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Duc La Pagoda, Bac Giang
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Duc La Pagoda in Bac Giang: Vietnam Destination Guide by First Choice Travel

From the Bac Giang Provincial Capital, a crooked red soil trail runs off Route 13, just past Tan An District Town, to Duc La Pagoda, also known as Vinh Nghiem Tu (80km north of Hanoi).

The pagoda is situated in an area of rolling hills. In the background is the Co Tien Mountain range and to the left is the batiks of the Luc River. Farther away is the Thuong River which converges with the Luc River to form the Phuong Nhon Junction. In front of the pagoda are vast ricefields dotted with villages and hamlets hidden behind green bamboo groves. Looming in the distance is the 99 Nham Bien Mountain range, wrapped in a poetic and mystical air.

Duc La Pagoda, built in the 12th century, was the centre of the Truc Lam Trinity: King Tran Nhan Tong, Phap Loa and Huyen Quang resident monks who opened a school of Buddhist preaching and established the Truc Lam religious sect. They were in command of believers across the country.

The main architecture of the pagoda lies on a Southwest axis and is composed of four principal blocs. The first bloc houses the Ho Pagoda, Thien Huong Palace and Buddhist Temple.

The interior of the Ho Pagoda is adorned with many statues; at the two gables there are two Thap Dien niches, two colossi as high as the roof, as well as statues of Thien Wong, Dia Tang and Long Than. The Thien Huong Palace is splendidly decorated with three horizontal panels and a gilded door; the first compartment is for bonzes to say prayers, the second is for the display of Buddha statues and statues of Arhats. The Buddhist Temple is a world of Buddha statues bearing many architectural imprints of the Le Dynasty.

A brick yard separates the second bloc from the first and is an ancestral shrine built in a simple architectural style with wooden planks and cloud - like decorations.

The panel is inscribed with the words "Truc Lam ho thuong" (A rendez-vous of the Truc Lam Trinity) in Chinese characters and is seen above the three statues of the Truc Lam Trinity.

The third bloc is the two - roofed bell tower and the fourth is the second ancestral shrine hosting two statues symbolic of the art of sculpture in the Nguyen Dynasty.

Over 700 years have elapsed but all four architectural structures remain intact. Duc La Pagoda remains a major training centre of Buddhism with wooden shelves for the printing of Buddhist sutras still conserved as evidence of the important role of Vinh Nghiem Tu.

The local authorities and people have maintained the complex well, making the area an eternal sanctuary of the Vinh Nghiem Buddhist sect.

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