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Bich Dong Pagoda - one-of-a-kind pagoda deep within the mountain

Posted By : Threeland Travel / Vietnam Travel Guide

Bich Dong Pagoda is a historical and cultural relic belonging to Trang An - Tam Coc - Bich Dong scenic complex of Ninh Binh province. This is an attractive spiritual tourist destination, bringing visitors to the majestic place of the Buddha's door, the peace of the mountainous region. Every spring, the temple attracts a large number of Buddhists and tourists from all over the world who come here to worship and enjoy the scenery.

1. About Bich Dong Pagoda 

Where is Bich Dong Pagoda?

Address: Dam Khe village, Ninh Hai commune, Hoa Lu district, Ninh Binh province

Bich Dong Pagoda is an ancient temple built on the mountainside. The pagoda was originally named "Bach Ngoc Thach Son Dong", which means a beautiful and pure stone pagoda in the deep mountains. In 1774, during a visit to this place, Lord Trinh Sam changed its name to what it is today. This is one of the famous scenic spots of the ancient capital, once known as "Nam Thien De Nhi Dong" (the second most beautiful cave in the South after Huong Tich cave in Hanoi).

After nearly 600 years of existence, this is a place to store many historical and cultural values. Nowadays, the Bich Dong Pagoda has been ranked as a special national relic, and the Tam Coc-Bich Dong Complex has been recognized as a World Cultural and Natural Heritage by UNESCO.  This is one of Ninh Binh's most sacred temples, where incense tourists return year after year and are always on the list of must-see tourist destinations in Vietnam tour packages

History of Bich Dong Pagoda 

In 1705, during the reign of King Le Du Tong, there were two monks named Tri Kien and Tri The. A native of Vong Doanh and another from Dong Xuyen, Nghia Hung district, Nam Dinh province, met and became brothers. Both monks were devout, and together they went to many places to spread Buddhism and build temples.

When they came to Bich Dong Mountain, they found that this is a place with beautiful terrain and a pagoda. The two monks decided to stop, donate, and rebuild the old temple into three new ones: a lower pagoda, a middle pagoda, and an upper pagoda to practice.
In the year of Dinh Hoi (1707), two monks cast a large bell, which is still hanging in the Dark Cave. Two years later, in the eighth lunar month, they carved the Bich Dong pagoda in Chinese characters.

In the year of Giap Ngo (1774), Lord Trinh Sam came here for sightseeing. Perhaps impressed by the panoramic view of mountains, river caves, fields, and trees, the pagoda seems to converge on a green background, so Lord Trinh Sam named the pagoda Bich Dong.

2. What makes Bich Dong Pagoda attractive?

Bich Dong Pagoda is built in the style of the word “三” which is meaning “three” in Chinese letter, three non-contiguous buildings, three levels along the mountainside, based on the mountain position from low to high into 3 separate pagodas: Lower, Middle and Upper. The pagoda is unique in that the mountains, caves, and pagodas complement each other, hidden among the great trees, allowing the pagoda to blend in with the natural landscape.

The Bich Dong Pagoda was designed to blend in with the breathtaking natural scenery.
The image of the pagoda hidden among the rows of giant green trees adds to the ancient and pure feel of this place. 

2.1. Chua Ha - Lower Pagoda 

To enter the temple, you will follow a stone bridge made of green stones leading to the Tam Quan gate of Bich Dong Pagoda. The only way to get to Ha Pagoda is via a 55-meter-long brick-paved road at the mountain's base.

The Ha Pagoda was built with five compartments on a high platform at the foot of the mountain. The architecture of the pagoda is designed in the style of Dinh (Chinese characters). The roof of the pagoda has two curved roofs, including eight roofs. The columns in Chua Ha are made of one-piece, unassembled stone with a height of more than 4 m. At that time, it was quite a feat to make stone pillars like this.

Entering the temple, at the top of the central nave of Tien Duong, there is a big picture in Chinese characters: "Mao Co Than Thanh." This sentence means that the appearance of this ancient temple is very sacred. The upper hall is a place to worship Buddha. Next are the pedestals in order from high to low to place Buddha statues and worship objects such as lamps, incense peaks, etc.

