Dau Pagoda – The oldest pagoda of Vietnam

The Dau pagoda in Thanh Khuong commune, Thuan Thanh district, Bac Ninh province is one of Vietnam’s most ancient pagodas. The pagoda was the first Buddhism center in Vietnam. With its historical and architectural values, the pagoda is a religious relic that attracts a lot of pilgrims and tourists.

Located in the center of the former Luy Lau citadel, Dau pagoda was built between 187 and 226 AD. This ancient pagoda has undergone many restorations and expansions, with the largest construction undertaken under the Tran dynasty between the 17th and 18th century. The pagoda comprises three main halls: the front hall, the worshipping hall and the upper hall. The pagoda is closely associated with the legend of Buddha and the four genies: the Cloud Genie, the Rain Genie, the Thunder Genie and the Lightening Genie which reflects the harmonious combination of Vietnamese folklore and Buddhism. The Dau pagoda is one of the few that still follow the Buddhist worshipping ritual of the Le dynasty.

The pagoda guards a number of valuable artifacts including a wood block that dates back to 1752 and 6 documents on conferring titles dating back to the regimes of King Minh Mang in the 18th century, King Tu Duc in the 19th century, and King Khai Dinh in the early 20th century. According to historians and Buddhism researchers, the Dau pagoda is the center of Vietnam’s Buddhism. In December, 2013, the Dau pagoda was recognized as a special national relic. Tran Dinh Luyen is Deputy Chairman of Bac Ninh’s History Science Association: “The Dau and But Thap pagodas with their unique architectural styles deserved to be special national relics. We need to promote the values of these relics to the public and work out a plan to preserve them”.

The Dau pagoda has become a destination for tourists who are interested in ancient architecture and the origin of Vietnamese Buddhism. The Dau pagoda is source of pride for local people. Ms Bui Thi Loi lives in Thanh Khuong commune, Thuan Thanh district, Bac Ninh province: “I’m very proud of this ancient pagoda. The pagoda has great historical significance. It is one of Asia’s most ancient and unique pagodas”.

Nguyen Duy Khoa is Head of the Cultural Section of Thanh Khuong commune: “I’m very proud of being born and growing up here-the homeland of Vietnam’s Buddhism. Wherever we go, we all try to return home for the Dau pagoda festival which is held on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month”.

The Dau pagoda festival is held to pray for favorable weather and a good crop. The festival features folklore rituals and performances which attract a lot of religious followers and tourists. This is one of the biggest Buddhist festivals in the Red River Delta and showcases the beauty and cultural values of Buddhism in Vietnam.