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A popular saying goes: "Even after 100 years of virtuous religious life, if you don't come to Yen Tu you cannot be called a true religious person". Pilgrimage to Yen Tu Festival in respect of Buddha and sightseeing is so meaningful...

Situated within the immense arched mountain range of north-eastern Vietnam, Yen Tu Mountain in northern coastal Quang Ninh Province bears at its peak the Dong Pagoda: at an altitude of 1,068m above sea level. The beauty of Yen Tu consists in the majesty of its mountains mingling with the ancient and solemn quietness of its pagodas, shrines and towers. Yen Tu has been a centre of Buddhism for many centuries, and is the starting point of the Buddhist sect of Truc Lam. Travellers to Yen Tu Festival to stay away from the mundane and go on a religion pilgrimage in the midst of the mighty nature.
Yen Tu Festival - Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh

The history...

Under the Ly Dynasty, Yen Tu held the Phu Van Pagoda, with Yen Ky Sinh as its warden. But Yen Tu only really became a Buddhism centre when Emperor Tran Nhan Tong surrendered his throne to establish a Buddhist sect called Thien Truc Lam and became the first progenitor with the religious name Dieu Ngu Giac Hoang Tran Nhan Tong (1258-1308). He ordered building hundreds of constructions, large and small on Yen Tu Mountain for leading a religious life, sermonizing. After his death, his successor, Phap Loa Dong Kien Cuong (1284 - 1330) the second progenitor of Thien Truc Lam, compiled a set of book “Thach that ngon ngu” and ordered the building of 800 pagodas, shrines and towers with thousands of value statues throughout 19 years of religious life. Some famous pagodas are Quynh Lam, Ho Thien. There is the third progenitor of Thien Truc Lam, Huyen Quang Ly Dao Tai (1254 - 1334), in the sermonizing centre of Phap Loa.

Passing through to the Le and Nguyen Dynasties, Yen Tu became the focal point of Vietnamese Buddhism, and was often subject to restorations. It is a meeting place of different styles from various historic periods: visible in the many different designs and decorations that ornate its constructions.

The mountain scenery and beautiful pagodas and hermitages, inspired King Tran Nhan Tong, who reigned over the country from 1279 to 1293, to pass the throne to his son to lead the life of a Buddhist monk at Yen Tu. There, he founded the Truc Lam medication sect, making Yen Tu the country’s leading Buddhist center.

... and the festival

Yen Tu Festival commences annually on the 10th day of the first lunar month and lasts for three months. Tens of thousands of pilgrims begin their journey to the uppermost shrine after a solemn ritual held at the base of Yen Tu Mountain.

During the festival, the people near and far flock to Yen Tu which was regarded as the Buddhist land to show their belief and aspiration or to get rid of all sorrows and sadness. Other go to Yen Tu to do sightseeing and to enjoy the pure atmosphere of a mountain region. Foreign visitors come to Yen Tu to witness a famous beauty spot, a mysterious tourist attraction. Many cultural and historical values are carefully preserved in Yen Tu, where is also home to a rare ecosystem in Vietnam.  
Yen Tu Festival - Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh

In the wide ensemble of vestiges in Yen Tu, there are 11 pagodas and hundreds of shrines and towers. One form of entertainment is to climb the peak to where the Dong Pagoda was built (1,068m above the sea). On the way, you will see pagodas, a tower, a stream and a forest. At the top, after having burned joss-sticks, you seem to be lost in nature somewhere between the sky and the earth. When clear, you can perceive almost all of the northeast area from here.

The route of the pilgrimage from the foot of the mountain to the pagoda is nearly 30 km. The highest point of Yen Tu is Dong Pagoda, which is located 1,068 m above sea level. You can get to Hoa Yen Pagoda at the altitude of 534m by the cable car system recently put into operation and will see on this peak two 700-year-old frangipane trees. From there, you will continue walking up stairs to pagodas of minor note lined up along the path leading to Dong Pagoda. There you will feel like walking on clouds. If the weather is agreeable, from this summit you can admire the dramatic landscape of the northeast of Vietnam.

The complex of historical sites and beauty spots in Yen Tu features various pagodas, shrines or stupas now appearing now disappearing under the thick foliage of the primary show their belief, or doing away with all sorrow and sadness. Others go to Yen Tu to do sightseeing and to enjoy the pure atmosphere of a mountain region. Foreign visitors come to Yen Tu to witness a famous beauty spot, a mysterious tourist attraction. Anyone who makes all the way to the Bronze Pagoda feels the magnificence of Yen Tu and forests. Atop Yen Tu Mountain, one feels like standing by the Heave Gate shrouded in white cloud. On clear days one can have a partial view of the northeastern region...
Source: Vietnam Beauty

In recent: The website of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) turned Yen Tu relic site in Vietnam’s northeastern province of Quang Ninh into the list of nominated heritages in the next period.

Accordingly, some criteria to propose for the Yen Tu landscape as world cultural heritage as follows:
  • Located on the 1,068m-high Yen Tu Mountain, the 20,000ha site is considered the capital of Vietnamese Buddhism, where in the 13 th century, King-Monk Tran Nhan Tong (1258-1308) founded the first Vietnamese School of Buddhism called “Thien Tong” or Tuc Lam Yen Tu Zen. 
  • The complex is a demonstration of an interaction between human beings and nature, reflecting the uninterrupted residence of people, especially Buddhism followers, since thousands of years ago. 
  • Besides numerous temples, it also preserves many old religious and cultural documents such as precious prayer-books and monks’ writings.
Yen Tu was recognised as a Special National Relic Site in September 2012. It was also selected as one of the 10 most popular spiritual destinations in Vietnam by the Vietnam Records Organization.
Source: Cinet
Yen Tu Festival - Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh
Dong pagoda - in peak of Yen Tu mountain

Travel tips:
If you plan to visit Yen Tu, you should avoid in local festival season (After Vietnamese Tet holiday around Feb to May)

Here are some photos from website of Yen Tu site's board members:

Yen Tu Festival - Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh
Buddha stone steles

Yen Tu Festival - Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh
Bridge in Giai Oan spring

Yen Tu Festival - Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh
Cable car

Yen Tu Festival - Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh
Hoa Yen pagoda

Yen Tu Festival - Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh
Tower garden

Yen Tu Festival - Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh
Cable car station over view

Yen Tu Festival - Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh
A conner of tower garden

Yen Tu Festival - Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh
Yen Tu in  a moon night

Yen Tu Festival - Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh
Hue Quang tower garden

Yen Tu Festival - Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh
Van Tieu pagoda

Yen Tu Festival - Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh
Buddha statue

Yen Tu Festival - Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh
Tower garden over view

Yen Tu Festival - Yen Tu Mountain in Quang Ninh
Hoa Yen pagoda

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