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Tay Phuong Pagoda: the treasure of sculptural art in Vietnam

April 26, 2015          4386 views
(Cinet) - The beautiful pagoda, notable for its collection of 18 jack-wood Arhat statues coated with lacquer has recently given the status of National Special Heritage site by Vietnam Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Tay Phuong Pagoda, said to be built in the 8th century is located in Tay Phuong Mountain, Thach That, Hanoi. There are 239 laterite steps to the pagoda, and from this height there is a wonderful view of the surrounding fields, laterite mountains and villages.
The beginning of 239 steps to the pagoda
The pagoda consists of three main buildings: the hall, the central pagoda, and the inside chamber. They are parallel with each other to form the shape of the Chinese character “San” (literally means tam in Vietnamese and three in English). Each building has a two level roof ending in strongly curved lance blades. The wood columns stand on stone pedestals carved in the form of lotus petals. The surrounding walls were built with bricks carved with decorative ying-yang circle windows in Buddhist philosophy. The pagoda has been reconstructed in 1632, 1690, 1735 and 1740. The present style of three parallel buildings remains from the reconstruction of 1794.  
Tay Phuong pagoda before a storm
Two level roof of the pagoda

The renowned statues in Tay Phuong were sculpted in a way that clearly reveals individual personalities. People usually regard these statues of Arhats. However, according to old documents preserved in the pagoda, the statues are of Indian patriarchs in the conception of Chinese Chan Budihism. Most of the statues here are said to date from the late 18th century. Some art critics suppose that the 12-arm Avalokitesvara statue might date from the first half of the 17th century. About eighty statues are displayed in three buildings make Tay Phuong Pagoda become a truly valuable sculptural art in Vietnam.  
Some of the Arhats statues
A festival is open at Tay Phuong Pagoda in early spring each year. People flock to the festival not only to show their religious belief but also to join many traditional games and entertainments including puppet performances, tug-of-war, human chess etc.
Phuong Do