Located in Ba Dinh Square right by the Ho Chi Minh Museum, the One Pillar Pagoda is one of the most recognisable symbols of Hanoi.
Having said that, it's not much to actually see in person. It's a modest, wooden sanctuary set on, naturally, one concrete pillar, over a pond that blooms with lotus blossoms during summer. The shrine is dedicated to Quan Am, the Goddess of Mercy, and is designed to look like a lotus, a symbol of enlightenment in Buddhism.
The pagoda is said to have originally been built in 1049 by Emperor Ly Thai Tong (who preceded Ly Thanh Tong, who was responsible for founding the Temple of Literature in 1070). Legend holds that the emperor, lacking male heirs, had a dream that he was handed a son by Quan Am, who was seated on a lotus flower when she appeared to him. Soon afterwards, the emperor found a wife and had a son. The emperor then built the pagoda to honour the goddess.
Today it contains a statue of her and sculptures of lotus flowers. Worshippers—and you'll find plenty of them here—climb a short flight of concrete steps to see the statue and make their offerings. The One Pillar Pagoda is popular with childless couples and is also believed to have miraculous healing powers.
Of course, the original pagoda no longer stands. It was most recently vandalised and burned by the French in 1954 as they retreated from Hanoi, only to be rebuilt by the Communist government the following year.
By Samantha Brown.
Last updated on 30th March, 2017.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.