Con Son – Kiep Bac relic site is a famous religious complex area including several historical and cultural relics. Visiting this complex is an incredible way to explore Vietnam’s history, culture, and religion.
“Con Son suoi chay ri ram/ Ta nghe nhu tieng dan cam ben tai”
(Con Son’s streams are babbling/ As music from a stringed instrument)
This line which is taken from the poem Con Son ca (Con Son ballad) of Nguyen Trai is thought of and muttered by visitors when they come to Con Son – Kiep Bac. The line evokes the tranquil and peaceful atmosphere of this place. Being 80 kilometers away from Hanoi, Con Son Kiep Bac which is located in the Chi Linh district, Hai Duong province is well – known for being the Buddhist center of the Red River delta and the whole country as well. As the popular poem saying “Con Son, Yen Tu, Quynh Lam/ Neu ai chua den thien tam chua danh” (Those who haven’t been to Con Son, Yen Tu, Quynh Lam haven’t completed their pilgrimage). Besides to Yen Tu and Quynh Lam in Quang Ninh province, Con Son – Kiep Bac which is one of Vietnam’s Buddhist Truc Lam Zen centers was founded in the 13th century by a monk Tran Nhan Tong who used to be the king.
Where to visit?
Con Son pagoda
Con Son pagoda was initially built in the 10th century. All the founder of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism including King Tran Nhan Tong, Venerable Phap Loa and Venerable Huyen Quang came to Con Son pagoda to offer lectures on Buddhism as well as manage this institution. Con Son pagoda was extended under the Tran Dynasty in the 13th century. In 1329, Venerable Phap Loa who is the second founder of Truc Lam Zen sect, improved Con Son pagoda greatly during his term. Venerable Huyen Quang who is Phap Loa’s successor, continued to expand the pagoda, taught Buddhism, printed Buddhist sutras, erects Buddha statues. Venerable Huyen Quang who stayed in the pagoda all his life made a significant contribution to develop and turn Con Son pagoda into one of the essential centers of Buddhist Truc Lam Zen. Con Son Pagoda was recognized as the national heritage site in 1962 and as the special national relic in 2012.
Con Son pagoda
Kiep Bac temple
Being five kilometers away from Con Son pagoda, Kiep Bac temple was established to tribute one of the greatest General in the Vietnam history – General Tran Hung Dao who is also honored as a saint in Vietnamese’s mind. He made an important contribution to command the national armies to fight against Yuan-Mongol invasion and gain the independence for the country in the 13th century. Kiep Bac area used to be a military base during this period. Kiep Bac temple is damaged due to being challenged by time and following wars. In the 19th century, the temple was reconstructed and has undergone several reparations under the Le and Nguyen Le dynasties.
Kiep Bac temple
What to do?
Annually the relic site organizes several exciting traditional festivals. This action is deeply appreciated. Mr. Dang Van Bai, vice chairman of the Vietnam National Heritage Council said “We need to preserve the value of the relic as well as the cultural message that our ancestors wanted to pass down to us. The pagodas and temples serve as vehicles transporting the historical memory and cultural message to the present.” Therefore, if you are concerned with Vietnamese cultural and historical values or like to mingle with the life pace of the residential, it’s advisable for you to take part in the local traditional festivals.
The spring festival
The spring festival is held to pay tribute to Venerable Huyen Quang who is one of the three founders of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism. He died on the 23rd day of the first lunar month in 1334. Unlike the Catholicism, Buddhism respects the death day rather than the birthday. To commemorate the great contribution of this venerable who devoted his whole life to the development of Buddhism Truc Lam Zen, the spring festival is held on the same day as his death anniversary. Before the opening ceremony of the festival, hundreds of people taking part in the water-carrying parade from Con Son pagoda to Con Son lake while monks and nuns offer incense. Besides to the worship rituals at Ngu Nhac mountain, during the festival, many cultural and sports activities are organized such as the traditional games, the contest of making the cake, etc
The autumn festival
The autumn festival
With the purpose of showing tribute General Tran Hung Dao, the autumn festival is held on the eighth lunar month. Beside to Buddhism rituals that are done to pray for the nation’s peace and success, this festival also organizes various interesting activities such as the floating of lanterns, the contest of wrestling and making chung cake (square sticky rice cake), traditional games, boat race, water puppetry performance. All the activities take place cheerfully and happily. Annually the festival captures the attention of thousands of people, which prove the attraction of this exciting festival.
Con Son Kiep Bac plays a key role in the spiritual life of Vietnamese people while the festival season is always the special occasion for the local. Con Son Kiep Bac reflects the long-standing history and the original and diverse culture of Vietnam.
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