Bach Ma or White Horse Temple is beautiful, well-maintained and bustling, serving as a good example of what small temples in Vietnam are all about.
Reputed to be Hanoi's oldest temple, it was originally built in the ninth century by King Ly Thai To to worship Bach Ma. The white horse is said to have helped the king out when the walls of the Hanoi Citadel he was building kept collapsing by using his hooves to delineate an area the walls should be built instead.
According to a sign on the temple grounds, it was originally built on Long Do Mountain (we're not sure where that is these days) until it was moved to its current location, tucked into the centre of the Old Quarter, to act as the guard of the east of Thang Long in the 18th century during the Ly Dynasty. A statue of the temple's eponymous horse today stands beside the altar.
The temple has been repaired many times, the sign notes, and in 1839 a shrine to Confucius was added to the left of the temple, while a Phoenix altar was constructed to make offerings to the seasons. The current structure is typical of Hanoi pagodas.
Bach Ma is still very actively used for worship—note the extended hours on the 1st and 15th of each lunar month to accommodate those who regularly come with offerings to burn incense and pray.
By Samantha Brown.
Last updated on 21st March, 2017.
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