Bai Dinh pagoda is located in Ninh Binh province, 100 km away from Ha Noi capital in the north of Viet Nam. The padoda includes both of majestic sceneries and spirit values. This is the largest spiritual pagoda in Viet Nam and one of the must-see places in Ninh Binh.
• Address: Gia Sinh commune, Gia Vien district, Ninh Binh province
• Opening time: Daily 7:00 – 18:00
• Entrance fee: The entrance fee to Bai Dinh Pagoda is free. But you can use the electric cars to move around the pagoda. Fee for this service is 30,000VND/person
Table of contents
- 1 The history of Bai Dinh Pagoda
- 2 What to expect
- 2.1 Ancient Bai Dinh Pagoda Area
- 2.2 New Bai Dinh – Pagoda of records
- 3 The records of Bai Dinh pagoda
- 4 Bai Dinh festival
- 5 Tips for visiting the pagoda
The history of Bai Dinh Pagoda
Over 1,000 years ago, in the capital of Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh), there were three dynasties: Dinh, Tien Le and Ly. These three feudal dynasties were all very interested in Buddhism and considered Buddhism a state religion. So in Ninh Binh there are many ancient temples, including Bai Dinh pagoda, on the Trang An mountain range.
Bai Dinh pagoda complex consists of an ancient pagoda and a new pagoda built in 2003. The pagoda is located on the mountainside, between immense valleys of lakes and rocky mountains, at the western gateway to Hoa Lu ancient capital. The new pagoda architecture is monumental, massive but imbued with traditional identity. Therefore, this place soon became a famous destination. Bai Dinh pagoda area has been honored by the media as one of the largest pagoda complexes in Southeast Asia.
What to expect
Ancient Bai Dinh Pagoda Area
Ancient Bai Dinh pagoda was restored. The Pagoda (Bai Dinh Co Tu) is located about 800 m south of the Tam The Palace of the new pagoda. In 1997, the pagoda was recognized as a national historical – cultural – revolutionary monument. Although it was formed in the Dinh dynasty, ancient Bai Dinh pagoda has many architectural details and antiques bearing the imprint of the Ly dynasty.
Bright cave, dark cave
Visiting the cave at Bai Dinh mountain, you have to step over 300 stone steps, through the three-gate gate halfway up the mountain. Up the slope is to the fork in the road: on the right is a light cave to worship Buddha and Devine, on the left is a dark cave to worship Mother Goddess of the Forest.
Temple of Consecrated Nguyen (Thánh Nguyễn)
This is the temple to worship Ly Quoc Su Nguyen Minh Khong, the founder of Bai Dinh pagoda. Besides, Consecrated Nguyen temple is located at the junction of steep slope, built in the style of leaning against the mountain. In the temple, his statue is cast in bronze.
Temple of Genie Cao Son
Go to the end of the bright cave, there is a path leading down to the valley of fragrant rosewood forest is the temple of Genie Cao Son, the ruler of the Vu Lam mountains.
Ngoc Well lies nearby the foot of Bai Dinh mountain. As the legend has it, the famous senior Buddhist monk-cum-physician under the Ly Dynasty, Nguyen Minh Khong, used to take water from the well to prepare herbal medicines for the local people and Crown Prince Duong Hoan. The well was built in the moon-shape with a diameter of 30m. The water of the well, which has not run dry once since it was built, is 6m deep.
New Bai Dinh – Pagoda of records
A new Bai Dinh Pagoda was built next to the old one facing southeast. This pagoda covers an area of 700ha, located on Ba Rau hills, near Hoang Long river. This is a large complex which includes many items built in several different stages. Big, bold and solemn structures, deeply imbued with Vietnamese architecture.
Tam Quan Gate (Pagoda’s three-entrance gate)
Three Entrance Gate, which features a three-layer curved roof, covered with glazed dark brown tiles produced in Bat Trang pottery village. Inside, the Three Entrance Gate houses two statues of Lokapalas (Ho Phap), which is 5m high and weights 12 tonnes each. And supporting by four wooden pillars, which is 13.85m high and 0.85m in diameter each.
Statues of 500 Arhats in the corridor
Five hundred Arhat statues, made of greenstone, are placed along the two sides of corridors leading up to other structures of the pagoda complex. Especially, each statue, from 2 to 2.5m in height, 2 to 2.5 tonnes in weight, renders unique facial expression and posture.
The Three Entrance Gate is followed by the bell tower, built in the octagonal shape with three-layer curved roof. It houses a bronze bell weighing 36 tonnes.
A temple dedicated to Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara
The temple dedicated to Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara is a seven-compartment single-roofed building where the 90-tonne bronze statue of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara with many eyes and hands is placed.
Phap Chu Pagoda
The Phap Chu Pagoda devoted to the Shakyamuni Buddha has two-layer curved roof. It is 30m high, 47.6m long, and 43.3m wide. Inside the temple sits the 100-tonne statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. Moreover, in the temple courtyard has a bronze bell weight 27 tonnes.
Tam The Pagoda (Dien Tam The)
At the highest location of the new pagoda complex, which is 76m above sea level, Tam The Pagoda lies. It worships Buddha. This grave structure is 34m high, 59m long and 40m wide, and has a three-layer curved roof. Inside, the hall is home to three bronze statues of Buddha in the three ages – the past, the presence and the future. Each statue, weighted around 50 tonnes, is 7.2m high.
The records of Bai Dinh pagoda
Here are something special that attract tourists coming to Bai Dinh, they are also elements which make records for the pagoda.
So far, it has had eight records recognized as follows:
1. The 100-ton statue of Shakyamuni Buddha in Phap Chu Temple – Biggest gilt Buddha Shakyamuni statue in Asia.
2. The 100-ton statue of Maitreya Bodhisattva -Biggest bronze statue of Buddha in Southeast Asia
3. The 36-ton bronze bell in the bell tower – Biggest bronze bell in Vietnam
4. Largest pagoda area in Vietnam: 539ha
5. Longest corridor with 500 Arhat statues: two wooden corridors with total length of 3,400m
6. 500 greenstone Arhat statues – Largest number of Arhat statues in Vietnam
7. Largest Well in Vietnam: Ngoc Well with 30m in diameter, 6m in depth
8. Largest number of Bodhi trees in Vietnam: 100 Bodhi trees
Bai Dinh festival
Every year, Bai Dinh festival opens on January 6 and lasts until the end of March of lunar calendar. Buddhist rites are performed in the new pagoda in conjunction with traditional rituals from the old pagoda.
There are ritual processions, blessing ceremonies, traditional music, and dance performances. At this festival, delegates, monks and nuns and visitors join in the ceremony to release the birds and pray for the peace and happiness of the people. In addition, you can also watch or even take part in interesting folk games, including tug-of-war and wrestling, as well as sample authentic local snacks at food stalls throughout the festival.
Tips for visiting the pagoda
Another point to note when coming to the pagoda is the costume. When visiting other attractions, visitors can freely choose their favorite costumes. However, the pagoda is a sacred place, so it is necessary to choose appropriate costumes. Here are some examples:
Choose courteous colors
Wear a collared shirt
Do not wear short or short skirts
Do not wear net socks
Bring appropriate shoes as you have to walk quite far to the ancient pagoda as well as get wet when visiting bright cave, dark cave.