Phat Tich Pagoda is located in Phat Tich Village, Bac Ninh. The pagoda, 25km north-east of the capital, is located on Lan Kha Mountain. It was built in 1057 during the reign of King Ly Thanh Tong (1054-72).
In 1066, the king ordered a tower to be built at the south of the mountain. Legend has it that a monolithic green stone Buddha statue showed up right when the tower later collapsed.
The pagoda was reduced to ashes by French colonialists in 1948 and only restored in 1987.
Entering via the main gate, a beautiful stone paved road leads you to the main Buddha worshipping place. Five pairs of kneeling stone kylins, elephants and horses welcome guests from afar. These figures, along with the Buddha statue, which survived during wartime, were recognised by the Viet Nam Records Book as the biggest stone Buddha from the Ly dynasty and the largest carved sacred animals in the country.
Going deep inside, you are surprised by a row of 18 Arhat statues with different appearances; one with folded hands paying obeisance to the Buddha and another meditating on a lotus pedestal. There are also altars of Ly and Tran kings, who first built and expanded the pagoda.
Leave for the giant Buddha Amitabha statue, installed outdoor on the mountain in 2010. The stone statue is 27m tall and weighs 3,000 tonnes. It was adapted from a similar structure from the Ly Dynasty.
When excavating the pagoda from 1949-51, archaeologists found many old stone sculptures carved with flowers and dragons, bird goddess statues from the 17th century and a piece engraved with the head of a fairy. These are now on display at the National History Museum.
Referring to Phat Tich Pagoda, people often recall Tu Thuc Gap Tien (Tu Thuc Meets a Fairy). In the old days, there were a lot of peonies on Lan Kha Mountain and in the pagoda. One day, a young woman visited the pagoda to see the flowers. She carelessly broke a branch from a tree and was fined by the monks. Lucky for her, a local scholar Tu Thuc also visited the pagoda and took off his coat to compensate for the broken branch. They became friends and often met at the pagoda. The woman invited Tu Thuc to visit her house. She took him to a peony forest and a cave on the mountainside. Upon entering, he saw an imperial palace with high walls and stone footsteps. She revealed that she was a fairy and they got married.
Every year, people flock to the pagoda to take part in a peony festival on the fourth day of the first month in the lunar calendar. They enjoy watching the flowers, listening to quan ho (love duets) and poem recitations while playing traditional games.