|Proper name:||Thiên Phúc Tự (Han tu: 天福寺)|
|Location:||Sài Sơn village|
|Architecture and culture|
|Primary deity:||Sakhyamuni Buddha with 18 arhats, King of Lý Dynasty and monk Từ Đạo Hạnh|
|Architectural styles:||Vietnamese architecture of pagodas|
Thầy Pagoda or chùa Thầy (meaning: “the Master's Pagoda”) is a Buddhist temple in Quốc Oai District (formerly Hà Tây Province, now part of Hanoi), Vietnam. The pagoda is also known as "Thiên Phúc Tự" (Chinese character: 天福寺, (meaning; "Pagoda of the Heavenly Blessing"). The temple was established in the 11th century, during the reign of King Lý Nhân Tông of the Lý Dynasty. It is dedicated to Zen master (thiền sư) Từ Đạo Hạnh (徐道行, 1072-1116). It is one of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam, It is well maintained by the monks.
Từ Đạo Hạnh (also known as Minh Không) was a famous monk. He was the chief monk at the temple, a choreographer of traditional water puppetry, an inventor, and also a medical man and mystic in his village. The mystic acts associated with the monk include him burning his finger to usher in rain and curing local people of disease by blessing them, in addition to performing many other miracles.
He presented water puppetry (which is unique to Vietnam) at the small lake pavilion which he built in the middle of the lake, in front of the pagoda. This pavilion is linked by two bridges. According to the local belief he had incarnated thrice, once as Buddha in the form of Sakhyamuni, then as the son of King Lý Nhân Tông who later became the King Lý Thần Tông and then as a monk who saved the King Thần Tông also. He created his own brand of Từ Đạo Hạnh cult.
The temple is divided into three parts. The entrance hall is the prayer hall. The middle chamber has images of Buddhas surrounded by demons, made of lacquer and garbed in red-coloured attire. The back chamber has statues of the monk.
The pagoda has been refurbished many times. The temple has three dedications: to King Lý Thần Tông, of the Ly dynasty (1127 to 1138); to Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha and his 18 arahats; and to the monk Dao Hanh. It is built in typical Vietnamese architectural style. The main prayer hall of the temple has nearly 100 colourful images of different period. At the entrance to the shrine there are two large clay mixed papier-mâché images of the 7th century, each weighing about a ton; these are considered the largest such images in Vietnam.
The main hall contains the temple's oldest image, dating from the temple's foundation: A triptych of Buddha. The triptych depicts Buddha as Sakhyamuni with his 18 arahats (disciples), dates from the 16th century. This artwork is displayed on a high pedestal. There is a 13th-century statue of Bodhisattva seated on a lotus throne, which is a wooden statue draped in yellow attire. It was made in the likeness of the master (Đạo Hạnh) in a pensive mood, . The statues of the monk Từ Đạo Hạnh, and his incarnation in the form of King Lý Thánh Tông, are located in the hall next to each other.
Within the same temple complex there is a small shrine called the Chua cu. It was founded by King Ly Thái Tổ in 1132, and has been renovated several times.
There are two arched bridges connecting to the pagoda. Built in 1602, they are named Sun and Moon. One of these bridges leads to a small island, home of a small Taoist temple representing the three elements of earth, air, and water. The second bridge leads to a limestone hill. Đạo Hạnh, during the last stage of his life, had walked up to this place and disappeared in a cave. This cave is located in the middle of roots of banyan trees and is hemmed between a small temple built in honour of the monk’s parents and a small pagoda. Both these are religious places from where there are lovely vistas of the entire valley. There is also a limestone grotto known as the hang Cắc Cớ (meaning the mischievous).
A colourful festival, known as the Thầy pagoda festival, is held in honour of the monk Từ Đạo Hạnh. It is held from the 5th to 7th days of the third Lunar month. During the festival puppet groups present water puppetry stage shows at the open air theater in the lake. A pageant of tableaux are also taken out on the occasion. Participants in the festivities come from four villages. The sandalwood statue of the master, located in the pagoda, is moved with intertwined strings during the puppet festival.
During other festivals held here, poems written by Từ Đạo Hạnh and King Lý Nhân Tông are recited.
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