Da Nang Mountain Temple: Marble Mountain’s Pagodas, More

Da Nang has many mountain temples where handmade architecture, natural sceneries and religious values are combined perfectly. So, travelers will see, enjoy and learn a lot about different things just within a visit, to any of them. Above all, the Marble Mountains has most pagodas because it’s one of the best known scenic landscapes in the country. The earliest-constructed one there (19th century) is named Linh Ung, meaning “wishes answered miraculously”. In recent decades, its two younger sisters were born in Ba Na Hills – to the west and Son Tra Peninsula – to the east. Citizens think that the trio of Linh Ung Pagoda shelters them from natural disasters, such as yearly typhoons. This guide names every mountain temple in Da Nang and gives information about each.

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Why are Vietnamese Buddhist Temples built in the Mountain?

Not only in Da Nang, lots of pagodas in Vietnam are built in the mountains. The main reason is their isolation from villages and cities where people reside. Thanks to that, the monks are able to focus on practicing Buddha teachings. Unlike today, they live in caves or bamboo huts with a thatch roof. Foods, fresh water, medical plant and cool temperature are ideal conditions to have a long-term stay. In addition, the peaks provide beautiful sceneries, and represent “the havean” in traditional thoughts. Mountainfoot, valley, slope or summit locations are up to the purposes of the builders (monks or Buddhist associations) and feng shui geomancy principles. Although far away from residential areas, the contact doesn’t lose, because the monks sometimes trek down the mountain for duties and seek food. People (especially Buddhism followers) also climb up there to meet the monks and pray in front of Buddhas.


Tam Thai Pagoda Marble Mountains

Tam Thai Pagoda History

Thuy Son has three grades of elevation called Ha Thai, Trung Thai and Thuong Thai. All are shortly known as Tam Thai (“Three Thai”) which is the name of this pagoda. It’s a group of stars in the sky as well and officially called today although renamed several times in its existence. Locals say Chua Trong (“The inner pagoda”) for it and Chua Ngoai (“The outer pagoda”) for Linh Ung Pagoda on the other side of the mountain. The Tree Thai also appears in many Buddhist texts and philosophy.

History of Tam Thai Pagoda starts from the first half of the 17th century. The time was mentioned in the rock inscriptions carved on a cave wall nearby. Historians say the correct year is 1630 but may be earlier. In 1695, famous Chinese monk Thich Dai San visited it and shared memories and stories here in his own chronicle later. He traveled to Vietnam by the invitation of Nguyen Phuc Chu lord, a ruler who is passionate in Buddhism. Up to date, there are 16 generations of monks practicing the Buddha teachings here.

This gem was constructed first by woods and thatch, like the siste temple Linh Ung. To stand better before annual typhoons, bricks and tiles are choosen to replace then. In 1825, the 2nd Nguyen dynasty king Minh Mang requested that and the construction was done fast. He titled it as a national pagoda, to affirm its importance in local Buddhist culture and give thanks to the Buddha who saved his father. Current architecture is from the reconstruction in 1995. 

Promise of Gia Long King

Minh Mang king built the Tam Thai pagoda to fulfill the promise of his father, the Founder of Nguyen dynasty Gia Long. The creator stopped in it while hiding from the chase of Tay Son troops, the enemy. At the time, he was so thirsty and clasp hands to pray to the Buddha that if have water to drink to survive, he would come back to build a temple to give thanks. In 1802, he’s crowned in Hue citadel. Because of being responsible for ruling a young country, so much emergency to complete, he couldn’t keep promise. Before going to the next world, he reminded his successor (son) to do it on behalf of him. Shortly then, the promise becomes reality. Locals use the sentence “Gia Long promises, Minh Mang establishment” to describe this historic story.

Story of Minh Mang King’s Sister

The life of Minh Mang king’s younger sister also is linked to Tam Thai Pagoda. She had a happy family and some childrens but after many sorrows, decided to be a nun, live in the mountains and practiced Buddha teaching. Although the king’s brother and other royal members advised her to return to the capital to enjoy luxuries, she disagreed. Moreover, this beautiful woman composed a poem and dared to tell people that if someone continues the words, she will be back. The house where the princess stayed is by the pagoda, with the main entrance near the old mango tree.

