Four Protectors of Hanoi

25/3/2020| 8:50

Thang Long Hanoi, a city of thousands of year, has a solid and rich historical background and is believed to be protected by four genies.

Selected as the capital since 1010, Thang Long, or Hanoi today, has stood the test of time beautifully and peacefully for centuries.

Its secret relies on the four sacred protectors. They are actually worshiped at four well-known temples in the city.

Each embodies a story with its own historical, cultural and architectural values, also showing Vietnamese people’s worshiping tradition of thousands of years in hundreds of sacred places along the country.

 Kim Lien Temple

Protector of the East: Bach Ma Temple

Legend has it that in 1010, when the capital was moved from Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh province) to Thang Long, King Ly Thai To (974-1028) decided to build a citadel to prevent the invaders. However, every time the construction completed, it collapsed. The king was advised to make offerings at a temple dedicated to a genie named Long Do, the tutelary god of the place.

One night, the genie came to the king in a dream and told him to follow the footsteps of a horse to build the citadel. Then the king saw a white horse galloping out from the temple and then disappeared. The next day, the king ordered the troops to build the citadel following the horse footsteps. Since then, the citadel stood firmly. 

To show the gratefulness to the genie, the king ordered a sculpture of a white horse in the temple for worshiping and conferred it the title of ‘Thang Long tutelary god’ and named the temple as Bach Ma, which literally means white horse. 

Many restorations have been made and the temple now has typical 19th century architecture. It features a wooden frame and large columns in the main building with three-door gate, a place for burning incense, forbidden chamber and sophisticated effigies. It still keeps lots of old valuable relics such as stone steles, palanquin, cranes and pairs of earthen statues for worshiping. 

Every year, to honor the genie, the People’s Committee of the district where the temple is located organizes Bach Ma temple festival on lunar February 12 and 13. The event includes many offerings and cultural activities like ceremonial songs, Vietnamese popular opera, poem recitation and fencing. 

Located in Hoan Kiem central district, Bach Ma Temple is easy for tourists to reach by foot.

 Quan Thanh Temple

Protector of the North: Quan Thanh Temple

Quan Thanh Temple, also known as Tran Vu Temple, was also built in 1010, under the Ly Dynasty with the purpose of worshiping Tran Vu genie, who trained the heaven squad of guards, controlled the North and was believed to help Hung Kings (regarded as the founders of the nation) expel invaders and assist the people in the fight against evil ghosts and natural disasters. This is typical of the tradition of worshiping the genies who have the magic power to build the nation. 

By Truc Bach Lake, Quan Thanh Temple is famous for its architecture of the 17th century. It includes three gates, temple yard and the three main buildings of front hall, annex and back halls. Inside Quan Thanh Temple, there is a four-meter height black copper statue of Tran Vu Genie holding a sword on the back of a turtle which reflects strength and longevity. The statue was built in 1677 to show the respect of local people to the genie and the unique representation of the artistic creation of the period.

Besides the statue, the temple is also famous for its wood works such as dragons, phoenix, bats; some kinds of beautiful flowers that show the uniqueness of the art under the Le dynasty in 16th century and Taoism.

 Voi Phuc Temple