As one of the largest pagodas in South Vietnam, Vinh Trang Pagoda Vietnam lies along Provincial Road 22 in My Tho City, Tien Giang Province. This work is located on Nguyen Trung Truc Street, My An Hamlet of My Phong Commune, about 3km to the northeast of Tien Giang city center. Ranked as a national relic in 1984, Vinh Trang temple is now a famous pilgrimage and tourist destination, attracting many Buddhist followers.
I - Vinh Trang Pagoda history
Vinh Trang Pagoda in My Tho city has a history of construction with many ups and downs, going through many generations, with different changes, and embellishments. Built in the early 19th century by a married couple, the pagoda was just a small grass pagoda where they practiced Buddhism after retirement. In 1849, the Most Venerable Thich Hue Dang from Giac Lam Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City was appointed as abbot of this temple. He began to initiate the construction, preparing the scriptures as well as carrying the earth to build the foundation himself.
Source: Nhật Linh
Most Venerable Hue Dang named the pagoda Vinh Truong with the meaning of “long-lived”, but locals are more used to calling it Vinh Trang Pagoda. In 1907, Venerable Tra Chanh Hau ordered the restoration of the temple and built the first floor of the main hall, blending Asian - European architectural features. In 1930, Venerable Minh Dang started embellishing of the roof and the facade on four sides, building 3 more compartments and the second floor of the main hall. In 1933, he once again ordered to build 2 more Tam Quan gates (Three-entrance gates) and a fence surrounding the pagoda.
II - Unique architecture of Vinh Trang Pagoda
This is one of the most famous pagodas in Vietnam with an impressive architecture. Vinh Trang temple is built in the form of the letter 囯, consisting of 4 consecutive compartments with a total area of 14,000m², a length of 70m, and a width of 20m. Surrounded by solid walls, the pagoda is built of cement and precious wood on a 1m-high cast foundation, with sophisticated and diverse architecture. It is a composite style of Asia - Europe with French, Roman, Thailand, Myanmar, and Cham features, but still especially bold in Vietnamese traditional sculpture. The pillars and the corridor on the left-hand side of the pagoda will give you the feeling of being in a church in Europe.
1 - Vinh Trang Pagoda’s Tam Quan gates
In front of the pagoda, there are two large-scale and magnificent Tam Quan gates built in 1933 as mentioned above. These works are styled like ancient fortresses with 2 levels, in which the upper are the places for the statues of the two monks Thich Chanh Hau and Thich Minh Dan. The special feature of Tam Quan Gates also lies in the impressive and unique art of joining colorful and iridescent crockery pieces to illustrate the history of Buddhism, with couplets and various images of dragons, qilins, turtles, phoenixes, fishes, novices, etc.
2 - Main hall of Vinh Trang temple
After Tam Quan gate is the main area of Vinh Trang Pagoda, with 4 compartments in order: Front Hall, Main Hall, Ancestor House, and Back House. They are all built from cement and rare wood, carved with extremely sophisticated dragons, phoenixes, and Chinese characters. In particular, the Main Hall was built in Roman architecture and the interior is made in Chinese style, but still retains the Vietnamese features. Going further inside, you will see a golden color covering every carving and Buddha statue, and the outstandingly large round pillars made of precious wood.
The highlight of the Main Hall in particular, and Vinh Trang Pagoda in general, are the Buddha statues built from many different materials. Coming here, you will have the chance to admire more than 60 ancient Buddha statues, made from wood, bronze or terracotta, all gilded with gold. The most prominent of which is the set of 18 Arhat statues carved with jackfruit wood, dating from the early 20th century and lying on both sides of the Main Hall wall. There are also 3 statues from the 19th century of Amitabha Buddha (98cm), Avalokitesvara (93cm) and Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva.
Source: Nguyễn Khải Trung
In the Main Hall of Vinh Trang Pagoda, there is a small space with a rockery, which depicts a vivid natural scene, proving that the ancients wanted to bring nature inside Vinh Trang temple. Standing right on the rockery, you can see the Roman architecture with stylish cement columns, as well as the roof wall decorated with rows of colorful French marble. In the front of the main hall, there are Renaissance-style patterns, Roman-style arches, Japanese ceramic tiles, and the Vietnam national characters written in Gothic script.
3 - Campus
Vinh Trang Pagoda also owns a large and airy campus with many ornamental and old trees, large orchards, and a beautiful lake. Prominent in the temple gardens is a 150-ton Amitabha Buddha statue, with a height of 24m including a 6m pedestal. It was inaugurated on January 14, 2008, with the implication that the Buddha is standing and looking after sentient beings in all realms. Inaugurated on January 22, 2014, the Maitreya Buddha statue sitting with a gentle smile is made of reinforced concrete, with a length of 27m, a width of 18m and a height of 20m.
Finally, it is impossible to ignore the statue of Shakyamuni Buddha entering Nirvana having a very gentle and peaceful facial expression, also known as the reclining Buddha, considered the symbol of Vinh Trang Pagoda. This work was started on February 15, 2012, and completed on February 15, 2013, weighing about 250 tons, 32m long and 10m high.
4 - Vinh Trang temple’s 7-storey tower
Besides the giant and majestic Buddha statues, the pagoda also has a majestic 7-storey tower located in the back. Lying right next to the statue of Shakyamuni Buddha, this is the place to store the ashes of Buddhists and monks. In addition, the campus area of the pagoda also has many small corners with beautiful Western architecture, where you can freely enjoy the scenery and take check-in photos.
III - Tourist information about Vinh Trang Pagoda
1 - Opening hours
The pagoda is open from 6:30am to 6:30pm, when visiting, you should remember to dress politely and avoid making noise.
2 - Best time to visit Vinh Trang Pagoda
You can visit Vinh Trang temple anytime, but because this is a spiritual site, the holidays will be more bustling with activities. From January to March of the lunar calendar, the weather of Tien Giang Province is quite pleasant and there is also the Tet holiday, suitable for you to combine sightseeing with praying for good luck at the pagoda. The same goes for the first and the full moon day of every lunar month, major Buddhist holidays such as the Vu Lan Festival. However, the pagoda is usually quite crowded at these times, so if you just want to see the scenery, you can consider going on weekdays.
Possessing the features of the West mixed with the East, Vinh Trang Pagoda has a special attraction that no other temple in the South can overcome. The temple not only has a unique architecture, but also a peaceful resting place for the soul after days of stress and fatigue. If you have the opportunity to set foot in the land of Tien Giang, try to visit Vinh Trang temple at least once to admire the scenery and relax yourself.