Warning: This post may be disturbing to some. The first half is fine, I’ll clue you in when to stop reading if you are kind-hearted, love animals, have a weak stomach, or simply a decent human being…
April 2 ~ (part 1) Thay Pagoda, Dao Thuc (Near Hanoi, Vietnam)
Our trip with Gate 1 was down to the last day. Some of our group opted to spend their free time doing some last-minute shopping in the Old Town portion of Hanoi. Tim and I joined a few diehard travelers for an optional excursion to see Thay Pagoda and visit So Village to meet the Black Teeth Women.
As we climbed off the bus for our short walk into Dao Thuc Village and the pagoda, I was struck by the variety of motorized vehicles and equipment. One could not help but do a mental comparison to our versions back home.
The main street welcomed us with festive overhead lanterns and lighting in the shape that has become synonymous with Vietnamese field workers.
As interested as we were to observe the local sites and people and learn about their way of life, they too were curious about us. Our travel companion, Cory, especially got a lot of attention and stares. They were fascinated with her long braided hair. A few even got brave enough to come forward to touch it and Cory graciously encouraged the interaction. Priceless moment!
We were here to visit both a temple and a pagoda. Understandably confusing to new-comers, but there is a difference.
A “temple” is customarily thought of as a place of worship, but since Buddha was not considered a “God”, it is most often considered a place for meditation and contemplation.
A “pagoda”is a shrine to a deceased, usually containing bones or relics from that person.
After saying that, most people use the two terms interchangeably.
Thay Pagoda or Chua Thay, “The Master’s Pagoda” is a one of the oldest Buddhist pagodas in Vietnam, dating back to the 11th century. Also known as Thien Phuc Tu which means “Pagoda of the Heavenly Blessing”, it is dedicated to the Vietnamese Thien master, Tur Dao Hanh and maintained by the local monks. Thought of by many as the birthplace of Buddhism, it is a center of pilgrimage during Tet (Vietnamese New Year).
Sitting on the shores of Long Tri (Dragon Lake), which is really little more than a pond, is the older part of the pagoda that sports interesting detail, even if not over the top architecturally.
From here, with a little imagination, one can envision an entire dragon encircling the village that includes the surrounding hillside.
In the middle of the small lake, Thuy Dinh Stage mysteriously floats where the ancient ritual of water puppet shows are still performed on holidays and special occasions.
There are also two old stone bridges that connect the island on each side with impressive names of Nhat Tien and Nguyet Tien, but I have no idea which was which.
Thay Pagoda itself consisted of several different buildings. This site is especially meaningful for the Buddhists of Vietnam and many of the faithful would equate a journey here to the Muslim desire to visit Mecca.
The main temple building is dedicated to a monk named Tu Dao Hanh who lived in the 12th century. He was the chief monk at the temple, an inventor, medical man, mystic and surprisingly a choreographer of traditional water puppetry, which would help explain the water puppet stage in the center of the lake. Inside, three statues represent the monk in different forms.
“According to the local belief he had incarnated thrice, once as Buddha in the form of Sakhyamuni, then as the son of King Lý Nhân Tông who later became the King Lý Thần Tông and then as a monk who saved the King Thần Tông.
At the entrance to the shrine there are two large clay mixed papier-mâché images of the 7th century, each weighing about a ton; these are considered the largest such images in Vietnam.” ~ Wikipedia
The room with the numerous statues of Buddha surrounding the ancient monk, was my favorite.
OK this is my warning point. You may want to stop reading now if you fall into any of the categories mentioned above. There is nothing profane, just not for the very sensitive or anyone who does not want to look at one of the tougher customs to swallow here in Vietnam.
Along our walk back to the bus, we passed by a yard where chickens were being raised. I was heartbroken to see two young dogs locked up in a small cage.
It got worse, MUCH worse.
Sadly it is still common for dog to be eaten in Northern Vietnam. I am so thankful that my dear hubby warned me not to look as we passed by several shops where dogs were being butchered.
After loading on the bus, we continued our drive toward So Village passing by another loooooong meat market beside the road. This time our guide also warned us of dogs being slaughtered, and I chose to divert my eyes in the other direction.
I can not even comment on how difficult it was to know this custom still exists here. I will try to stay off of my pulpit, but the entire debate is so confusing. I question how one minute we Americans are comfortable eating pork, beef, or chicken, yet sickened by eating dog meat. I know that there is an element taken from our collective experiences of raising dogs and cats as household pets, but it was hard to see and is even harder to understand.
The flip side of that argument might be put up by those who would otherwise starve to death if they did not utilize every possible form of nourishment available to them. I don’t know that I have any rebuttal to that argument.
The over abundance of food here in our country, readily available for most citizens, is not the reality for many living in third world countries.
Please note, I mean no disrespect for anyone who is struggling to make ends meet for their families. I realize this is over simplification to an extreme.
In researching this article I know I was shocked to learn how many countries where it is still common practice to eat dogs. In case you are not already too grossed out and are curious to learn more, you can click here to find out where dog meat is still on the menu, what breeds are raised for their meat, and where this cuisine is outlawed.
It sure did help reinforce my growing desire to simply eat vegetarian.
Climbing off my soap box now…
But once again this post is getting far too wordy and I can only keep you shackled to your seat for so long 🙂
Tomorrow I will complete this post (part 2) where I will tell you about our visit with the woman with black teeth, how she made me laugh out loud, and what her most prized possession is that she keeps right next to her bed…
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for the fact that eating our pets is NOT tolerated here in the USA. (Sorry, climbed back up on that soap box for just a moment.)