Bach Ma Temple – Hanoi travel guide

Bach Ma Temple - Hanoi travel guide

Bach Ma (White Horse) Temple is located at number 76 Hang Buom Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. From 200 B.C. to 939 A.D, Vietnam was dominated by Chinese feudalism and in 866, the Tang Dynasty mandarin, Cao Pian, ordered the Đai La Citadel (now known as Hanoi) to be built bordered by the Red, To Lich, and Kim Nguu rivers.

According to the legend, when Cao Pian went out to the east gate one day, he saw a stranger appearing in a 5-colour cloud. That night, Pian dreamt of the stranger, who called himself Long Đo, and Pian had his bronze hammer buried for exorcism. The following night a great storm raged and in the morning the hammer was broken into sandy pieces. Pian was very frightened so he built a temple to appease the Long Đo deity.

In 1010, King Ly Thai To transferred the capital of Đai Viet (now known as Việt Nam) from Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh) to the Đai La Citadel and renamed it Thăng Long (now Hanoi. He tried to rebuild the citadel many times but it always fell down. The King ordered the people to pray at Long Đo Temple and he saw a white horse come out from the temple. The King knew this was an omen so he had the citadel designed to resemble the traces of the horse’s harness and finally it was successfully completed. Long Đo was named the tutelary god of the Thang Long Citadel by King Ly Thai To and became known as the god of Mount Nung in the royal capital of Thang Long. According to a legend, Mount Nung had a deep canyon which was the receiving location of miraculous air for Thang Long Capital.

Located in the center of Hanoi’s ancient quarter, Bach Ma temple is an isolated religious relic that runs in a long, narrow path from its facade on Hang Buom Street to the back door on Ngo Gach Street.

According to its existing steles, Bach Ma underwent large scale renovations during the reign of Le Chinh Hoa (1680–1705) and was further repaired in the 20th year of the Minh Mang reign (1820-1841). The temple was enlarged and had its own shrine, steles, and phương đình (square pavilion) which made it a more solemn place. The temple was again renovated and upgraded in the year 2000.

The temple has a wooden framework with big iron-wood columns. The rafters joining together to form a weight-bearing structure and an art-work abundant in decorative carvings. The incense-burning house has a carapace-shaped roof.

Bach Ma Temple is a unique architectural construction and one of the four district gate temples of ancient Thang Long. The district gates and their temples are located at the four compass points of the city: Quan Thanh Temple to the north, Bach Ma Temple in the east, Kim Lien Communal House and temple in the south, and Voi Phục (kneeling elephant) Temple to the west

Among these temples, Bach Ma is the oldest and its existence has been documented over one thousand years since the Ly and Tran Dynasties. Today it contains many valuable relics such as stone steles, altars, shrines and statues. Along with architectural and artistic merit, Bach Ma Temple is also a valuable resource for researching and studying the history of Thang Long–Hanoi.


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