Con Son pagoda reflects Vietnamese soul
Update: May 16, 2016
The Con Son relic site in Chi Linh district, Hai Duong province is closely associated with many well-known Vietnamese figures such as Tran Nguyen Dan, Huyen Quang and Nguyen Trai, a national hero and world cultural figure.

The highlight of the relic site is Con Son pagoda, which reflects Viet Nam’s historical, cultural and religious value. Vinh Phong reports.

Con Son pagoda, also known as Hun pagoda, is located at the foot of Con Son mountain. It was built in the 10th century and was expanded in the 13th century during the Tran dynasty. 

The pagoda consists of a front hall, an incense offering hall, an upper hall and an ancestor worshipping hall. The upper hall worships Buddha and has a 3-meter Buddha statue. 

In the ancestor worshiping hall, there are statues dedicated to King Monk Tran Nhan Tong, Venerable Monk Phap Loan, second founder of Truc Lam Zen sect and his successor Huyen Quang, high-ranking mandarin Tran Nguyen Dan and national hero Nguyen Trai. 

Le Duy Manh, Deputy Head of the Con Son-Kiep Bac Relic Site Management Board, said Con Son is one of the three centers of the Truc Lam Zen sect: “In 1329, Venerable Monk Phap Loan, the second founder of the Truc Lam Zen sect upgraded the pagoda. 

His successor, Huyen Quang, expanded the pagoda, taught Buddhism, printed Buddhist sutras, cast Buddha statues and developed Con Son into one of the three principal centers of Buddhist Truc Lam Zen School.”

Con Son pagoda embodies the royal architectural style distinguished by a half-moon lake and a three-door temple gate at the front. A path lined with ancient pine and lichi trees leads to the bell tower before reaching the main sanctuary. 

The 3-door gate is decorated with modified patterns of flowers and clouds in the architectural style of the Le dynasty. The pagoda features a traditional sculptural style honoring the four sacred animals: the dragon, unicorn, tortoise and phoenix, and the four sacred plants: the apricot, pine, chrysanthemum, and bamboo. 

There are also sculptures of other animals like the crab, fish, and deer. All animals bow before the Buddha, showing that all species and people are equal and are educated by Buddha to become good. 

Mr. Manh added “Con Son-Kiep Bac relic site is preserving several valuable artifacts and antiques including four stone steles dating back to the 13th century behind the pagoda. One of them was a gift King Tran Due Tong presented to mandarin Tran Nguyen Dan in 1369. The stele is of special cultural and religious significance. In 2015, it was recognized as a "national treasure".

Con Son pagoda receives thousands of visitors a year. Le Thi Quyen, a tourist from Hanoi, said “We visit the Con Son-Kiep Bac relic site every year. The landscape here is tranquil and peaceful, helping us relieve our tiredness. We also bring our kids here to learn about Viet Nam’s tradition, culture and history”.

There are two annual festivals held at Con Son pagoda. The spring festival takes place from the 16th to 23rd of the lunar January to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Venerable Monk Huyen Quang. 

The festival includes many rituals, a water procession, a worshiping ceremony, a prayer ceremony, wrestling, human chess, and Quan Ho folk singing. 

The autumn festival is held from the 16th to 20th of the 8th lunar month to mark the death anniversary of national hero Nguyen Trai. Participants take part in ceremonial singing, requiems, lantern festival, swimming and wrestling competitions.