The One Pillar Pagoda is situated within the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum complex, Hanoi's most popular free day out. Though in theory more than 900 years old, there appears to be nothing of the original structure remaining; certainly not the one pillar, which is made of concrete. The pagoda was, after all, blown up by thhe French in 1954, and afterwards completely rebuilt. The rather slimy green pond in which it stands - the shape of the temple resembles a lotus flower - doesn't add to the atmosphere. Nevertheless, it must be the most popular ancient monument in Hanoi, and thousands of visitors are photographed in front of it.
The pagoda is dedicated to Quan Am, the goddess of mother and child, to whom women without sons offer prayers. According to legend, she was wrongly accused of a transgression by her husband, who disowned her, so she adopted male dress and entered a monastery, only to be accused of fathering an illegitimate child, for which she accepted the blame. Only when close to death was her true identity known.
When I first went to Vietnam I was surprised to see statues of this "Lady Buddha", having wrongly assumed that Buddhas were male. One Vietnamese Buddhist told me that Quan Am is the equivalent of the Virgin Mary for Christians. Certainly her temples are very popular, and the lotus, like the lily, is a symbol of purity. Vietnamese religion is technically termed syncretic: many people do not have a single religion, but worship at Buddhist, Confucian, Daoist, Christian or traditional Vietnamese shrines as they see fit. If you wish to join them, it is perfectly proper to make an offering to Quan Am: purchase some incense sticks and light them, offer your prayer and then place the sticks in the incense holder; just like lighting a candle in church.
The pagoda is not something I would travel miles to see, but if you are visiting the mausoleum complex anyway it is a focal point and a reminder of the importance of Vietnamese Buddhism, of which the present government takes an ambivalent view: it smacks of superstition, but is something of a national religion and therefore part of a unique cultural identity that distinguishes Vietnam from the North (ie the Chinese).
One Pillar Pagoda Hanoi.
The one Pillar Pagoda can be found in Hanoi not too far away from Ho Chi Minhs Mausoleum.
Emperor Ly who ruled Vietnam from 1028 to 1054 had this Small temple built in the middle of a lotus pond. Apparently as legend goes he did not have children and used to go to a temple everyday to pray for the birth of a child. He met a peasant girl and married her. One night the Emperor had a dream of a lotus pond and in the dream he saw a small pagoda in the shape of a lotus.
He was told by a monk that he must build this temple when his wife gave birth.
Several months later his wife gave birth and in 1049 he built the temple which is still standing today.
The temple is on a single pillar of stone and is made of wood. It measures about one and a half metres in diameter. The roof is shaped so as to look like a lotus in bloom.
It was renovated in 1105 and a large bell was cast to place inside it but the bell was too large so it was removed and sent out into the country side. The emperor used to hold a ceremony every year where all the monks would gather and the Emperor would bath the Buddha. The emperor would then release a bird which the pilgrims would try to follow.
It was destroyed by French forces when they withdrew from the city in 1954 and has been rebuilt again to its former glory in 1955 as a replica of the original one Pillar pagoda. The stone on which it is placed now is in fact concrete so it is not perhaps as beautiful as it once was.
It is so sad to think that many religious and historical buildings and monuments were damaged by invading forces and particularly cruel when they are religious buildings and so very disrespectful. Throughout Vietnam buildings that were hundreds and thousands of years old were destroyed by bombing or sheer vandalism.
The one pillar pagoda is quite beautiful to look at and it is not too far from the Presidential palace and Ho Chi Minhs wooden house.