Fansipan, known as the Roof of Indochina by virtue of being the tallest peak in the region, is no longer a preserve of the adventurous who climb it to take in the stupendous vistas it offers, on the way and from the top.
Today, it has acquired a spiritual dimension that has thousands of visitors who find succor from the travails of life and seek blessings for peace and prosperity even as they breathe in the fresh air and take in the majestic views.
The pagoda complex is a microcosm of Vietnamese Buddhist architecture, reflecting styles found in famous pagodas in different provinces.
The spiritual journey on Fansipan starts from Bich Van Thien Tu Temple, entered through the Quan Van Dac Lo gate after getting off the cable car.
This temple, which has a main central section flanked by two smaller ones on either side, has spacious courtyards where the devout offer incense and luxuriate in the fresh air and view of the majestic Hoang Lien Son Mountain nestling in the clouds.
On the main axis of the Bich Van Thien Tu Temple is the Dai Hong Chung Tower, also called the Aspiration of Cao Dai.
Officially established in the southern city of Tay Ninh in 1926, Caodaism is known as a hybrid religion that includes facets of Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Taoism and traditions including Islam.
The panoramic view of an immense plateau and the deep blue horizon will make one want to linger here for a while. The building is reminiscent of typical architectural features in the famous ancient pagodas in northern Vietnam including the Tay Phuong Pagoda (Hanoi), But Thap Pagoda (Bac Ninh Province) and the Keo Pagoda (Thai Binh Province).
From all the pagodas in the complex a path leads to its centerpiece, an inspiring statue of the Buddha meditating in the lotus posture, seated on a lotus.
While climbing down the steps from one pagoda to another complex, the statue of the female Buddha, known as Goddess of Compassion, stands shrouded in mist.
An aerial view of part of the complex shows the way leading down from one of the temples in the complex with a multi-storied tower, a feature found in several pagodas across the country, to the statue of the female Bodhisattva, the Goddess of Compassion.
The architecture here inherits its intricacies from the earliest pre-historic wooden temple monuments in Vietnam like the Boi Khe Pagoda (Hanoi), Thai Lac Pagoda (Hung Yen Province, 54km south of Hanoi) and the Thay Pagoda (Hanoi).
Inside one of the temples, in the central position is the Dai Hung Bao Dien – where many Buddha statues crafted by famous Vietnamese artisans are placed. Their style complies strictly with the rules of the Tonkin Zen tradition. On all auspicious days, this is a destination for meditation and worship.
Along the two sides of the upper court in this temple is a hallway with 18 bodhisattva statues in ochre robes in various positions.
The curved, tiled roofs of the temples in the complex and the motifs of mythical creatures are also typical features of Vietnamese Buddhist monuments.
The contours and details of the roof are modeled after the Thang Long Citadel in Hanoi, carved in wood or terracotta with enameled copper so as to withstand local weather conditions.
The holy 11-storey chedi, built with sandstone from the central region is a stupa design that dates back to the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400).
The prototype is the famous Pho Minh pagoda in Nam Dinh City (110km south of Hanoi), known to house relics like the throne of King Tran Nhan Tong (1258-1308).
Along the La Han Street that is the main pathway of the complex stand many Bodhisattva statues, a bell tower, and all the main monuments, including the largest statue of the Amitabha Buddha in Vietnam.
At the beginning of the new spring, on the sacred peak of Fansipan, the devout and visitors can see more Buddhist relics in the heart of the Amitabha Buddha statue.
This is the Ngoc Xa Loi Buddha which was a gift from monks in Myanmar. The statue has been placed here with aspirations for peace for the people and prosperity the world over.
The Ngoc Xa Loi Buddha is ensconced in a 7-storey crystal glass tower.
Monks pray at the altar.
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