Tu Van pagoda is built in 1968, located on the road 3/4 in Cam Ranh Municipality, Khanh Hoa Province, about 60 km in the south of Nha Trang City. It is completely made from dry seashell and coral, turning it into a museum of coral and shells. Because of its unique materials, Tu Van also has other names including Oc Temple (Shell Temple) and San Ho Temple (Coral Temple).
From its entrance, you will be surprise with a huge Prajna Paramitta Boat (Thuyen Bat Nha) made of dead shells with the length of 10m. According to Buddhist theory, it is the boat navigated by Mitreya Buddha to carry people of great righteousness and generosity across the ocean of misery after death. On the boat’s sails are extracts from the Buddhist book of prayer, which are intended to calm visitors so that they may enter the pagoda with tranquil souls.
The most impressive architecture in the Tu Van Pagoda is Bao Tich Tower – another work made from seashell and coral. The tower is 39m high, which is considered as the highest tower in Vietnam. Bao Tich is built with cemented, featured with 49 small pyramidal sub-towers on outside. In each sub-tower, there is a statue of Buddha and a small chedi, making an incredibly fantastic architecture.
The tower has 8 entrances which is symbolic for Bat Chanh Dao (the noble Eightfold Path). There are 2 floors inside. The upper is used to worship Buddha, featured with a statue of Goddess of Mercy with thousands eyes and thousands hands. The architecture inside are also decorated with seashells and coral.
Besides, the trip to Naraka (Hell) is a very interesting experience. The Road to the Hell is just 500m long, but it is still designed elaborately with rock, coral and shell, wrapped by a beautiful picture of dragon. The road is underground, so it is very dark, meandering and narrow. You have to use candle light or flashlight to see the way. There are 12 gates in the cave that symbolise the 12 layers of hell in Buddhist theory, and at each gate is a description of the sins that a person may commit during his/her lifetime. It is a wonderful architecture of Tu Van Pagoda.
After overcome the Hell, you come back to the world by crossing an entrance which is a dragon’s mouth. And you will be excited to see a “paradise” of Bat Nha Hoa Vien – a garden full of big shady trees and statues of animals and sea creatures, resting in beautiful harmony with their surroundings.
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