Where the Buddha sits on the back of a king

By Kieu Duong    February 10, 2019 | 11:01 am GMT+7

King Le Hy Tong placed the Buddha on his own back to repent his mistreatment of Buddhism.

Where the Buddha sits on the back of a king

The Hoe Nhai Pagoda is located at 19 Hang Than Street in Hanoi's Ba Dinh District. Several documents suggest that the pagoda was built during the Ly Dynasty (1010 - 1225) reign. One of the largest pagodas in the ancient capital of Thang Long, Hoa Nhai is famous for many idols, including one which has the Buddha statue sitting on the back of kowtowing king.

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This idol is also known as the King of Penance. It is said to date back to the time of King Le Hy Tong (1663-1716), the 10th king of the Le Trung Hung (the Later Le Restoration 1533 - 1789).

In 1678, the king issued a decree to expel all monks and nuns to the forest and for those who stayed to be executed.

Zen Master Chan Dung Tong Dien then offered a Box of Jewels to the king, which actually contained a document detailing the benefits of Buddhism for the society. It attributed the prosperity and progress of Ly and Tran dynasties to the appreciation for Buddhism, which it likened to the "jewel of the nation, educating people on how to eat and drink properly, how to manage anger, and why not to kill and rob."

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Legend has it that after the reading it, the king immediately invited the monks to the palace, kowtowed to them in apology, and revoked the decree banning Buddhism.

King Le Hy Tong promised Monk Tong Dien that he would redeem himself and place the statue of Buddha on the king's back in Hoe Nhai Pagoda. This is a unique statue in Buddhist monuments the world over.

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Located on a 3,000 square meter plot, the Hoe Nhai Pagoda has three towers, one of which is the An Quang Tower built in 1963 to commemorate the day Thich Quang Duc immolated himself to protest the oppression of Buddhists by the US-installed Ngo Dinh Diem regime in the south.

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The six levels of Buddha statues in the main prayer hall. 

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The system of Buddha statues here is recognized by archaeologists to have a variety of materials such as precious wood, red clay and heated copper.

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In addition to the famous double statue, the pagoda has many other unique ancient statues such as the statue of Baby Buddha.

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The pagoda has 28 epitaphs, of which the oldest is a stele dating back to 1703. The stele refers to the location of Hoe Nhai Pagoda in the past, helping archaeologists determine the location where the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400) beat the Mongol army in the battle to "liberate" the capital.

 
 
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