The best old temples in Vietnam for who likes religious travel

Vietnam has a long history and rich culture. With typical Buddhist and Taoism culture creating the habit of the local people to worship the gods, heroes, Buddha, Quan Yin…. Therefore, there are hundreds of temples in Vietnam, which were built hundreds of years ago. Here are the top unique ancient temples which Vietnamdrive would like to introduce to you who like to explore religious activities during your holidays in Vietnam.

1. Thien Hau Temple: 250-year-old temple of Chinese descent in Saigon

Thien Hau Old Temple in HCM Vietnam
Thien Hau Temple – Photo: Allan Watt/flickr

Thien Hau Temple is one of the oldest Chinese temples built in Saigon in 1760.

Located at Nguyen Trai Street, District 5, Thien Hau Temple have taken important roles in the cultural life Chinese people living in Ho Chi Minh City since ancient times. The pagoda was recognized as a national architectural and artistic vestige in 1993.

Over hundreds of years of ups and downs, this site has been restored many times but still retains the inherent architecture that creates its own identity. The pagoda was built according to the characteristics of the Chinese, carrying an Asian style with a three-door gate, stylized architecture with a central entrance and two corridors on both sides.

The central part of the temple is the main sanctuary for religious activities. Especially, in the middle of this area is a space that allows light, air, and smoke to escape. Along with the main place are two separate paths, creating ventilation so that people can easily move on crowded days.

A big statue of Thien Hau is located in the main hall. The light is designed harmoniously to give you the feeling of being lost in a paradise, and you will have a deep impression when you once step foot inside the temple.

Another typical thing in this temple is its construction with Chinese materials, from bricks to tiles. And, the large and small statues arranged along the roof will you holy feelings. Learning about the story behind this statue will also bring you interesting things.

In the early days of spring, especially during Tet Holidays in Vietnam, Thien Hau pagoda welcomes a lot of tourists to come to pray, bless, or just wish for good things for a happy new year. Not only people living in Ho Chi Minh City but also foreign tourists come to visit, learn about the outstanding history and architecture of the temple.

Visitors are too crowded that every few minutes the temple workers have to remove the incense sticks. So, when you burn incense to wish, just use 1 or 3 sticks, not too much.

Ba Thien Hau pagoda is a place of spiritual and cultural activities with great significance for Chinese people in Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding areas in general. This is also an architectural monument of high technical and artistic value, attracting a large number of domestic and foreign tourists. Once setting foot here, you will feel the ancient, solemn and serene that rarely have anywhere.

2. Mia Temple which holds the most artistic statues in Vietnam

Mia Temple in Duong Lam, Hanoi
Mia Temple – Photo: Stefan H/flickr

If you have the opportunity to go to Duong Lam Ancient Village, do not miss the temple with many art statues called with a very rustic name, Mia Temple.

Mia Temple (another name is Sung Nghiem Tu) is located in Duong Lam Village, Son Tay District, Hanoi, Vietnam. Formerly, this area was called Cam Gia, Nom name was Mia, so this temple was known as Mia temple. From the outside, the three-door gate of the pagoda is under the canopy of an old banyan tree of over 400 years old, looking very ancient and profound.

This site holds the most artistic statues in Vietnam, published by Vietnam Record Book Center. On the statues, each of them has each look, but all show a solemn, serene appearance.

The holy altar of the Holy Sage (Duc Thanh Hien) locates at the important side fo the temple.

At Thuong pagoda (Upper one), people also see the caves with many statues. Quan Yin of the South Sea (Quan Am Nam Hai) which is a rare statue in the temples in the North as well as in the whole country can be found here. And, the statue of Quan Am Nam Hai is considered as a masterpiece. The people often call Thi Kinh at 0.76m high. The statue depicts a delicate woman, a little sad face, holding a cute baby. The lines carved are soft, elaborate, comfortable in posture, and lively in spirit.

In the hallway on the left are 9 Arhat (La Han) statues, which were created to cover different facets, but all have benevolent compassion. The corridor on the right has 9 other Arhat. And, in Trung temple (Middle one), there are two large statues of Dharma protectors, a statue of the good (on the left) and a statue of the evil (on the right).Besides, you can see 13-meter-high Lien Hoa Stupa in the garden, which is used to worship Xa Loi Buddha.

With its unique architecture and valuable sculptures, Mia Temple has ranked by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism as a national architectural and artistic monument.

3. Tran Quoc Temple which is the most beautiful temple in Hanoi

Tran Quoc Temple Hanoi Vietnam
Tran Quoc Temple – Photo: @wenvwu

Tran Quoc Pagoda is located on the island at the east of West Lake, which has been added to the list of the most beautiful temples in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The correct location of Tran Quoc pagoda is on Thanh Nien street (Ba Dinh District, Hanoi), belonging to the Bac Tong sect. The temple complex consists of many levels with three main buildings, namely Tien Duong, Thieu Huong (the burnt incense house), and Thuong Dien (the upper temple), connected in the shape of the word Cong (工).

Initially, the temple was named Khai Quoc. After many times changing it, the name of Tran Quoc has been known to people since the time of King Le Hy Tong until now.

With a history of 1,500 years, the temple was the Buddhist center of the Thang Long capital in the Ly and Tran dynasties. And, Tran Quoc pagoda used to be a place where royal kings visited and worshiped on the full moon and Tet holidays.

