Cars and buses stand in queue, heading from Chau Doc to Nui Sam. They are pilgrims going to the temple of the region’s Holy Mother. With visitors flooding in on weekends, every year 2 million people pass through Chau Doc According to legend, an old statue embodies the region’s Holy Mother. For nearly 200 years, it was under siege by the Thai enemy and was placed at Sam Mountain for safe-keeping.
On April 25 of the lunar calendar, a ceremonial transfer takes the Holy Mother status to the temple. There must be nine virgins to help transfer the statue. Ceremonial procedures also call for the holy Mother statue to be bathed with a new gown and bonnet. Hundreds of elegant gowns and housed in a larger store. There is a street in Ho Chi Minh City that specialized in tailoring these kinds of clothes. Some are even sent from aboard.
The grandiose architectural complex of the temple is built with an Asian flair: a layered and curled roof, green tiles, an emanated tile floor, and wooden doorframes with carved decorative patterns. The airy entrance is majestic, with a wide space and high ceilings above the holy Mother statue. The statue itself is an artwork of vermilion stone made in 6th century. The Holy Mother is posted in a thoughtful stance and is form of Vishnu worship.
Tay An Pagoda
Over one hundred meters away from the temple, Tay An Pagoda stands at the mountain’s foot. The pagoda has three onion- shaped turrets in Muslim style architecture. The central turret is for Buddha worship, while other two house a drum and a bell. The pagoda, locate on a terrace. Has a statue of a mother carrying her child, reminiscent of the front yard; the white one has six tusk and the black one has two. There is also a statue of the superior Buddhist monk Thich Buu Tho, his stick in hand as he sits at a desk. Thich Buu Tho is credited for restoring the pagoda.
There is no statue, however, of Monk Phap Tang, who founded Buu Son Ky Huong School and is regarded as the Buddhist teacher of Tay An. Born Doan Minh Huyen in 1807 in Sa Dec (Dong Thap province), he was a patriotic scholar, dissatisfied with the feudal court and full of revolutionary spirit. He spent his life helping people and thus was suspected of being a disloyal Taoist hermit. He reached Tay An pagoda when Monk Hai Tinh Nguyen Van Giac reigned and was permitted to become a monk. Though Phap Tang died soon thereafter, he retains fame for being a Buddhist teacher who sanctioned the resolution. With such rich history tied to Tay An Pagoda, even those who are not religious find meaning in their visits.
Thoai Ngoc Hau Mausoleum
Thoai Ngoc Hau Mausoleum is of literate, transported by junk boats from Bien Hoa. The mausoleum is unlit with o duoc mortar as there wasn’t cement at that time. A high one mater – thick wall surrounds the mausoleum, aged with time. The mausoleum houses one votive tablet of Thai Ngoc Hau and two for his wives, also displayed are his gown, bonnet, turban, bell and an altar with bronze urns. The large front yard opens to an imperial structure which stores a Thoai Son stele, a commemorative funerary tablet.
Born Nguyen Van Thoai in 1761 in Quang Nam province, Thoai Ngoc Hau was a mandarin in the Nguyen Dynasty trying to reclaim and develop the southwestern region. His biggest project was the Minh Te channel along the southwestern border which linked Chau Doc, Ha Tien, the Chau Doc River and the Thai Lan gulf. At over 90 kilometers in length, the channel was constructed from 1829 to 1824 with over 80 thousand workers. It was named after Thoai Ngoc Hau’s wife.
Thoai Ngoc Hau lied at the age of 68, leaving behind two wives. He planned and founded mausoleum before his death, in front of his mausoleum sits the anonymous tombs of courtiers, royal relations and meritorious officials. These tombs called Nghia Trung, are designed in different shakoes, from a lying elephant to a peach to a hat. Legend has it that the peach – shaped, and hat – shaped tombs belong to an actress and actor in his performing troupe.
This article written by Lanh Nguyen from Vietnam Heritage Travel
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