Boys practicing martial arts at the Quan Thanh Temple
Boys practicing martial arts at the Quan Thanh Temple

Quan Thanh Temple, Hanoi

Quan Thanh Temple was built during the rein of King Ly Cong Uan – Ly Thai To (1010-1028) dedicated to a magician or a patron saint who helped the locals against the bad spirits who often haunted their life. The temple is in a leafy compound located to the southeast corner of the West Lake.

 Gate of the Quan Thanh Temple in Hanoi, VietnamLocals have several legends about the origin of the temple one of which says that the area of the West Lake was inhabited by a 9-tail fox devil who caused much trouble to local inhabitants. One day a magician – Huyen Thien Tran Vo (or Huyen Thien Tran Vu) came and helped the locals to kill the devil. The whole area collapsed and the West Lake was created. The locals built the temple dedicated to Huyen Thien Tran Vu to express their thanks to the Patron Saint and also to keep bad spirits away from the area….

Two factors to take into account when visiting and learning about the Quan Thanh Temple. The first one is that Tran Vu in Taoism represents the Northern Star, he is considered the Deity administrating the North. Tran Vu is worshiped in several countries in China and South East Asia. Vietnam is one of the countries which are strongly influenced by China.

Another factor is that the Quan Thanh Temple is located to the southeastern corner of the West Lake and the Voi Phuc Temple (in Thuy Khue) is located to the southwestern corner of the West Lake. And the West Lake is located to the north of the former Thang Long Imperial Citadel. In Fengshui, the Quan Thanh Temple and the Voi Phuc Temple (Thuy Khue) function as a Spiritual Defense against bad energy from the North as well as bad energy by the West Lake Corners.

Practicing martial arts at the Quan Thanh Temple in Hanoi, Vietnam
Practicing martial arts at the Quan Thanh Temple in Hanoi, Vietnam

A popularly accepted explanation is that there were Quan Thanh Temple, Voi Phuc Temple (in Thu Le Park, not the one at Thuy Khue), Kiem Lien Pagoda and Bach Ma Temple which protected the Thanh Long Imperial Citadel from the north, west, south and east. But the explanation has no convincing scientific evidence: there is no exact dates that temples were built and all the temples/pagodas have nothing to do with one another. The Voi Phuc Temple at Thu Le was built much later to the Voi Phuc Temple at Thuy Khue.

It is also good to mention that there is a Tran Quoc Pagoda near Quan Thanh Temple (700m north of the Quan Thanh Temple) which was originally built in the 545 A.D and was relocated to the current site from 17th century from Yen Phu Dike...Practicing martial arts at the Quan Thanh Temple

While it is supposed to be a Taoist Temple but there is no monk at the Quan Thanh Temple. People come and pray here wishing for good luck just like at any temples or pagodas in Vietnam.

Visiting the Quan Thanh Temple, you’ll pass through a gate then a leafy yard to the worshiping house with different sections. The innermost chamber houses a statue of Tran Vu weighing 3,600kg. It was cast in the 17th century by craftmen of the nearby Ngu Xa Village which specialized in casting bronze ware.

Along with the ups and downs of the Vietnamese history, the Quan Thanh Temple and several old temples and pagodas in Hanoi survived. Given that the temple was occupied by the French troops during the 2-month battle of Hanoi (between the Viet Minh and the French Troops) and given that the area of Quan Thanh Temple was just next to the Headquarters of North Vietnam during the American Bombing of Hanoi during the Vietnam War (American War), it is something of mystery...