Thay pagoda, Chua Thay, the "Temple of the Master" was erected during the reign of Ly Nhan Tong, the founder of Hanoi capital. This site is a pagoda and a small bridge. Chua Thay is dedicated to the creator of water puppetry, the venerable monk Tu Dao Hanh, known for his exemplary religious life.
Tu Dao Khanh, also known as Minh Khong was a famous monk. He was the chief monk at the temple, a choreographer of traditional water puppetry, an inventor, and also a medical man and mystic in his village. The mystic acts associated with the monk include him burning his finger to usher in rain and curing local people of disease by blessing them, in addition to performing many other miracles. He presented water puppetry (which is unique to Vietnam) at the small lake pavilion which he built in the middle of the lake, in front of the main hall. According to the local belief he had incarnated thrice, once as Buddha in the form of Sakhyamuni, then as the son of King Ly Nhan Tong who later became the King Ly Than Tong and then as a monk who saved the King Than Tong also. He created his own brand of Tu Dao Hanh cult.
The Thay pagoda is divided into three parts. The entrance hall is the prayer hall. The middle chamber has images of Buddhas surrounded by demons, made of lacquer and garbed in red-coloured attire. The back chamber has statues of the monk.
The pagoda has been refurbished many times. The pagoda has three dedications: to King Ly Than Tong (1127 to 1138), to Gautama Buddha and his eighteen arhats and to the Buddhist monk and Thien master Tu Dao Hanh. It is built in a typical Vietnamese architectural style. The main prayer hall of the pagoda has nearly 100 colourful images of different period. At the entrance to the shrine there are two large clay mixed papier-mâché images of the 7th century, each weighing about a ton; these are considered the largest such images in Vietnam.
The main hall contains the pagoda's oldest image, dating from the pagoda's foundation: a triptych of Buddha and disciples dating from the 16th century on a high pedestal. There is a 13th-century statue of bodhisattva seated on a lotus throne, which is a wooden statue draped in yellow. It was made in the likeness of the master Đạo Hạnh in a pensive mood. The statues of Tu Dao Hanh and his reincarnation in the form of Ly Thanh Tong are located in the hall next to each other.
Within the same pagoda complex there is a small shrine referred to as the "old pagoda" (Vietnamese: chùa cũ). It was founded by King Ly Thai To in 1132 and has been renovated several times.
There are two arched bridges connecting to the pagoda. Built in 1602, they are named Sun and Moon. One of these bridges leads to a small island, home to a small Taoist pagoda representing the elements of earth, air, and water. The second bridge leads to a limestone hill. Dao Hanh, during the last stage of his life, had walked up to this place and disappeared in a cave. This cave is located in the middle of roots of banyans and is hemmed between a small pagoda built in honour of the monk’s parents and a small pagoda. Both these are religious places from where there are lovely vistas of the entire valley. There is also a limestone grotto known as the hang Cac Co, "the Mischievous".
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