Long Sơn Pagoda (Vietnamese: Chùa Long Sơn) is a Buddhist temple in the city of Nha Trang.
Sitting a top a lotus pedestal, a massive 24 meter tall white statue of Gautama Buddha rests in meditative contemplation in western Nha Trang. Visible as you enter the city and from as far as Tran Phu Bridge, the figure was cast in 1964 and placed where the Dang Long Tu Pagoda stood from 1886 to 1900, when a fierce typhoon destroyed it.
Trai Thuy Hill was once a French munitions compound in the 19th century, and the name “trai” means “camp”. The hill is home to four holy sites, the Hai Duc Pagoda on the northern slope, the Linh Phong Pagoda to the west, the Kim Than Phat To statue (the giant white Buddha), and the Long Son Pagoda at the base of the hill. The Long Son Pagoda is the largest in Nha Trang, the most elaborate, and gets most of the site’s visitors. Major restoration of the grounds have been completed four times since 1940, and it is now a beautiful example of classic Buddhist architecture.
The complex has been the headquarters of the Buddhist Association in Khanh Hoa Province since 1936, and still plays a key role in charities and spiritual guidance to the people of Nha Trang. The pagoda is a place of peace and reflection in the heart of the city, and receives massive crowds on Buddhist holidays.
Getting there is pretty straight-forward with a map, but it can be tricky for pedestrians. The pagoda sits just past the busiest place for traffic in the city, at the convergence of five major streets with no traffic lights or stop signs to aid you. If playing human Frogger doesn’t appeal to you, there is one route that may help. From the beach take Yersin St. to the roundabout, where you’ll see the Maximark supermarket and Fahasa bookstore. From Maximark take a right and walk along Quang Trung until you get to the traffic light at Tran Quy Cap St. Cross the street and turn left on Tran Quy Cap St. You’ll keep on this side of the street all the way to Long Son Pagoda. It’s definitely not the most scenic street in the city, but once you’re safely on the north side of Tran Quy Cap St. you won’t have to worry about crossing the chaotic traffic later on.
Place of Scholarly Reflection
As you enter the main parking area of the pagoda grounds off 23 Thang 10 St., you’ll pass the memorial of Thich Quang Duc and a small garden opposite that’s closed to public access. There are souvenir stalls and drink stands under umbrella canopies in the area in front of the main building. While here, you’ll definitely want to visit the impressive gift shop next door to the excellent Thien Duyet vegetarian restaurant, both run by the pagoda.
Up to 70 monks and novices live here throughout the year, and the number rises on the major holidays. The monastery’s housing complexes rest on either side of the grounds amongst trees and private footpaths. As you approach the pagoda you’ll also notice a narrow lane leading into a residential area, which connects to an access road that will take you directly to the top of the hill.
Past a traditional entrance pavilion lies the Long Son Pagoda. Its curved roof reflects traditional architectural styles, and the colorful inlays come mainly from broken pottery and glass to form mosaics of green and blue. Inside the main building are several magnificent statues of Buddha, with incense urns at their base for devotees. Murals of significant points in Buddha’s life surround the lofty roof, and its numerous open wood paneled doors on three sides give the place a welcoming airy atmosphere. Rooms for ceremonies and dining flank the main hall, and you have to exit and go around to the right to find the steps leading up the hill.
Up to the Lotus Seat
There are over 150 steps from the Long Son Pagoda to the Kim Than Phat To statue, and along the way you will see many plaques in Vietnamese stating spiritual guidance, all attributed to “PC”, which is Phap Cu, or dharma teachings. At the start of the steps is a 14m long reclining Buddha, created in 2003, and halfway up is a massive roofed 1500 kg bronze bell, also placed here in 2003.
At the top of the hill is a plateau parking area with temporary drink stands, and you’ll see the end of the access road leading up from the tightly packed neighborhood below. The main pavilion offers great views of the city, and as you walk around the massive lotus blossom you’ll see the likenesses of seven Buddhists who died protesting against the government in 1963. Inside the circular room of the base are bas reliefs of various points of Buddha’s life, as well as a shrine for prayers. Remove your shoes before entering. Behind the temple are rows of funerary plates, each with their own incense holder, and a disused road that ends in a large water tank put out of service years ago.
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