The One Pillar Pagoda (Chùa Một Cột in Vietnamese) is a Buddhist temple in the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex near Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi, Vietnam: a replica of an older temple that was built in 1049 and destroyed by the French in 1954.
The Pagoda has a unique design that is meant to evoke a lotus flower rising out of the water. On this flower sat the goddess of mercy, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, who was seen by the Emperor Ly Thai Tong in a dream handing the latter a baby boy.
Afterwards, the Emperor married a peasant girl, who bore him a son. Overjoyed by his good fortune, the Emperor ordered the construction of the One Pillar Pagoda in 1049.
History of the One Pillar Pagoda
Throughout the Ly Dynasty, the Emperor would come to the One Pillar Pagoda on Vesak, or the birthday of the Buddha, and bathe a representation of the Buddha in the presence of his monks.
The withdrawing French Union forces destroyed the Pagoda before leaving the country for good in 1954. It was immediately reconstructed, but was threatened with demolition again in the 1970s.
Georges Boudarel and Văn Ký Nguyêñ write in their book Hanoi: City of the Rising Dragon (compare prices), that "a senior government official suggested that it be torn down because it did not conform with the new mausoleum being built to house the remains of Ho Chi Minh." Protests were led by historian Tran Quoc Vuong, who was at first derided by opportunists before being joined by other indignant voices. The demolition was quietly shelved.
The One Pillar Pagoda Today
In its present form, the One Pillar Pagoda is a wooden structure, three square meters in area, which sits on a concrete pillar rising above a pond. A stair rises from the lip of the pond into the pagoda, where a steady stream of pilgrims and tourists queue up to pay their respects.
Inside, a richly-adorned altar with burning incense awaits your sacrifices. Women are supposed to enjoy better fertility after a visit to the One Pillar Pagoda.
You can also enjoy the sight of the Pagoda without joining the queue; a snack stand sells refreshments nearby, making the One Pillar Pagoda an ideal rest stop for visitors in transit between the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Museum, and the Presidential Palace.
The One Pillar Pagoda is located halfway between the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the Museum. It is open from 8am to 5pm every day, and seeing it is free of charge.