Quan Thanh Temple

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Quan Thanh Temple
Quan Thanh Temple

Quan Thanh Temple, formerly known as Tran Va Temple, is a Taoist temple in Hanoi, Vietnam. Dated to the 11th century, the temple was dedicated to Xuan Wu, one of the principal deities in Taoism. As one of the Four Sacred Temples of the capital, Quan Thanh Temple is located near West Lake in a ward of the same name: Quan Thanh Ward; and is one of the leading tourist attractions in Hanoi.The temple’s name means Place (alternatively shop/restaurant) of the Gods. The name of the long street running by the temple is also called ‘Quan Thanh’ street.(Attractions in Hanoi)

Quan Thanh Temple
Quan Thanh Temple

Legend has it that Quan Thanh Temple was established during the reign of Emperor Ly Thai To (reigned 1010-1028) and was dedicated to Tran Va, Deity of the North in Taoism, whose symbols of power are the serpent and turtle (see section on Animal Symbolism below). It is one of the Four Sacred Temples that were built in four directions to protect the capital from malevolent spirits. Quan Thanh protects from the North, while the other three temples protect from the other directions: Bach Ma from the East, Kim Ma from the South, and Than Linh Lang from the West. In Hanoi, there is also a second Tra Va Temple in the Gia Lam District. Though smaller than Quan Thanh Temple, this smaller temple is also dedicated to Tran Va with a 9-tonne statue of the deity.

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Nowadays, after many geographical changes to the city layout, Quan Thanh Temple is located on the corner of Quan Thanh Street and Thanh Nien Street, facing West Lake. It is a short walk from Truc Bach Lake where pilot (and future United States senator) John McCainwas shot down in October 1967.

Quan Thanh Temple
Quan Thanh Temple

During its long history, Quan Thanh Temple has been renovated several times, most recently in 1893 when the principal gate and the shrine were redone, so the architecture is a mixture of the many different styles of the imperial era. The main features of Quan Thanh Temple are a large yard shaded by a giant banyan tree and a shrine that contains the famous bronze statue of Tran Va.

In 1677 during the reign of King La Huy Tang, artisans from the nearby village of Nguyen Xa offered Quan Thanh Temple a very largestatue of Tra Va in black bronze, which remains today. This statue is measured 3.96 metres (13.0 ft) in height, weighs around 3,600 kilograms (7,900 lb) and depicts Tran Va as a deity with his two symbolic animals, the serpent and the turtle. Considered a masterpiece of Vietnamese bronze casting and sculpture, it is the second biggest bronze statue in Vietnam. This artwork is evidence of the advanced technical standard of bronze casting and sculpture of Vietnamese artisans in the 17th century. Cast at the same time as Trán Va’s statue was a 1.15 metres (3.8 ft) bronze bell. Those were creations of a master craftsman named Bat Trang, who had his own statue in Quan Thanh Temple placed alongside the Tran Va statue. Beside the statues of Tran Vu and Trum Trong, the main shrine also has a valuable collection of ancient texts such as poems or duilians which date from the 17th and 18th century.After each restoration, a stele was often kept in the temple for the record; the oldest one dated from 1677 while the latest was made by viceroy Hoang Cao Khai in 1894 during the reign of Thanh Tha Emperor during the French colonial era.

The temple currently has writing in ancient Chinese, due to Chinese rule over Vietnam for around a thousand years. During the 17th century, French missionaries began to write the Vietnamese language using Latin symbols. In the early 20th century, Vietnam officially adopted the Latin alphabet for their writing. Nowadays only a few Vietnamese can read and understand the ancient Chinese symbols.

Source: Quan Thanh Temple