A Visit in Tam Thai Pagoda

Tam Thai Pagoda is a must-visit place in Thuy Son, not only because of its interesting history. Its architecture also stands out, expressing the talent of artists and the thoughts of people in 19th century. The most ornate building is the Buddha hall which stands on a flat terrace, behind a Laughing Buddha statue. The façade exhibits a wealthy decoration created by the most expensive materials of the time. The roof is covered by ceramic yinyang tiles, encrusted with four Vietnamese holy animals and birds (dragon, turtle, phoenix and unicorn). The details are hand-crafted by small ceramic pieces broken from jars, pots, plates or bowls. Colorful paintings between the roof and doors depict three different stages in Buddha’s life in India.

Inside the first room of Tam Thai pagoda (for praying), the Buddha in Three Times is worshiped. Each Buddha represents the past, present and future. Used for monks only, the Ancestor room behind it houses many ancient artifacts, including 6 bells, 2 statues brought from Huyen Khong cave nearby (for better preservation). The most precious one is Qua tim lua (“the Fire heart”), a bronze Buddha leaf given by Minh Mang king as a gift. The emperor left his hand-written inscriptions on it. That makes it special, and Da Nang’s authorities have been submitting it to be a national treasure.

If trekking up the mountain by Gate 1, the Three-arched Gate is the first structure sightseers will see. It has a simpler design than the main shrine, but is proud of being intact from its day of formation, 19th-century. Small marble stele on its top is unique in Da Nang and reveals information about an ancient Vietnamese custom (gửi giỗ). In detail, that provides a list of people and how much money they gave to the monks. After they pass away, the monks use the money to buy fruits and incense to “send” to the next world. The givers often are without biological childrens or have got married yet.

Near the Three-arched gate, sightseers can rest on the stone chairs in the shade of two big country almonds. The left-sided tree is 240 years old, symbolizing a man and the other is 350 years ago, symbolizing a woman. Locals do believe that single persons will soon find a proper family partner after touching on both trees and praying in the pagoda. In 2017, both trees were rewarded as Vietnam’s heritage trees. 


Linh Ung Pagoda Marble Mountain (Non Nuoc Pagoda)

Location: Hon Thuy Son “Water Mountain” in The Marble Mountains – Entrance ticket: 40,000 VND (free in 2022)

This is the oldest temple in the Marble Mountains where the first monk resided and practiced Buddha teachings. After 108 steps from the sculpture village, visitors will see richly-decorated shrines, colorful entrance gate, Buddha in zen style, Lady Buddha pavilion amid the carp pond, monk tombs, and old trees. Within the central worshipping space, the Buddhha of Three Times are honoured. In the back of it, the tunnel leads to the majestic chambers of Tang Chon Cave. See further details in our guide for all Linh Ung Pagoda in Da Nang.


Tu Tam Pagoda

Established in the second half of 15th century by a northern-people monk of the same name, this pagoda is near Tam Thai pagoda. At that time, it’s built of wood and thatch, to worship the Buddha and practice his teachings. Because of conflicts between two military powers, it’s destroyed and until the visit of Minh Mang king in 1825, it’s reconstructed but with better materials. Today, Ksitigarbha Buddha is venerated here, besides typical personalities in different Vietnamese dynasties and wandering souls. There is no leader monk in it, and the one in a nearby temple has been responsible for all duties. After being highly-damaged in the Vietnam war, several renovations occurred. In the same ground, some small buildings are also added.  

Tam Ton Pagoda

Near the pavilion overlooking the river (Giang Vong Dai), this pagoda originally is the place where monks in Tam Thai pagoda relax and sleep. In 1973, the leader monk of Tam Thai pagoda requested to stay here to enjoy the rest of his life and upgraded the house to a temple. Its name is taken from Di Da Tam Ton “Buddha of the Three Times”. Today, it still preserves 3 horizontal lacquered boards made in 1900 and 7 sutra woodblocks. Different from the neighbor Tu Tam pagoda, an independent monk is at the head of here. 

Quan The Am Pagoda

Location: Hon Kim Son “Metal Mountain”, Ngu Hanh Son – Entrance ticket: free

This pagoda was established in 1957 by Thich Phap Nhan monk after his dream in which Lady Buddha appeared. She also told him how to find a rock formation with the shape similar to her (he found then). In the same year, he shared the story and celebrated a festival to honour the Buddha. The 19th day of the second month is chosen to be the official time to hold. Over the years, monks, followers and pilgrims visit the temple and attend the festival (called Lễ hội Quán Thế Âm) more and more. Therefore, since 2000, the event has been extended by 2 days and listed in the top 15 national festivals of Vietnam. Recently, it’s registered as the national intangible cultural heritage. See more information about this featured celebration in Da Nang’s festivals.

