A Tale of Tay Ho Temple (Phu Tay Ho) in Hanoi

Rachel Tran
Rachel Tran | Published: August 19, 2020

About 4 km away from the center of Hanoi, Tay Ho Temple (also known as Phu Tay Ho in Vietnamese) is considered one of the most sacred places in Hanoi.  Nowadays, restoration work has given Tay Ho Temple a modern air that contrasts to the ancient banyan tree nearby.

Not only local people but the majority of tourists from many regions of Vietnam come here to offer incense and worship for good luck and peace. The temple is also attractive for its gigantic banyan trees plus with the peaceful view across West Lake’s eastern shore. Let’s explore this well-known place!

    Location: a large peninsula in the middle of West Lake; Now in Quang An Ward, Tay Ho District, Hanoi.
    Opening hours:
    5 am - 7 pm every day. 
    5 am - 9 pm on holidays (3/3 and 8/8 of the lunar calendar); 1st and 15th Lunar Calendar days.
    Entrance fee: free
    Dress Code: casually


I. History of Tay Ho Temple

Built in the 17th century, Tay Ho Temple belongs to Tay Ho village, formerly an ancient village of Thang Long citadel, now in Quang An ward, Tay Ho district, Hanoi. It is located in Nghi Tam village, protruding in the middle of West Lake, about 4km in the west of the capital city.

History of Tay Ho temple

Tay Ho Temple worships Lieu Hanh Goddess (Mother Lieu Hanh or Mother of the Nation). Lieu Hanh is one of the four immortals of Vietnam. Mother Lieu Hanh is Quynh Hoa, a princess of heaven, who was banished to earth due to breaking a precious glass. On earth, she traveled, explored many places, then stopped at Tay Ho Island, discovered this charming place. After that, she opened a small stall for her literary fun in the middle of the mysterious nature.

She had a great merit to help people from many places settle down, eliminate ghosts, punish corrupt officials.

In accordance with legend, Tay Ho Temple was the second meeting place of Lieu Hanh and scholar Phung Khac Khoan (known as “Trang Bung”). As the predestined predestination, Poinsettia Phung Khac Khoan went on a boat trip on the lake, contemplated the beautiful scenery, and then met Princess Lieu Hanh. Together they wrote the poem “Tay Ho Ngu Quan” (West Lake Senses) which still exists today. 

No one knows how long Princess Lieu Hanh was there, only know that when Phung Khac Khoan returned to look for her, he could not find her. To relieve the nostalgia, he set up a temple for her. That is the thrilling origin of Tay Ho Temple.

II. Structure and Architecture of Tay Ho Temple

The architecture of Tay Ho Temple, including the gates, is in three-dimensional style. The main altar has the largest area in Tay Ho temple complex. 

Structure of Tay Ho temple
Source: @nganbemakeup

The front has a 2-storey three-door gate. There is a distich “Tay Ho Hien Tich” in the middle roof, which was meticulously decorated. Four middle doors were carved respectively with the symbols of four seasons (“tu quy”), four noble animals (“tu linh”), and longevity peach shape. Crossing the three- side gate is the Fang pavilion “phuong dinh” with 2 eaves and 8 tiers. The front house for worshipping was built close to the “phuong dinh”. Son Trang Shrine (mountain manor) was established adjacent to the hall, with 3 stories and 8 curved gradual eave tiers.

On the yard of Phu Tay Ho - Tay Ho temple

Inside, the floor was slightly elevated to worship Guanyin whilst the rest are splitted into 3 compartments expressing 3 caves. 

Outside Tay Ho temple
Source: @feetintheair___

Outside, on the yard of the temple, there are two small shrines worshipping Co (young maiden) and Cau (young boys).

Tay Ho temple is full of relics with panels and frescoes at doors, votive tablet, royal seat and altar, all of them are in the style of the 19th century. 

The most notable items of Tay Ho temple are three statues of goddesses placed side by side. Thuong Ngan Mother is the one in green clothes symbolizing the forest, Thuy Mother is in white clothes, symbolizing water; Dia Mother is in yellow clothes, symbolizing the soil. These three samples constitute Three Kingdoms, explaining the evolution of Vietnamese people, from forests, mountains, and rivers to the plains.

Also according to the concept of the Three Kingdoms, the government of Thuong Ngan has the blessing of human welfare, the governor of Dia has a place to remove the sins of human beings, the government of Thuy has the customs to remove all obstacles and difficulty for humans. With the power of mystical blessing, amnesty, and strong relief, Three Kingdoms’ religion appeals to so many people.

III. Activities in Tay Ho Temple

1. Pray for Fortune and Enjoy the Scenery

Tay Ho Temple is a famous place for people to pray for fortune, luck and peace for themselves and their family. It is not only a tourist attraction in Hanoi but also a place of religions for Hanoians. 

Along with praying for fortune, every year, a large number of tourists flocking to Tay Ho Temple also enjoy the beautiful scenery of the surroundings and West Lake nearby.

If you have a chance to visit Tay Ho temple, don’t just come straight into the temple. The small alleyway leading to the gate is lined with colorful vendors and stalls selling snacks such as Banh tom, which is prawns cooked on a thick batter base before freshly refrying. There are also cakes, fruit, sweets, and paraphernalia related to making offerings at the temple, such as incense and money. 

You will also see some elderly men writing prayers for people to burn to send to the gods. 

Join Tay Ho temple festival - Activities in Tay Ho Temple

2. Join Tay Ho Temple Festival

Tay Ho temple festival is celebrated from the 3rd to the 7th of the third lunar month. It is dedicated to the Holy Mother – Princess Lieu Hanh. This is an event featuring procession, incense offering and van singing. On the 6th day and 7th day of the third lunar month, there writing pose contest, and musical instrument playing and singing, chau van singing at Pho Linh Pagoda (Tay Ho Hamlet).

IV. How to Get to Tay Ho Temple

The easiest way to get to Tay Ho temple is going by a taxi from Ba Dinh Square. You can go along Hung Vuong Street, which leads to West Lake. Then, go around the lake towards the north where the road turns to the peninsula. Tay Ho Temple is on the top of it. If you go by bus, choose the buses with numbers 31, 33, and 55 to get to the temple. 

If you are planning a trip to Hanoi, do not forget to enlist Tay Ho Temple in your travel plan. This is both a relic and sacred monument complex and a beautiful attraction of the capital.

V. Extra Tips

  • Don’t run freely, talk or comment comfortably …
  • Do not wear short skirts, shorts,…
  • Do not let children run around, mischief the sacrifices, touch the statues …
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