Brief history of Thang Nghiem Buddhist Temple

Brief history of Thang Nghiem Buddhist Temple


             Thang Nghiem Buddhist Temple is situated 15 kilometers to the South of Hanoi in the village of Khuc Thuy, Cu Khe Commune, Thanh Oai County. The temple belongs to a group of sacred sites in Khuc Thuy, which includes Linh Quang Buddhist Temple, Thang Nghiem Buddhist Temple, Phuc Khe Buddhist Temple, different shrines and worshiping halls. The temple was home to many holy monks who were bestowed the title of “quốc sư” (i.e., Nation’s Teacher) by Vietnamese kings during Ly Dynasty (1009-1225) and Tran dynasty (1225-1400), including Khuông Việt Quốc Sư, Vạn Hạnh Quốc Sư, Trùng Liên Bảo Tích Quốc Sư, Đạo Huyền Quốc Sư, and Huyền Thông Quốc Sư (or Linh Thông Hoà Thượng Đại Vương). It was also at the temple that, during the 13th century, one of the most famous generals and beloved saints of Vietnam, Hưng Đạo Đại Vương Trần Quốc Tuấn, spent his childhood under the guidance of the head-monk.

             Folk lore maintains that the Thang Nghiem Buddhist Temple dates back to ancient times. The temple was first built around AD 187-266 during the time that Ngo Si Nhiep, a Chinese governor, was governing what is now known as Vietnam (Buddhist calendar 731-810). The temple was supervised by the Most Venerable Bảo Đức, believed to be the reincarnation of the Manjusri Boddhisattva, who came over from India to spread Buddhism. He built a tower to worship the Buddha’s relics, which was called by local people as Buddha’s tomb. Following the Most Venerable Bảo Đức were two Indian monks named Kim Quốc and Kim Trang, who also come from India to spread Dharma. Since then, the temple has been led by many generations of holy monks.

             Throughout its long history, Thang Nghiem Buddhist Temple had many names such as Chùa Bụt (Buddha’s Temple), Chùa Vua (King’s Temple), Chùa Pháp Vương (Dharma King’s Temple), Chùa Bà Chúa Hến (Princess of Mussel’s Temple) during Dinh dynasty; Thắng Nghiêm (Ly dynasty), Chùa Trì Long, Chùa Trì Bồng (Tran dynasty), Chùa Liên Trì (second Le dynasty), Chùa Phúc Đống (Nguyen dynasty). Today, local people often call the temple by the name of the village where it is located (i.e., Khuc Thuy Buddhist Temple).

             During feudal time, Vietnamese kings regularly visited the temple to pray before coronation; thus they diligently invested in preserving the temple as well as its associated sacred sites in Khuc Thuy Village. Even today, 34 decisions exist from different kings regarding renovations of the temple. Between early 19th century and 20th century, following the order of the kings of Nguyen Dynasty, Hoang Cao Khai and Hoang Trong Phu, who were father and son and governors of Ha Dong province, repeatedly restored and renovated the temple.

             In modern history, the temple was destroyed many times due to two consecutive wars against colonialism and imperialism as well as natural disasters. In particular, many buildings in the temple were occupied to serve the war - properties were seized and many historical documents, materials, and artifacts were thus lost.

             In 1995, the residing nun Thich Dam Thuy (known as Be) and the local people submitted a letter to the local authorities in which they requested that Thang Nghiem Buddhist Temple be offered to the Most Venerable Thich Vien Thanh, head-monk of the Huong Tich Buddhist Temple. The letter also requested that a monk be sent to oversee the temple to continue its rich history.

             In February 1997, the Most Venerable Thich Vien Thanh sent one of his disciples, the Venerable Thich Minh Thanh, to oversee Thang Nghiem Buddhist Temple. At that time, the temple was largely in ruins. Since then, the Venerable Thich Minh Thanh has constantly restored and expanded the temple in order to honor cultural-spiritual traditions of Vietnamese people, preserve Buddhist architecture, and to continue the rich history and traditions of Vietnam.

The Venerable THICH MINH THANH
Head-monk, Thang Nghiem Buddhist Temple


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