Tay Phuong Pagoda was built on Cau Lau Hill, which is around 50 meters high and stands amidst the green and luxuriant vegetation of a bamboo forest. The pagoda was constructed hundred years ago and restored several times in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. In 1794 under the Tay Son regime, it was completely renovated and named Tay Phuong Co Tu (Ancient Pagoda of the West).
After climbing 239 stone steps of 160 meters, visitors will reach the gate with three entrances, a typical example of Vietnamese architecture and sculpture.
The beginning of 239 steps to the pagoda (cinet.vn)
The pagoda consists of three buildings, including The Service Hall, the Main Hall and the Back Hall, which stand at a distance of 1.60m from each other; all of them form a structure complex in extraordinary style. The windows are designed in such a way to let bright light in and give the interior a heavenly atmosphere. The corners are modeled with up-bent knife shaped relief decorations representing the images of flowers, leaves, dragons and phoenixes. Almost all the wood surface of everything in the pagoda has carved figures with traditional sculptural motifs familiar to the Vietnamese people: mulberry leaves, banian leaves, chrysanthemums, dragons and phoenixes.
Along with beautiful decoration, the Tay Phuong Pagoda is famous for more than seventy statues carved from wood. The magnificent wooden sculptures represent Buddhas as well as Vajrapanis (Kim Cuong) and Arhats (La Han), who are middle-ranking Buddhist deities. Some of them are more than three meters tall, such as eight armored-clad Vajrapanis in different postures of martial arts execution; most of them were made at the end of the 18th century.
Two of the eight Vajrapanis (360.hanoicity.org)
Another highlight is set of eighteen statues of Arahats. Each of them has its own gesture and facial expression, depicting vividly not only the lives and personalities but also the spirits of each Arahat. All are impressive works of art, and resplendently lacquered with a vermilion and gild paint. It is said that nowhere else in Vietnam has such an original exhibition hall, which shows a religious style of sculpture as well as the characteristics of the Vietnamese people.
A festival is held annually in the Tay Phuong Pagoda in spring (from March 6 to 10 according to Lunar calendar). It offers many activities, such as wrestling, marionette performances, tug-of-war, cock fighting and other folk games, and attracts visitors from localities nationwide.
Tay Phuong Pagoda is not only an historical site with valuable architecture but also a scenic site in Ha Tay Province. The tourists who visit Tay Phuong Pagoda are not only amazed by the monumental beauty of this architectural triumph, but also struck by great stupefaction when beholding the lively world of the wooden statues. The place attracts a high number of tourists every year, especially in the spring.