In 2003, the pagoda held the inauguration of the Luc Do tower with a height of 15m, has 11 floors, and adorns 66 statues of Amitabha Buddha images with precious stones. At the top of the tower, there is a Cuu Pham lotus flower carved with beautiful rock.

The main facade of the temple Tran Quoc is organized like a blooming lotus. Inside, the pagoda also retains many statues of Buddha and Bodhisattva of artistic value, notably the statue of Shakyamuni Buddha (Phat Thich Ca) that entered Nirvana with gold- lacquered appearance. The temple is also currently keeping 14 old steles.

Coming to the temple, visitors not only pray to the Buddha but also immerse themselves in the art space of nature in harmony. The ancient moss-covered tile roof helps travelers feel gentle and quiet when sightseeing in this place.

The temple was recognized by the Ministry of Culture and Information as a National Cultural and Historical Site in 1962. Every year, this site welcomes many Buddhists to the ceremony and is a tourist attraction in Hanoi for tourists in and abroad when traveling to Vietnam.

4. Thien An Temple where has the Bell of god, Buddha well of over 300 years

The Ancient Well in Thien An Temple
The Ancient Well in Thien An Temple – Photo: @zuzu_libra

Thien An Temple was built at the end of the 17th century on a mountain of the same name on the banks of the Tra Khuc River, on the way to the famous war relic – My Lai Massacre.

The pagoda was started in 1694 and completed in late 1695, this is one of the oldest pagodas in Quang Ngai. Currently, this place belongs to Tinh An Dong Commune, Quang Ngai City. Thien An Pagoda is located at an altitude of about 100 m on the top of the mountain, surrounded by untouched forests with an area of about one hectare, associated with many historical legends.

According to legend, initially Thien An mountain had plenty of wild animals and tigers; people just gathered firewood under the mountain. One day, the group discovered a trail up the mountain, when they followed it to meet Zen master Phap Hoa, the old monk who had drafted this place and practiced meditation. Looking at him, the locals saw compassion and wisdom, and he taught the people about Buddhism and human life. Later on, more people came to this place to listen to the Buddha’s teachings. Then, the bigger temple was built.

The reputation of the temple and Zen master spread to the Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu, a devout Buddhist. In 1717, the Lord gave the pagoda a rank of “Sắc Tứ Thiên Ấn Tự”.

The temple is also associated with the diving bell, Buddha well”. And, the Buddha’s well in the temple today still retains ancient architectural features.
This legend has it that, as Buddhists ascend the mountain more and more, the abbot has thought of how to dig a well to supply water. But, the work was too hard because this site is at the top of the mountain. One night, the monk got the dream when digging in the east of the temple, he could meet a big stone, but under this rock, it is water.

However, it was very difficult to take the rock away. Once, a young person came to the temple and said he would help dig a well. When the groundwater gushed up, the old monk felt happy and dropped his face to drink as much as he liked. But, when he looked up, he didn’t see because the young monk disappeared. Later, the folk handed down that the young monk was the Buddha who cam to support the old monk to dig the well. So, the local people call this well “Buddha well”. The well is about 21 m deep, more than 2 m in diameter, built of laterite.

The large bell in the temple was cast in Chi Tuong village, now Duc Hiep commune, Mo Duc district, Quang Ngai province, Vietnam. There is also a legend talking about this one that the bell had been cast but without sounding. In 1845, the monk Bao An, the third patriarch of the temple, was meditating when he saw a Dharma protector telling him to Chi Tuong village to bring the bell. After the Zen master prayed, the bell rang throughout the region.

Thien An Pagoda is a sacred place visited by Quang Ngai people on the occasion of the full moon, the first day of the lunar month, and the Lunar New Year, Tet holidays. In 1990, the temple was ranked a National Historic Site by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. And, when traveling to this temple, visitors can visit the tomb of Huynh Thuc Khang, a patriot, one of the high-ranked people of Vietnam, located near the Thien An temple.

5. Thien Mu Temple where the peaceful life covers

Thien Mu Temple Hue Vietnam
Thien Mu Temple – Photo: Vietnamdrive

Thien Mu Temple (Linh Mu) is located on Ha Khe hill, on the left bank of the Perfume River in Hue City, Vietnam. The pagoda was built in 1601, ranked in 20 famous landscapes of Hue with the poem “Thien Mu Chung Thanh” (means the sound of Then Mu bell) composed by King Thieu Tri.

The most famous in the temple complex is the Phuoc Duyen tower. The tower is located at the great gate, 21 m high, including 7 floors, built in 1844. Each floor of the tower has a Buddha image. Inside, there is a spiral staircase leading to the top floor, where there used to be a golden Buddha statue. The two sides of the tower are the majestic bronze bell and the holy turtle houses.

Some areas such as Dai Hung, the hell god, and Quan Am Temples were severely damaged. Over the years, the authorities have restored and repaired many items to meet the visiting needs of visitors. The temple is also a Buddhist pagoda that has less Buddhist statues than the other temples.

When you travel to this pagoda, you can see an Austin car which is a relic of the Venerable Quang Duc. This is the car with the parade and carrying the Venerable Quang Duc to the self-immolation site on June 11, 1963, against the Diem government.

Many historical researchers evaluate the overview of Linh Mu as a palace of the kings and mandarins in Hue in the past. The temple of hundreds of years is considered to have the most beautiful architecture and scenery of Hue.

Located on the banks of the poetic Huong River, Thien Mu Temple with ancient style has contributed to adorn the natural picture, adding to the charming and poetic beauty of Hue.

Will you travel to Vietnam to visit these old temples?