting architecture, 7 times going to Siam, 2 times in Laos, 11 years shielding Cao Mien.
Vinh Te canal nowadays
His real name is Nguyen Van Thuy. Because Thuy is the taboo name in this era, he had to change his name into Nguyen Van Thoai.
Mrs. Chau Thi Te (the mandarin’s wife), built the pagoda with intention to practice Buddhism on her own. Then, she recognized the admiration of locals so she mobilized people to renovate it bigger. After furbishing, the pagoda also had the name: Pho Quang Am Tu.
Before 1964, when the pagoda was still intact, there was a main gate on Pham Hong Thai street. In Vietnam war, U.S army bombarded Yen Phu water factory, which is near Cua Bac pagoda. So, most of the pagoda demolished in this event.
Nowadays, the remained area of pagoda is comparatively small. We still can see the trace of old garden, showing that in the past, the pagoda was that large.
Throughout the time, only 3 invaluable objects are preserved in the pagoda. These are 3 precious stone steles from Nguyen dynasty era: One stele in Minh Mang era (1829), the other one in Thanh Thai era (1890) and the last one in Duy Tan era (1908).
The stele in 1890 with the title “Phổ Quang tự trùng tu bi ký” listed the names of some people contributing on renovating the pagoda. Two other steles recorded the history of the pagoda and the mandarin Thoai Ngoc Hau
Nowadays, locals still memorize merits of the mandarin and visit the pagoda in their free time.
The pagoda is like an historical witness of Hanoi throughout many years, from feudatory time, 2 wars against French colonists and U.S empire to the independence, peace, development of Vietnam at present.
Recommended time: the pagoda organizes some ceremonies of reciting the Buddhist scriptures. It occurs at 3 p.m in the 1st, 8th, 14th, 15th, 18th, 19th, 23rd, 29th of the month in lunar calendar.
Also, there are some special events in the year following lunar calendar:
Dresscode: you need to wear formal clothes to enter the pagoda. It’s a sacred place so please be quiet during visiting the pagoda