A panoramic view of Hang Pagoda. — Photo thamhiemmekong.com
As a province with many ethnic Khmer people living, Trà Vinh Province has a distinct beauty expressed through its unique architectural works.
Among the famous landscapes and monuments in the province, Hang Pagoda is a must-visit destination.
The pagoda, also called Kompông Chrây Pagoda, was established in 1637. It is 5km from Trà Vinh Town.
The 2ha-pagoda is completely covered in green forest.
It is called Hang (Cave) Pagoda because the western side gate, facing National Highway 54, is built like a system of three caves. The middle gate is a large cave, and the two sides are small caves. All three gates are solidly built with 12m thick walls, creating the feeling of standing in the gate like a cave.
The arched pagoda gate is an artistic architectural work that distinguishes Hang Pagoda from the rest of the Khmer pagodas in the province. It contains a deeply religious and historical value.
The cave gate is a ‘relic’ showing that Trà Vinh Khmer Theravada Buddhism has a certain inheritance of Brahminism because, in the old days, Brahmin monks often lived quietly in dark and deserted caves.
There are rows of ancient trees at the pagoda’s gate. — Photo thamhiemmekong.com
The main hall of the pagoda was built on high ground, with many steps leading up, decorated with many patterns and motifs. The roof of the main hall is composed of many overlapping layers, on top of which is a majestic tower.
Inside the main hall are two rows of tall columns, and in the middle of the hall is the altar of Shakyamuni Buddha.
Opposite the main hall is a population of 12 animals arranged in an arc shaped like a boat.
Like other Khmer pagodas, Hang Pagoda is not only a place of worship and belief but also a place of learning, moral education, and preservation of the traditional art and culture of the Khmer people.
In the pagoda, there is a fairly large school and about 20 small stilt houses for the Khmer in the area to come to pray and practice here.
The main hall of Hang Pagoda. — Photo thamhiemmekong.com
The properties of Hang Pagoda cover an area of about 7ha. It is really a primaeval forest with many endemic plant species such as bamboo, rare wood trees. They are crammed into many different layers, which are very valuable in terms of the biosphere and are a natural source of genes for future generations.
Another attraction of this pagoda to visitors is the wood carving workshop that has been operating for nearly 30 years, with many products that are famous in the Vietnamese fine art market and a strictly protected “bird sanctuary”, home to many different kinds of birds and bats.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the forest on the properties of Hang Pagoda has been inhabited by many bats and crows. At night they go out to look for food. During the day, they hang from the branches of the trees.
However, after that, not many bats were left for unknown reasons.
From the 1990s onwards, the forest of Hang Pagoda has become home to many kinds of birds. The pagoda sets out very strict regulations on protection of birds and trees in the forest, creating a peaceful natural environment for flocks of birds to live. There are nearly tens of thousands of birds of all kinds. Most are white storks, ivory storks, red-necked storks and herons.
Hang Pagoda is home to many birds and bats. — Photo huongsacmientay.com
Loved and protected by people, more and more birds have arrived in the pagoda. They make their nests even in the newly planted bonsai area in front of the main hall and the monks’ house.
Visiting Hang Pagoda, visitors will have the opportunity to witness the monks of the wood-carving workshop to create unique artworks from tree roots.
Wood-carving artists at work at Hang Pagoda. — Photo thamhiemmekong.com
During nearly 30 years of operation, the art wood-carving workshop has produced thousands of works of different sizes. All works from the workshop are imbued with the traditional visual arts of the Khmer ethnics.
After visiting the workshop, tourists stroll around the pagoda. In the morning, the birds soar to the sky, spreading to find food in the fields and rivers nearby, creating a noisy atmosphere for the whole forest.
Trà Vinh boasts about 150 pagodas of the Khmer and nearly 60 pagodas of other ethnic groups.
Visitors feel like they are lost in the “Land of Buddha”, being immersed in the unique spiritual and cultural space of the Khmer with unique ancient architecture of their pagodas.
For tourists who love to learn about spiritual culture, Trà Vinh is the ideal choice. VNS