Thang Long Four Sacred Temples – 1000 years old Guardians of Hanoi

Have you ever heard about the Hanoi capital of Vietnam and its 1000-year-old guardians, Thang Long Four Sacred Temples? The country has nearly 4000 years of history and the fact that Hanoi can stay still up until now, after the ups and downs of many dynasties, two World Wars and thousands of big and small revolutions, seems not really because of its luck.

 

The legend of Thang Long Four Sacred Temples

 

Over a thousand years ago, in 1010, King Ly Thai To, one of the most famous Kings in Vietnamese History, decided to move the former capital of Vietnam, which was Dai Viet – the Great Viet, to the land where he saw a golden dragon flying to the sky in his magical dream. After that remarkably historic event, the land was named “Thang Long” which means “Flying Dragon” City, the old name of Hanoi. 

 

Thang Long Four Sacred Temples

 

Four Temples of Thang Long were built in separated times in history and still maintained up until now. It is believed that these temples stayed in 4 different directions of the wind and worshipped 4 different Gods to protect the city from devils as well as ominous signs from the East, West, South and North. 

 

Bach Ma Temple (White Horse Temple) – The Guardian of the East 

 

The most famous one among Thang Long Tu Tran is Bach Ma Temple which stays right at the middle of Hanoi Old Quarter. This is the first built temple and was finished in the 9th Century. Although at present, Bach Ma Temple is on a crowded street which is full of bar, café, restaurants, food vendors and other more. This temple is popularly packed with international and domestic tourists. In the 9th Century, it was built nearby the mouth of To Lich River and worshipped the Gods of River, To Lich God or Long Do God. Today the river still kept floating, but was shorten and now stays about 10km far from the Old Quarter.

 

An ancient gate of Thang Long City

Bach Ma Temple in Hanoi Old Quarter

 

About the To Lich River Gods, they were believed as the tutelary spirit of Thang Long and the main protector of this city. It was told that when Ly Thai To King chose Thang Long as the new capital of Vietnam, he made a decision to build the wall to protect the city first. However, the wall was failed to be built time after time. Therefore, the King let his functionaries delicate the offerings to To Lich River God right at the temple. After the offerings were sent to God, they saw a white horse go out from the temple and left the footprints on each step it made. People who built the city wall followed these footprints and the wall never felt again. Because of that event, the King named this temple as Bach Ma Temple meaning White Horse Temple and it officially became the Sacred Temple of the city.

 

Present address: 76 Hang Buom St, Hoan Kiem Dist, Hanoi, Vietnam

 

Voi Phuc Temple (Kneeling Elephant Temple) – The Guardian of the West

 

Built in the 11th Century, Voi Phuc Temple worships a real hero of the ancient Thang Long City, Prince Ly Hoang Chan, a son of Ly Thanh Tong King, who was sacrificed his own life to defend the city in the invasion. As to remember this heroic action, the King ordered to build the Temple and let the residents worship him and wish that he is always there to protect the city. As there were two “kneeling elephants” statues put on two sides of the temple’s gate, people called the temple Voi Phuc, which means Kneeling Elephant Temple and the name is kept until the present. According to legends, God Linh Lang helped Vietnamese win in all 3 wars with the Mongolians who were the strongest invaders in the world at that time when they invaded successfully most of the land in Asia but also a large area in Europe. 

 

Thang Long Four Sacred Temples

Voi Phuc Temple, the Guardian of the Western Hanoi

 

Present address: 306B Kim Ma St, Ba Dinh Dist, Hanoi, Vietnam

 

Kim Lien Temple (Golden Lotus Temple) – The Guardian of the South

 

This is the latest temple among Thang Long Four Sacred Temples in Hanoi. Kim Lien Temple worships Cao Son, High Mountain God who was believed as a son of Lac Long Quan and Au Co, the ancient parents of all Vietnamese people. It is told that in the 16 – 17th Century when Le Tuong Duc King was marching, he and his soldiers found a panel with the words “Cao Son Dai Vuong”, High Mountain Lord, believed that the sign of a God, he dedicated offerings and wished for a victory. Ten days later, the King got what he had wished for: a great victory before the enemies. As a result, he built a large temple in the South of Thang Long as a place to remember the help from Cao Son God and hoped the God will continue protecting the City. 

 

Kim Lien Temple in the South of Hanoi

Kim Lien Temple in the South of Hanoi

 

Present address: Kiosk 87 Dao Duy Anh st, Dong Da Dist, Hanoi, Vietnam 

 

Quan Thanh Temple – The Guardian of the North

 

Although it was built in around 1010 – 1028 under Ly Thai To King Dynasty, Quan Thanh Temple was moved to its present position at the South of West Lake until 1474. This temple worships Huyen Thien Tran Vu, a God who was believed as a Northern Guardian protecting Vietnamese from the invaders and according to many ancient legends. He helped Vietnamese gain the victories in many battles and overcame from a lot of difficult times in history from the 6th Hung King (1712 – 1632 B.C) up until now with thousands big and small battles. In ancient time, before the big battles, people also dedicated offerings to Tran Vu God and wished for the victories and usually gained what they wished for.

 

Quan Thanh Temple nearby Hanoi West Lake

Quan Thanh Temple nearby Hanoi West Lake

 

Present address: Quan Thanh St, Ba Dinh Dist, Hanoi, Vietnam

 

At present, if you want to visit the Thang Long Four Sacred Temples in Vietnam, you can easily book a city tour which normally allows you to visit one or two of the four temples. However, if you want to visit all the sacred temples, you always can book a customized tour which will be designed following your own orders. 


About Christa Thompson

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Christa Thompson is the Founder and Senior Editor of The Fairytale Traveler. Christa has been traveling the world since 2003 when she attended a summer abroad study at the University of Cambridge in England. Since then, her wanderlust has been fierce. Her three passions in life are her son, traveling, and being creative. The Fairytale Traveler brand gives Christa the opportunity to do all of these things and to live intentionally every day. "It's never too late to believe in what you love and to pursue your dreams." -Christa Thompson

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