Friday, August 24, 2018

Sites - Long Thieng Temple (Chùa Lòng Thiềng) @ Vinh Long, Vietnam

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Long Thieng Temple (Chùa Lòng Thiềng) @ Vinh Long

Vinh Long, Vietnam - July 2018
We found Long Thieng Temple by chance while exploring Vinh Long on our bicycles. Although it looked like a small temple, we were attracted by it's front entrance. Little would we know that this little temple holds some surprises!

When we arrived, the temple gates were closed; fortunately an old caretaker saw our interests in the place and opened up a side gate for us. The entrance arch looks new, but inside was a much older temple.

Beyond the gates was a small compound, probably just about 25 feet by 25 feet, nothing impressive. Beyond it lies the main prayer pavilion, also of mediocre size.

The roof on the temple had ornaments of dragons on both sides, but instead of the colourful dragons usually seen in Chinese temples, these were golden dragons. At the foot of each dragon were qilins, also rendered in gold.

It's the central golden sculpture at the roof ridge that attracted me. It looked like two dragons coming together to form a larger dragon with a fierce gaping mouth. These dragons held up a Buddhist Wheel of Life (the Bhavacakra).

On one side of the compound was a 3-D wall mural, showing dated rivers and mountains scenes.

On the other wall was a shaded corridor with statues of Buddha in various sitting poses. The girls offered prayers to thank for a safe journey so far, and prayed for a continued blessed journey. From left the different Buddha poses are: the Medicinal Buddha, the Meditating Buddha, the Earth Touching Buddha and the Protection Buddha.

A close look of the Protection Buddha on which helps people overcome fear.

The Reclining Buddha also know as the Nirvana Buddha.

At another side of the compound (behind the front wall) is a statue of Guan Yin. In Vietnam, she is known as Quán Thế Âm.

Close up view of a lion carved in grey marble, sitting next to the Protection Buddha.

Into the main hall, an enlightened golden Buddha sits on the main altar flanked by two tall deity monks, instead of the usual handmaidens. In front are smaller Buddha statues all with pearl necklaces.

At another side is a multi-arm Buddha (Marici)sitting on a lotus flower.

On each of the side walls were a set of statues, this one is of NINE sage monks . 
In BuddhismGautama Buddha, was believed to have nine virtues, in which he was:
(1) Accomplished, (2) Perfectly Enlightened, (3) Endowed with knowledge and Conduct or Practice, (4) Well-gone or Well-spoken, (5) the Knower of worlds, (6) the Guide Unsurpassed of men to be tamed, (7) the Teacher of gods and men, (8) Enlightened, and (9) Blessed.
As highlighted by my friend Anne, these nine are part of the Eighteen Arhats (十八羅漢). The other nine can be seen at an opposite altar. They 
are depicted in Mahayana Buddhism as the original followers of Buddha who have followed the Noble Eightfold Path and attained the four stages of enlightenment. They have reached the state of Nirvana and are free of worldly cravings. They are charged to protect the Buddhist faith and to wait on earth for the coming of Maitreya, an enlightened Buddha prophesised to arrive on earth many millennia after Buddha's death (parinirvana).
In Chinese Tradition, they are know as the 18 Luohans, and are generally presented in the order they are said to have appeared to the monk Guan Xiu, and not according to their power: Deer Sitting, Happy, Raised Bowl, Raised Pagoda, Meditating, Oversea, Elephant Riding, Laughing Lion, Open Heart, Raised Hand, Thinking, Scratched Ear, Calico Bag, Plantain, Long Eyebrow, Doorman, Taming Dragon and Taming Tiger.

On another wall was an altar with five stern looking judges.

An interesting sculpture of a tiger carved from knotted wood.

Behind the main prayer pavilion is an open air-well, were a calm Guan Yin sits in meditating pose to welcome visitors.
It is from this point that things get more interesting and the immense size of the temple (belied by it humble small entrance) is realized. Behind the air-well in a larger second prayer hall and behind it a large cemetery. To its left are several small prayer rooms, but on the right was a maze of prayer halls, one leading on to the next!
(.... click here for a satellite view of the temple to see the extent of it's size. All the red roof buildings and a couple of grey-roof ones are part of the temple).

The second prayer hall had a tall mini-pagoda encircled by statues of Buddha and with more statues, each sitting on a tier.
The kindly care-taker was following around, switching on the lights to proudly show his temple.

As on goes through this second all and onto the various halls that it leads to; many altars can be seen, each dedicated to some Buddhist deities, Chinese sages or some local saints, etc.
This one above was labelled : "thành hoàng bổn cảnh" which Google Translated to "royal princess scenery".

This altar is dedicated to Li Tieguai, one of the Eight Immortals.

One to smiling wise sages and judges.

A contrasting one with statue of a warrior next to a scholar.

A statue of Buddha next to a sage riding a "lion-dragon".

Guan Yu (關羽), the Chinese God of War (關帝).

At the end of a large side prayer hall were multiple statues of Buddha, these were quite large ones, and were seated onto the floor instead of an alter. (Again the care-taker had switched on the lights for us).

At a side corridor was another altar to Buddha, with celestial handmaidens lining up the corridor.

Nearby was a large painting of Buddha, up in the celestial sky, surrounded by Buddhist saints, deities and Chinese folklore figures.

An altar to a wise sage.

A poster of Guan Yin carrying the infant Buddha; it reminds me of Mother Mary carrying the Infant Jesus. A poem is inscribe at bottom "Hiểu. Cổ thụ là bóng Mẹ Cha. Cây non là a Vườn Hoa Tuổi bồng. Chả là Nủi mẹ là Sông. Ca con Hiếu thảo.", it recites as, "Understand. The mother is the shadow. Young trees is a flower garden. Nay, my mother is a river. The filial child".

A panel painting of the Guan Yu (關羽), the Chinese God of War (關帝).

With that we left the temple, but not before thanking the care-taker and performing some dana with generous donations into their collection box. After all, we have been having good karma on our tour.

Long Thieng Temple
(Chùa Lòng Thiềng)
P.5,, 82 Nguyễn Chí Thanh, Phường 5, Vĩnh Long, Vietnam.
Phone: +84-2703895136
Entry fee: Free
GPS & Direction Map: 10.25611, 105.97646

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