One Pilla Pagoda

Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam, not only is it well-known for many delicious street foods but also a lot of age-old historical and cultural heritages. One of them is One Pillar Pagoda (Mot Cot pagoda or Chua Mot Cot) – a distinctive and unique architectural structure and historical site. It is considered a symbol of Hanoi city with a thousand years of civilization due to bearing the architectural splendor hallmark of the famous historical dynasty in Vietnam.

1. One Pillar Pagoda History

One Pillar Pagoda, as known as Dien Huu pagoda or Lien Hoa Dai, was built in 1049 by Ly Thai Tong (1028-1054), a king of Ly’s dynasty. Its name means “long happiness and prosperity”. In Vietnamese language, One Pillar Pagoda is called Nhat Tru Thap.
According to folk legend, the king was old but had no child. Each day, he used to go to pagodas to pray to Buddha for a son. One night, he dreamt that he saw Quan Am Bo Tat sitting on the lotus pond that lightened up gorgeous halos and gave him a baby. When he woke up, the king told his subjects about that. A few months later, the queen gave birth to a prince. The king was at the top of the world. He decided to construct a pagoda with only one pillar to resemble a giant lotus blossom to show deep gratitude to Quan Am Bo Tat.

In  1105, King Ly Nhan Tong renovated and expanded the pagoda with Linh Chieu Lake added.

In 1954, French colonialists set mine to destroy One Pillar Pagoda; there was only the pillar with some wooden beams remained in confusion.

In 1955, the municipal government restored and preserved the pagoda as it is now.

In 1962, One Pillar Pagoda Complex was recognized as National Historic Heritage and “The Pagoda with the Most Unique Architecture in Asia” by Asia Record Organization in 10/10/2012 in Faridabab (India). 

2. One Pillar Pagoda Architecture 

One Pillar pagoda architecture is a typical Hanoi attraction for cultural and spiritual symbols of Vietnam’s capital.

Its uniqueness in architecture is that the whole temple is settled on a single stone pillar. And, the lotus is reckoned the sympbol of One Pillar Pagoda.

Indeed, the pagoda is not similar to anyone else in Vietnam. The structure of pagoda includes one pillar, Lien Hoa Dai, and a roof. The stone pillar is constituted from two small blocks that are piled skillfully with 1.2 meters in diameter and 4 meters in height (not including the part submerged inland). 

Above the pillar, there are eight wooden beams that sound like eight petals. They are the system of wooden slats forming the solid structure firmly supporting the pagoda which looks like one and as steady as rock.

Lien Hoa Dai is a wooden square structure with each side of 3 meters. There are four curved roofs covered four dragon head-shape. Each of the roof ’s diameter is 1.25m. The roof of the pagoda is covered by traditional red and mossy tiles, which show the meticulosity of handicraftsman.

It is placed in the central lotus pond with each side 20m and there are four short walls surrounded it. To go up to the pagoda floor, you must climb the stair which has thirteen side steps, two sides of the brick-tiled wall with stone stele introducing the history of the pagoda.

In the pagoda, the statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Quan Thế Âm Bồ Tát) sits on a wooden and red-lacquered throne at the highest position. Some worshipping objects such as a couple of pot flower vases, thuribles, candles,… are decorated carefully which creates a grave religious space.

3. Special Meaning behind the Architecture

The pagoda is situated in the clusters of Ho Chi Minh relics that attract a large number of tourists annually. The all-laid-on-a-pillar special feature of One Pillar Pagoda’s architecture is a harmonious combination of spectacular ideas and architectural perfection. Besides, it also is compressed with philosophical meanings.  

The round pillar represents the sky and Yang while the square pond represents the law and Yin, which demonstrates the law of circulation of the universe.

Seeing from a distance, One Pillar Pagoda looks like a lotus flower emerging from the water’s surface. The lotus delicate beauty is a symbol of intelligence, elevated personality and simple virtue of Vietnamese people.

This familiar symbol of Hanoi appears in a lot of newspapers, books as well as educational programs. It has also appeared in the 5,000 Coin Vietnamese dong in the past.

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