Construction of the new Quan The Am Pagoda is on-going, next to the former one. Although unfinished, some parts open for tourists, such as the Da Nang’s Museum of Buddhist Culture. It’s free to visit.

Linh Ung Pagoda Son Tra Peninsula

Location: Son Tra Peninsula, Tho Quang – Entrance ticket: free

This is the largest Buddhist site, the newest member of 3 Linh Ung Pagodas in Da Nang. It’s constructed from 2006 to 2010, on a low hill by the coast and overlooking the seafront. The best known thing here is the Lady Buddha (the Goddess of Mercy) that rises over 60 meters from the surroundings. Sculpted by artists from the Marble Mountains, she faces the city to shelter its citizens. Fishermans come to pray once setting sail to catch fishes. The Buddha halls are just nearby, featuring grand architecture with a harmonization between modern materials and traditional styles. Bonsai gardens, Bodhi trees, monkeys, Buddha statues, and great scenery (amazing sunset) are other things to expect. Read all you need to know before visiting in our traveler guide to Linh Ung Pagoda


Linh Ung Pagoda Ba Na Hills

Location: Ba Na Hills – Entrance ticket: included in Ba Na Hills ticket

This pagoda was built from 1999 to 2004 by the request of Thich Thien Nguyen – the monk leader of the Marble Mountains and Nguyen Ba Thanh – the reigning president of Da Nang. It aims to foster the growth of tourism in Ba Na Hills, the former hill station of France before the World War I. On a slope by flower gardens and the new wonder Golden Bridge, it has a Buddha hall, three-arched entrance gate and a 37-meters Gautama Buddha. See details in our ultimate guide to Linh Ung Pagoda in Da Nang.  


Linh Phong Thien Tu Pagoda Ba Na Hills

Location: Ba Na Hills – Entrance ticket: included in Ba Na Hills ticket

Located on a piece of land near Nui Chua peak, this Buddhist site is constructed by iron wood, in Northern Vietnam style. Thanks to being away from tourist trails, it’s so quiet, even during the high seasons. Statues of arhats (la hán), ornate worshipping altar with Buddhas, and breath-taking view over untouched mountain ranges are highlights here. 

Linh Chua Linh Tu Temple

Location: Ba Na Hills – Entrance ticket: included in Ba Na Hills ticket

On the top of Da Nang – Nui Chua summit at an elevation of 1,487 meters, this temple is for worship of the Goddess of the Mountains and Forests. In traditional belief, she rules the area and so, people honour her here to pray for peace, good weather or prosperity. In the temple, visitors can see snakes – representation for growth and power. Before walking in, long sarongs are available near the doors to wear to express the respect to the gods. In the front and to the left, the Bell pavilion allows visitors to view the entire French Village from above. Sculptures of La hán (arhats) are placed around, made by artists in the Marble Mountains. Many Asians put money around to pray for luck. In a lower terrace, the tower is another highlight, with 4 guardians at each corner.

Truc Lam Bach Ma Zen Monastery

Location: Loc Hoa, Phu Loc – Entrance ticket: free

Truc Lam Bach Ma Zen Monastery (or Thiền viện Trúc Lâm Bạch Mã) is the first of its kind in the region. It’s an official monastery of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism invented in 14th century that is the first and only line of Vietnamese Buddhism today. Constructed in 2006, this building has grand architecture sitting atop a hill by a scenic reservoir and surrounded by forests of Bach Ma National Park. Different from any mountain temples, visitors need to get on a boat to get there. Read further details in our guide to Truc Lam Bach Ma Zen Monastery.

Thanh Duyen Pagoda

Location: Vinh Hien, Phu Loc – Entrance ticket: free

This hilltop Buddhist temple was built first in the second half of 17th century, reconstructed and renovated many times then. The last time was in 1936 under the reign of Minh Mang king. He added several new structures, a tower and changed its name from Thuy Ba to Thanh Duyen. Meanwhile, he titled it as “national pagoda” (quốc tự), similar to two temples in the Marble Mountains. A place in the list plays an important role in the growth of Buddhism in the country. Thanh Duyen pagoda’s surroundings are also beautiful, including fishing villages, boats on lagoon water, rocks, and pine forests. See more information in our guide to traveling Tam Giang Lagoon.

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