Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Temple of Tran Quoc Tang

Tran Hung Dao’s son was disgraced and banished to a remote port, where he salvaged his reputation by defending the country before his untimely death.

Though today is not a ritu-al day, Cua Ong Temple is packed with pilgrims and the scent of burning incense is thick in the air. The tem-ple, which is located in Cua Ong quarter, Cam Pha town, about 40km far from north-eastern Halong city, is popular with Vietnamese holiday-makers, foreign tourists and locals, especially fishermen who come here to pray for good luck before setting sail out on the great blue yonder.

Temple of Tran Quoc Tang - a son of general Tran Hung Dao -

The temple is perched on a high tree-covered mountain lsacing Cua Suot (port of Suot). According to the country’s annals, Cua Ong Temple was built by the inhabitants of Cam Pha back in the first century AD. The port linked the Red River delta with the northeastern parts of pres-ent day Vietnam and beyond.
A parallel sentence on the tem-ple’s Front gate reads: “ln front of you is the immense sea. Around you are green mountains – all around looks like a water-colour picture.”


ln january 1149, when the Ly Dynasty (1010-1225) began trading with China and other Southeast Asian countries, Cua Suot was a bustling port and a major national gateway.
ln order to control the port and tax Foreign merchants, local authori- ties set up a series of customs sta-tions along the coast, including Cua Suot, which was originally pro-nounced as “suat”, a term related to tax in feudal times.

Temple of Tran Quoc Tang - a son of general Tran Hung Dao -

Before reaching the temple, visi-tors must walk up hundreds orc brick steps snaking through the trees. As you make your way there, you can enjoy the brilliant views – out on the sea boats look like small leaves lying on a mirror.


A The temples tutelary genie is Tran Quoc Tang, the third son of King Tran Quoc Tuan (1228-1300), who was posthumously known as Tran Hung Dao, one of Vietnam’s greatest generals.

During his childhood, Tran Quoc Tang was a brave, strong and right-eous lad. But when he grew up, he somehow incurred the wrath of his family (no one knows why) and was exiled to Cua Suot. His father hoped that his wayward son would manage this strategically important border gate while in exile.

Indeed, Tang proved to be a bril-liant general, and he helped master-mind some brilliant military victo-ries against the Yuan-Mongol invaders in the 15th century.

But Tang’s life was cut short when on a night of heavy rain and strong wind he foolishly jumped on to a rock near the shore and was hit by a freak wave. He was washed out to sea and at first his corpse could not be found. Two weeks later his body finally washed up by Trac Chan vil-lage, several kilometres away. Cua Suot was then renamed Cua Ong (The Master’s Port) and in memory of his military exploits, the local pop-ulation built Cua Ong Temple For him at Trac Chan — also known as Vuon Nhan (The Longan Garden).

The temple was moved to the present site in the beginning of the 19th century. It was built in the style of the Chinese script “Gong”, which means there’s a lower temple (Den Ha), a middle temple (Den Trung) and an upper temple (Den Thuong). In the lower temple, people pray to the Maternal Spirit known in Vietnamese as Mau. The upper tem-ple is dedicated to Tran Quoc Tang and his statue is the biggest in the temple. Tang’s {ace looks gentle butserious and experienced. The statue’sVermilion coat symbolises his fervent heart and devotion to his country.


Tang’s mausoleum sits behind the temple, and in front of the mau-soleum is his tomb, which is a sim-ple, brick block. It is a deliberately humble structure. Locals say that Tang led a simple life Without pursu-ing fame and privilege.
ln the temple, there are also stat-ues of other generals from the Tran Dynasty – 34 altogether – including the likes or Pham Ngu Lao, Yet Kieu, Da Tuong, Nguyen Che Nghia and Do Khac Chung. All of whom made great contributions to constructing and protecting the country.


Although Tang died in the eighth lunar month, a festival in his honour takes place from the second day of the first lunar month to the end of the third lunar month. Nobody seems to know why the festival is held at this time of year.

A palanquin procession carries Tang’s funeral tablets from the tem-ple to a shrine in Trac Chan village. Legend has it that this was the place where Tang’s ashes were scattered by the wind. The procession then pro-ceeds back to the temple, following his old inspection route.

Standing in the temple amidst the smoke of burning incense and staring at the statutes of such well- known generals who brought such glory to the country, it is impossible not to admire the spirit of solidarity, which made up the unvanquished strength of Vietnamese people dur-ing the Tran Dynasty.

How to get there: From HaLong city’s Bridge 20, take National Road 18 toward Bai Tu Long Bay for about three kilomettres to a T-junction, where Cua Ong Temple stands.

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