The Dau Pagoda in Bac Ninh
The Dau Pagoda in Bac Ninh

Dau Pagoda, Bac Ninh

Dau Pagoda in Bac Ninh Province was built in the 2nd century A.D and claimed the oldest pagoda in Vietnam and the 'Cradle' of Buddhism in the country. That time, Vietnam had been invaded and ruled by the Chinese Han. The territory was called Giao Chi and the capital city of Giao Chi was Luy Lau. 

Dau Pagoda in Bac Ninh Vietnam
The Goddess of Clouds (Phap Van) at the Dau Pagoda

 

Dau Pagoda in Bac Ninh Vietnam
The Goddess of Rains (Phap Vu)

 There had been many merchants as well as Buddhist monks from India to Giao Chi, who introduced Buddhism to the territory. The Indian merchants and Indian Buddhist monks spent most of their time at Luy Lau which explains the many Buddhist pagodas around the region.

  The buildings in the back of Dau Pagoda
The buildings in the back of Dau Pagoda

Buddhism came to Luy Lau at the time that some indigenous cults had been practiced, one of which was to worship the Goddess of Rains, the Goddess of Clouds, the Goddess of Lightnings and the Goddess of Thunders. For this reason, the pagodas at Luy Lau would normally worship at least another local God or Goddess alongside with Buddhism. Traditionally, Vietnam had been a matriarchal society and hence the holy figures in the local cults tend to be female; the local communities mainly lived on agriculture, hence they worshiped phenomenons of Mother Nature. 

Curved roofs at Dau Pagoda
Curved roofs at Dau Pagoda

Among the many pagodas at Luy Lau, the five biggest ones are those dedicated to the above four Goddesses and their mother – Man Nuong which is related to a legend about the combination of Indian Buddhism and local cults. Man Nuong is worshiped at the To Pagoda at Men Village (Man Xa), 1km from the Dau Pagoda.

The backyard of the pagoda
The backyard of the pagoda

Since the nearby Dau Pagoda (Đậu) dedicated to the Goddess of Rains (Bà Đậu) was destroyed by the French, the statue of the Goddess of Rains (Phap Vu) was moved to the Dau Pagoda. Although the Dau Pagoda is dedicated to Buddhism, but the Goddess of Clouds and the Goddess of Rains are worshiped here too.

When visiting the Dau Pagoda, it's very easy to see the blend of Indian and Vietnamese cultures: the Goddess of Clouds is more of an Indian lady and the Goddess of Rains is more of a Vietnamese one, the symbol of Linga,…

 

Dau Pagoda in Bac Ninh Vietnam
Hoa Phong Tower (The towering of the auspicious winds)

The architecture of the Dau Pagoda
The Dau Pagoda shares the common architecture of most Buddhist pagodas in Vietnam: the complex stretches on a rectangular piece of land. There are 4 buildings running per the 4 sides of the rectangle. The below order of components of the Dau Pagoda are followed from the entrance to the backside:

1. The Bai Duong Building (for registering oneself).

2. A front yard with an Indian-styled tower of Hoa Phong (Harmonious Wind) which was originally built of fired bricks and which was destroyed and replaced with a modern version now. The tower is dedicated to the Four Kings of Heaven (Thien Vuong) administering rains and winds.

*** Three principal houses for worshiping of Buddhism and local cults ***

3. Tien Duong (Front Chamber): Giant Statues of Guardians.

4. Thieu Huong (Incense Chamber): Statues of Diem Vuong, Mac Dinh Chi… of local cults and history.

5. Thuong Dien (High Palace Chamber): Statues of Phan Van (Goddess of Clouds) and Phap Vu (Goddess of Rains) with a piece of stone called Thach Quang Nhat (related to a legend of Man Nuong).

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The other statues representing Buddhism are placed in the building in the rear of Thuong Dien. There are several Arhat statues in the buildings on the flanks of the pagoda that the visitors can walk through and examine closely.

Dau Pagoda in Bac Ninh Vietnam
Dau Pagoda in Bac Ninh Vietnam

The Dau Pagoda Festival
The festival is held annually on the 8th of the Fourth Lunar Month which is believed to be the birthday of Thach Quang Phat (to Mother Man Nuong). The meaning of the festival is to bring auspicious winds and rains to agriculture. The festival was participated by the Royal Families for years in the past during which the statue of the Goddess of Clouds (Phap Van) was brought to the capital city for honoring then brought back to the Dau Pagoda.

Dau Pagoda is 30km north of Hanoi. Paradissa offers half a day trips, cycling tours to the Dau Pagodas and other tourist attractions in the Red River Delta.