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Pictures of Vietnamese Buddhist Temples in Vietnam.

The following article is from Andrew Forbes / CPA 2005.

Chua Viet, or Vietnamese Buddhist Temples, are similar to, and yet distinct from, their Chinese equivalents. The Vietnamese pagoda is usually a single-storeyed structure rather than a multi-tiered tower. Most will have a sacred pond-usually replete with sacred turtles-a bell tower, and a garden.

The main building of the pagoda consists of several rooms. At the front are three doors which are only opened for major religious festivals. Behind these doors lie a front hall, a central hall, and the main altar hall, usually arranged in ascending levels. Behind the temple, or to the side, are living quarters for monks - or, if the pagoda is served by women, nuns. There will also usually be one or more subsidiary altar rooms specifically dedicated to the rites of ancestor worship, where funerary tablets and pictures of deceased monks and relatives are displayed.

Chua Viet are immediately distinguishable from Theravada temples by their lavish use of dragon (long) rather than snake (naga) imagery. These are not the dangerous, destructive creatures of Western mythology, but the noble and beneficial dragons of imperial Chinese tradition. Look for them outside on the eaves and the apex of main roofs; inside they may be twined around supporting pillars, holding up altars, and guarding doorways.

Inside the main sanctuary are representations of three Buddhas. These are A Di Da, or Amitabha, the Buddha of the past; Thich Ca Mau Ni, or Sakyamuni, the historic Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama; and Di Lac, or Maitreya, the Buddha of the future. Buddhas are distinguished by their elongated ear lobes, the presence of an urna, or third eye, in the middle of their foreheads, and their tightly curled hair. They are usually represented in one of the classical mudras, or attitudes, and seated on a throne, often in lotus form.

Close by will be statues of the eight Kim Cang, or Genies of the Cardinal Directions, as well as various La Han, or Arhats, and Bo Tat, or Bodhisattvas. These are usually depicted as princes, wearing rich robes and crowns or headdresses. A popular image is that of Quan Cong - usually rosy-cheeked and green-cloaked, accompanied by his two trusty companions, General Chau Xuong and the Mandarin Quan Binh, and often with horse and groom.