2.2. Chua Trung - Middle Pagoda 

After visiting Ha Pagoda, you return to the yard and turn to the north to meet a path of 80 stone steps around the mountainside. This is the road leading halfway up the mountain, where Trung Pagoda is located. Unlike Ha Pagoda, Trung Pagoda has a semi-roofed exterior.
This is a unique temple; only the door and roof of the temple are exposed; the rest of the architecture is located in the mountain cave. The pagoda was built with three compartments to worship Buddha. On the roof of the pagoda, there are two Chinese characters, "Bich Dong," which are placed at the order of Lord Trinh Sam. On the left side of Trung Pagoda is the space to worship Thanh Mau - the worship of mother goddesses which was established in Vietnam in the 16th century.

2.3. The Dark Cave

After worshiping Buddha at The Middle Pagoda, you walk up 21 more stone steps to reach Dark Cave. A large bronze bell cast by two monks, Tri Kien and Tri The, in 1707 still hangs above the cave door today.

Dark Cave is a long space and has electricity for visitors to easily admire. Inside the Dark Cave is a massive and monumental construction that magically appears under electric light. You will see images of fairies, dragons, etc., which are carved with meticulous and detailed stone. All of this appears to visitors as a petrified fairy world of creation.

Near the door of the cave on the right, there are three majestic stone Buddha statues, symbolizing majesty and eternity. In the middle is Amitabha Buddha; on the right is Van Thu Bodhisattva; on the left is Quan Am Thi Kinh (Goddess of Mercy).

2.4. Chua Thuong - Upper Pagoda 

To get to Thuong Pagoda, you have to climb nearly 40 more stone steps along the mountainside. Thuong Pagoda is a small pagoda on the mountainside, located at the highest point near the top of Bich Dong mountain. The pagoda is about 60 meters higher than the underground brick courtyard. Thuong Pagoda was built in the southeast direction and worships Ba Quan Am Buddha. There are two shrines on either side of the pagoda, namely Tho Dia and Duc Son Than. Next to the temple there is also a water tank called the "Cam Lo water tank" of Quan Am Bodhisattva.

From the Thuong Pagoda, you can see 5 independent mountains adorning Bich Dong Pagoda, looking like 5 lotus petals. That is Ngu Nhac Son, including Tam Sang Mountain, Gia Dinh Mountain, Con Lon Mountain, Dau Cau Mountain, and Hang Based Mountain.

3. How to get to Bich Dong Pagoda?

Bich Dong Pagoda is located in the Tam Coc - Bich Dong relic complex, so if you want to visit the temple, you can combine visiting Tam Coc as well. Currently, there is only one waterway to reach Tam Coc. If you want to come here, you will have to travel by boat along the Ngo Dong River. You can start from the communal house area of Van Lam village, which is more convenient. Then, from Tam Coc, you continue to move to Bich Dong Pagoda by bicycle, motorbike, taxi, or walk to admire the scenery on both sides of the road.

4. Bich Dong Pagoda Tourists Information

- Bich Dong Pagoda is open to all visitors free of charge.
- Compared to Tam Coc, Bich Dong Pagoda is usually less touristy. Shops sell outside to serve fewer visitors. You should prepare all necessary items for this excursion.
- You should choose to go to the temple around April because the weather is relatively dry at this time. Sitting on a boat to move to Tam Coc is not too uncomfortable.
- When going to the temple, you need to choose polite and discreet clothes. In addition, when visiting Bich Dong Pagoda, you will have to walk and climb a lot of steps. You should choose for yourself sports shoes or flat shoes that are comfortable when moving.

Bich Dong Pagoda in Ninh Binh has many historical and natural values. And this will undoubtedly be a tourist attraction in Ninh Binh that you will not want to miss during your tour to Vietnam. It only takes about an hour to visit this landmark Bich Dong pagoda, and you will see firsthand the value of this temple. Threeland Travel provides you with this article to know more about this tourist destination and other places in Ninh Binh.