The guardian god of the North Hanoi – Quan Thanh Temple
In old tourist guides of former French Indochina, the god was called the Great Buddha, the temple dedicated to him standing on the southern edge of the West Lake was called Temple of the Great Buddha.
The above-mentioned Great Buddha is, in fact, a Taoist deity. His name is Huyền Thiên Trấn Vũ (warrior in charge of the guard of the Dark Heaven), that is the northern part of Heaven.
In the year 1010 when King Lý Thái Tổ moved the capital to Thăng Long, he also entrusted the god with the guard of the north of the royal citadel with a view to defending it against demons and evil spirits.
All those attributes characterize the statue of the Dark Warrior of Quánh Thánh. A bronze figure with a shiny black patina, it deserves its nickname of “Great Buddha”, for it is nearly four meters high and weighs four tones. Cast on the order of a Trịnh seigneur in 1681, among Hà Nội’s religious statues it has no other rival in terms of size than the bronze Amitabha cast in 1953 of Thần Quang Pagoda (Ngũ Xá Street). The god is represented dressed in a Taoist priest’s grown, his hair floating behind the nape of his neck, bare-footed, his left hand executing exorcising passes, his right hand leaning on the handle of a sward on which a snake is coiled, with its point resting on the shell of a tortoise. The founder of the stature, Master Trọng of the founders’ guild, also had his own statue honored in the temple.
In its heyday, the shrine was frequented by many pilgrims, particularly scholar candidates to examinations, who came in the hope of receiving divine guidance in the form of oracular verses.
Set in a frame of verdure and standing close to two lakes – West Lake and Trúc Bạch Lake, the Quán Thánh Temple offers a picturesque view. The front is composed of four quadrangular pillars. The visitor, after walking through a porch with three entrances, comes into a courtyard planted with shady mango trees. The shrine stands at the back of the courtyard. On its front is finely sculpted woodwork, lacquered red and gold. A bronze gong hangs in the nave. Four altars precede the sanctuary, into which one enters through a narrow corridor. The pilgrim may then contemplate the Guardian God of the North standing in the mysterious semi-darkness.