Ngoc Son Pagoda

Tourist hotspot

Photo of , , Hanoi

What we say: 3.5 stars

At the northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake, just down the street from the Water Puppet Theatre, sits Ngoc Son Pagoda, or Pagoda of the Jade Mountain. It's on an islet accessed via an old red wooden bridge, the Bridge of the Rising Sun.

The site has been used as a temple since ancient times, but most of the current structures were built during the 19th century. It offers an eclectic variety of forefathers for Vietnamese to pay homage to, such as Confucian and Taoist notables, as well as Van Xuong, the spirit of the intellectuals, and national hero Tran Hung Dao. It's a testament to how ancestor worship trumps Buddhism in the belief system of the average Vietnamese pagoda-goer.

At the entrance to the bridge are two monuments constructed in 1864, one representing an ink brush (a tall tower) and the other an inkwell (a hollow rock held by three frogs). In the early morning of the festival of Doan Ngo, held on the fifth day of the fifth month, the shadow of the brush is positioned at the centre of the inkwell.

There's often a steady river of tourists streaming in and out of the pagoda, though luckily quite a few come to light incense and offer prayers, so it's not just a tourist attraction.

More details
Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi
Opening Hours: Summer 07:00-18:00; winter 07:30-17:30
Last updated: 26th September, 2013

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