Con Son - Kiep Bac complex, a sacred place to visit
Vietnam is a country with many legendary places of built during its long 4,000 year history. Among them is Con Son - Kiep Bac. Countless pilgrims and tourists around the country have made the journey to the sacred region of Con Son - Kiep Bac.
Con Son consists of Ky Lan Mountain, Ngu Nhac Mountain and Con Son Lake. It is a gravel mountain of about 200 meters high, bearing a resemblance to a resting lion with a shrine on the top. Its 238-meter northern ridge adjoins Ngu Nhac Mountain and the three mountain peaks rising look like a unicorn kneeling, hence its nick-name Ky Lan (kylin).
Con Son Pagoda, also known as Hun Pagoda or Thien Tu Phuc Monastery, is located in Cong Hoa Commune, Chi Linh District in the northern province of Hai Duong. It was built in the 13th century and repaired and expanded with more intricate features in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The pagoda which has undergone several restorations during recent years, has 83 rooms with 385 statues; some of which are two to three meters tall. The first statue to come into sight is the 3 meters high Amida statue, on a large pedestal in the pagoda. Behind the pagoda and separated by a small yard in an ancestor house are statues of Truc Lam (Bamboo Forest) three ancestors (Tran Nhan Tong - Phap Lao - Huyen Quang) and Tran Nguyen Dan and his wife. In addition, other two statues have just been identified as the statues of the great national hero Nguyen Trai and his concubine Nguyen Thi Lo.
The tower-grave is located behind the pagoda, by the path leading to the mountain and under the green canopy of large trees. The five meter high Dang Minh Bao Thap (Dang Minh Tower) was built with blue stones at the site of the grave Huyen Quang scholar. A statue of the scholar is inside the tower.
The pagoda was ranked as a national relic for the first time in 1962 and then recorded as a very important relic to be preserved 32 years later, in 1994.
Behind the tower-grave is a wide path with ancient pine trees growing on both sides and footsteps leading to the peak of the mountain. Censers spread their sweet fragrance and the clumps of peonies with dark blue leaves blossom into blazing red flowers at the formerly Buddhist hermitage.
On the way up Ky Lan Mountain visitors can call at Gieng Ngoc (pearl well), known as the eye of the kylin, at the foot is Dang Minh Bao Thap.
At the peak is Am Bach Van (White Cloud Temple) where the hero Nguyen Trai lived at the end of his life. Next to it is Ban Co Tien (fairy chessboard) and several other large flagstones called "immortal chessboards" by local residents.
Legend has it that old men come down from the sky to play chess here. The stone path down to the base of the mountain leads to a huge smooth, flat rock beside the spring called Thach Ban.
Some kilometers to the west is Kiep Bac Temple, the estate and garrisoning camp of Tran Hung Dao after the first victory over the Yuan invaders in 1258. Every year from the 15th to 20th days of the eighth lunar month, tens of thousands of people throughout the country come here to attend the Kiep Bac Temple Festival.
The province of Hai Duong, being aware of the importance of the historical site, will spend VND1.27 trillion between now and 2025 to restore and expand the area to total area of 8,300 hectares to make it an attractive tourism and historic center, according to Vietnam News Agency.
The management board has announced that Kiep Bac Temple Festival will be restored with all its traditional rituals during 2008-2009 to be ready for a national festival in 2010.
(Source: SGT, URL:http://english.vietnamnet.vn/travel/2008/10/807340/)
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