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Thien Mu – the Most Ancient Temple of Hue

Thien Mu Pagoda, the most  ancient temple of Hue, has not only a beautiful  landscape and architecture, but also a significance  in the historical journey of the previous capital, the center of power of the last feudal dynasty in Vietnam.

Located on Ha Khe hillock, Thien Mu pagoda faces the romantic Huong River.

In 1600 when he was first assigned to be the Defense Command Governor of Thuan Hoa, Nguyen Hoang (the first of the Nguyen lords) often went to look at the terrain to expand his territory. During a trip to the upper bank of the Huong River, he caught sight of a small hill named Ha Khe on the north bank of the river, creating the shape of a dragon looking back. At that time, the locals said that a fairy wearing blue and red clothes appeared on the hill every night and told everyone that a wise lord would be coming here to build a temple to gather spiritual energy for the country.

When he was told this story, Nguyen Hoang was so happy that in 1601, he built a temple on the hill and named it Thien Mu, which means "The midwife of heaven”. In 1862, because he was afraid that the word "Thien" would offend "heaven," King Tu Duc changed Thien Mu to Linh Mu, meaning "sacred midwife".

According to historians, the construction of two national temples by Lord Nguyen Hoang, including Thien Mu Temple in the upper Huong River and Sung Hoa Temple downstream, marks the sovereignty of the land of the Nguyen clan (including 9 lords and 13 kings). 

The main entrance of the pagoda with four pillars and 19 steps.
Phuoc Duyen tower, one of the cultural symbols of Hue.
The place for worshipping Lord Nguyen Hoang and the "midwife of heaven".
Two large guardian statues at the main entrance of Tam Quan gate.
Praying at the pagoda.

By creating the story of a mysterious midwife when building Thien Mu, Nguyen Hoang wanted to win the general public's hearts in the local area. At that time, Thuan Hoa was a melting pot with all kinds of residents, such as criminals, thieves and displaced people.

Despite having experienced 421 years of both good and difficult times, Thien Mu Temple still has kept its beautiful appearance and architecture, worthy of the title: one of the twenty most stunning places in Hue. Thien Mu is also the top national temple of Hue.

Thien Mu is located in Kim Long ward, about 5km from the center of the city. Since its construction, Thien Mu has undergone many restorations and repairs, but perhaps the most significant restoration took place in 1714 under the 6th Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu and it was substantial. In addition to constructing many essential works such as the bell tower, drum floor, main hall, monks' house and preaching house, Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu also made a bronze bell that weighed 3,285 kg. He also built the stone slab "Ngu Kien Thien Mu Tu" with a height of 3,89m and a width of 1,68m on the back of a giant stone turtle. Both of these precious artifacts are now recognized as national treasures.

In 1844, King Thieu Tri built the Tu Nhan tower (later changed to Phuoc Duyen tower) with a beautiful octagonal architecture. The tower is 21m high and has 7 floors. The tower has now become unique in Vietnam's temples.

 

The main chamber of Thien Mu pagoda. 
Imprints of royal architecture are clearly shown on the pillars and decorative boxes inside the main chamber.
Hue royal architecture's typical features in the pagoda.
Guardian statues at the pagoda.
There are 12 guardian statues at the pagoda.

Due to the rain and wind, many of Thien Mu's architectural items have gradually deteriorated. From 2003 to 2006, Thien Mu continued to be reconstructed with a total cost of more than 26 billion dong (about 1 million US dollars). 

Today, Thien Mu is a popular tourist destination in Hue, attracting millions of visitors and Buddhists every year. Visiting Thien Mu Temple, visitors can witness the beauty of the unusual architecture and understand more about one of the well-known cultural symbols forming the ancient capital.

 

The pagoda attracts numerous domestic and foreign visitors.
A bell tower is located in the green and windy pine forest.
Thien Mu pagoda attracts a large number of tourists.
Foreign visitors at the pagoda.  
Visitors pose for a photo with ao dai at the pagoda. 

By Thanh Hoa/VNP Translated by Hong Hanh

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