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Trăm Gian Pagoda, Hanoi, Vietnam

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AsiaHa NoiTemples & ChurchesViet Nam
Article author: michael
michael
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We’re back in Hanoi, and my wife, who is Buddhist, wanted to show me a few of the nearby pagodas while we’re here, and before we start travelling to other parts of Vietnam. For this particular day she wanted to head out to Tram Gian pagoda, also known as Quang Nghiem Pagoda, which is about a 20 minute drive from my in-law’s place. The name “Tram Gian” means “100 compartments”, and refers to the spacious interior of the pagoda.

This Pagoda is actually one of the oldest in Hanoi. My wife mentioned something in the area of 1000 years old, but it looks like it’s actually closer to 800 years old. Well, ok, I guess she wasn’t that far off! 🤓
It was built in 1185, and is located in the village of Tiên Phương, which is in the district of Chương Mỹ, in Hanoi.

Chùa Trăm Gian Info

Brief History

The Tram Gian temple (also known as Quảng Nghiêm, or Tiên Lữ) is a Ly-dynasty era Buddhist temple established in 1185 during the reign of Lý Cao Tông. It stands at the top of a small hill in Tiên Phương village in Chương Mỹ district on the southwest outskirts of Hanoi.
[…]
In the 14th century during the Tran dynasty, the pagoda was the home of a prominent monk named Nguyễn Bình An (1281-1375), later known as Ðức Thành Bối (Saint Boi). Legends credit him with numerous miracles, such as making rain appear during a prolonged drought at the request of King Trần Anh Tông (r. 1293-1314).
orientalarchitecture.com

Chùa Trăm Gian

When we arrived, much to our surprise, we saw it was pretty packed. It seemed like some kind of celebration was going on.

Tram Gian Pagoda

Well, turns out the celebration was none other than Buddha’s birthday (ngày phật đản or lễ Phật Đản in Vietnamese)!

Buddha’s Birthday or “Buddha Day” (also known as Buddha Jayanti, Buddha Purnima, and Buddha Pournami) is a Buddhist and Hindu festival that is celebrated in Nepal, in India, and in most of South and East Asia, commemorating the birth of the prince Siddhartha Gautama, who became the Gautama Buddha and founded Buddhism.
Wikipedia

My wife had forgotten it was Buddha’s birthday, so it was a nice surprise to see the pagoda decorated and full of people celebrating.

We made our way towards one of the entrances to the pagoda, and I snapped pics along the way.

Tram Gian Pagoda

I believe we may have actually entered from the back of the temple, which then breaks off into other sections. According to orientalarchitecture.com:

The temple is laid out in the Nội công ngoại quốc style, so-called as the inner buildings are shaped like the character Công (工), which are in turn surrounded by a rectangular frame as in the external component of the character Quốc (國).

So I think we entered from one of the side areas, and later on made our way towards the front, which has the older, possibly original temple structure.

Tram Gian Pagoda

I think what I love the most about Pagodas, besides the actual architecture, are the colours. They’re always so vibrant and beautiful, as is the natural wood used in the construction.

Tram Gian Pagoda

Tram Gian Pagoda

Tram Gian Pagoda

Note that some newer temples and pagodas, and possibly some restored ones as well, use cement and concrete posts and beams painted to look like wood instead of actual wood. They likely do this to make them more durable (and fire retardant) and easier to maintain, but they generally do a good job in those cases of making the beams like like real wood.

As far as Tram Gian goes, it appears some of the posts and beams are solid wood, whereas others are painted concrete.

Tram Gian Pagoda

Apparently there was a scandal involving some restoration work in 2012 that was done without authorization, resulting in, among other things, cheap modern paint being used on some of the original wood work. Yikes!

In the 2 following pics, you can see a difference in the panels along the walls. The faded, worse for wear ones are the original ones, and the newer, brighter ones are the ones that were restored.

Tram Gian Pagoda

Tram Gian Pagoda

I honestly can’t say they really look that bad to me, in fact I think they look pretty good, however I’m certainly not an expert. I suspect the “botched” work might also have been somewhat corrected since. The “botched” restorations weren’t only for the wood panels, but also included dismantling of several centuries-old interior pavilions, the stone steps, and the repainting of other original woodwork.

Tram Gian Pagoda

Tram Gian Pagoda

After passing through some of the interior areas with the panels and shrines, we headed out, to what I think is actually the front/entrance of the complex.

Tram Gian Pagoda

Tram Gian Pagoda

The Pagoda contains different structures built at different times throughout it’s history, which is often the case with temples that have been around for a long time. You can see in the pictures the various states of the different structures, some in better shape than others.

Tram Gian Pagoda

Tram Gian Pagoda

After making our way down from the inside areas, and passing the original temple (shown above), we passed the bell tower which dates back to 1693, an old shrine, and then finally another small temple in the distance.

Tram Gian Pagoda

Tram Gian Pagoda

Tram Gian Pagoda

My in-laws, whom we went with, mentioned there was a feast going on to celebrate Buddha’s birthday, and so we would stay for lunch.

Children’s Play Area

Before that though, we saw a human-powered ride for kids, and thought our little one would enjoy it! It’s like what you’d see at amusement parks, but instead of having a motor turning the ride, someone needs to pull the animals you ride on around in a circle! 😅

Tram Gian Pagoda

Tram Gian Pagoda

A feast fit for Buddha

Once we were finished at the little play area, we headed back up to the rear of the complex to feast on some delicious, and free, vegan food!

I’m not a vegan or vegetarian myself, but I actually enjoy omitting meat from my diet on a somewhat regular basis, and I love Vietnamese food, so I was in heaven!

Vegan Feast

So we sat down, ate a variety of vegan dishes made from various plants that I couldn’t identify, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was honestly delicious, and if you didn’t know it was vegan, you’d never guess it.

This particular feast was in honour of Buddha’s birthday, but some pagodas will have these feasts on a regular basis, and anyone can come and eat. They’re always free, but you can, and most buddhists do, donate money to the pagoda to help with the costs of the food.

Conclusion

That was it for our visit to Tram Gian Pagoda. It was a nice surprise to see the pagoda decorated and full of people celebrating Buddha’s birthday, and the vegan feast was a nice bonus!

If you’re in the area, I’d recommend checking it out, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit it. Vietnam, and Hanoi, have many beautiful pagodas to visit, so you have many options to choose from without having to travel too far.

Until next time,
michael 😀

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