Voi Phuc (Kneeling Elephant) Temple


Thang Long Tay Tran (Thang Long Citadel’s Western Guardian God Temple), also called Voi Phuc (Kneeling Elephant) Temple, with its large campus and lush green trees is one of the popular scenic places in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi.

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The legend of the temple

Voi Phuc Temple was built during the reign of King Ly Thanh Tong (1054 – 1072), dedicated to Royal Highness Linh Lang – Linh Lang God. Therefore, it is also known as Linh Lang Temple.

According to historical records, the god Linh Lang was a prince of Ly Dynasty – Hoang Chan, the son of King Ly Thanh Tong. He helped his father fight the Song invaders at Nhu Nguyet River (now Cau River) and sacrificed there. He was immortalized as one of the capital’s tutelary gods for his glorious victory over the northern (Chinese) invaders.

The temple’s gate (via youvivu)

According to legend, imperial concubine with surname of Nguyen (the wife of King Ly Thanh Tong) had become pregnant and gave birth a son, named Linh Lang (small dragon) whose body was covered with dragon scales and spots that shone like pearls after being showered with fragrant water by a dragon. Linh Lang had grown up when the Song Dynasty invaded the country. So he asked the King for troops and elephants to fight against the invaders. The King agreed and gave him two elephants and troops. When the elephants arrived Linh Lang ordered them to kneel so the troops could mount them. The elephants obeyed his order and took him and other military officials to the battlefield to defeat the invaders. Linh Lang had sacrificed when face each other in fighting enemy on the defense line of the Cau River.

To remember the merits of the prince, King Ly Thanh Tong bestowed the title His Royal Highness on Linh Lang and built the temple in his honour. In front of the temple are two kneeling elephants, hence the name Voi Phuc is called by the residents.

The place of Voi Phuc Temple is also a historical relic. In May 1882, the mandarin of the court under King Ham Nghi, Ton That Thuyet together with the General of Black Flag Troop, Luu Vinh Phuc had ambushed French Army and two colonels Villers and Henri Riviere had been killed here.

Voi Phuc Temple (via youvivu)

The architecture of the temple

Over the vicissitudes of history, the temple was heavily damaged. From 1953 to date, this temple has been renovated several times. The most recent time is implemented by the authorities and people of Hanoi, this is one of activities to mark its 1,000th birthday of Thang Long – Hanoi in 2010.

Today, besides two elephants kneel in front of the temple, there are objects in the temple such as two bronze statues; a sacred stone with indentations; parallel sentences that praise the merits of the Thang Long Citadel’s Western Guardian God… In the early of 1994, people had donated to recast a bell of 93cm in height and 70cm in diameter. The bell’s body is divided into four zones and two rows of kanji are cast on each zone with meaning Tay Tran Thuong Dang (Top Class Western Guardian).

Every year, to commemorate the merits of Linh Lang God, Voi Phuc Temple Festival is held on the 9th to the 11th day of the second lunar month. This is a grand procession festival with flags, fans, gongs, drums, parasols, bat am (cantanets) musical band and senh tien group dancing.

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