Mystery of an Enormous Nearly 1.000 Years Old Tower in Vinh Phuc


Unpredictably, right in Song Lo District has a masterpiece, impressive and ancient. Asking an old woman who is watering her vegetable in the field, she immediately reads two lines of poetry. Meaning of these lines are “If someone goes to Then River port/Spend a time to see a fairy tower standing by the road”

Standing from a far we can see a bright and cheerful red tower jutting out over the bamboo bushes. Female bronze Thich Buu Dao is completely wrapped up in pulling grass at the foot of the tower. It is a pity seeing the ancient and beautiful tower is fallen into such a topsyturvydomed   and devastated circumstances.

Thich Buu Dao firstly became a nun in Hai Phong. Ten year ago, she went traveling to Tam Son Commune. She saw here a tower standing lonely in a hill, next is Vinh Khanh pagoda collapsed completely. She felt very sad at her heart. Out of the tower, the pagoda remains a frangipane, a streblus and a huge and bizarre Malayan banian tree. The nun thinks that she should have responsibility for re-constructing this ancient tower, which was built from Ly dynasty.

She worked very hard for ten years, restored part by part but Vinh Khanh pagoda is still disorderly. The tower seems to be forgotten.

A Strange Legend  

According to Thich Buu Dao, the name of the Tower is Binh Son or Then Tower (Vinh Khanh pagoda or Then pagoda). There is nearly no historic information of the tower, but there are many folk legends relating to the tower. One of them is the legend of Nguy Do Chiem.

The story is that: in the old time, there is market near the Binh Son Tower. A strange mother carried a son there. She erected a hut to sell water under the baynian tree in the top of the market. One day, on the way to the Confucian scholar to learn, her son, Chiem, heard vaguely from a distance “you are going to be happy”.

 He tells his mother that sentence. Thinking that they were support by Holy, she went to the tower and worshiped. Suddenly three stones having the kitchen God figure dropped from the top of the Tower. She brought them back the hut and made up a three – legged stove. She heats and heats but the stones are still bright red, no soot blackened. 

After some time, there were some geographers from the North dropped at her hut for drink. They saw the three nice stones and told her “you gift us your three stones, we will help you to choose a good place for burying your husband’s mortal remains”

She agreed and led them to her native village then she buried her husband in Sang Mountain. It is not far from Binh Son tower.

When she was at the point of death, she called her son and told him “ the geographers told that when you have flag, sword you have to go and cult before father’s tomb”. At the time, there were many gangs of robbers. The robbers often robbed village people’s property and maltreated the decent people there. Chiem gathered the young and drilled kungfu. At night, they took it in turn to guard the people. Chiem was elevated to the status of leader. Having flag and sword, he remembered his mother advice, Chiem weent to the mountain to cult his father’s tomb. When going to the tomb, he saw two snakes. He thought they were his parents. He worshipped them.

The robbers took nothing, they spread news that there was a youth named Chiem. This youth recruited troops to betray the Court. The news quickly reached the Court. The Court dispatched its troops to fight him. However, when the troops go to Lap Thach, their elephants, horses neigh and do not go. They are forced to go back. Many times the troops of the Court were defeated. Chiem’s name became stronger and stronger. The Court called him Nguy Do Chiem. 

Some Chinese geographers wanted to help Chiem to be a small mandarin. However, his name grew fast. He could become a King then he could fight against the Chinese. They found a solution to kill him. So they met and told him that: “your father’s and mother’s tombs thrive but insufficiency of the dragon’s hand. To have it, you have to make a canal from Sang Mountain through your parents’ tombs”.

Chiem immediately made the canal. When completing the canal, he felt too exhausted while the Court troops came; the local troops and people were broken. Chiem carries his sword to come into the Tower and disappears.

Nguy Do Chiem is a chracter often seen in the legend story in the ancient land of Lap Thach and Song Lo Districts.

 A Mysterious Tower

 Binh Son Tower was discovered and studied from the French rule. A French scholar thought that the Tower belonged to Ta La architecture art under Tang dynasty and it was constructed in 7th century.

Thich Buu Dao, is now Vinh Khanh pagoda keeper, thinks that it is constructed by Champa people because, in the old time, this area might be a jail for Champa soldiers. She has visited many Champa towers and this tower very much like them.

However, our scientists think that the tower was constructed under Ly dynasty and restored under Tran dynasty. The tower can be affected by Champa culture, but it was constructed by the hands and brains of Viet people under Ly-Tran dynasty. It is granted that many works affected by Champa culture in the North under Ly dynasty, i.e. Dam stone pillar in Bac Ninh Province with Reproduction carving.

In early 1960 years, the dyke of Lo River was broken, constant flooded, Binh Son Tower was inclined and it was likely to collapse. The top Tower was dropped and some of its tile was broken. Vinh Phu Department of Culture and Ministry of Culture decided to restore the Tower.

The restoration was conducted in 1972 under the fierce war. People had to dismantle each tile and marked. The dismantled tile was imprinted into gypsum for having its original sample.

Huong Canh artisans were mobilized to create such tiles. They made the tiles have notch and complicated patterns as the original. They selected and used special earth, for example: they used the un-shrunk red soil in Vuon Sui Hill; the adhesive and fine green china clay from Dam Mat Hill; Mong Chau Soil was a main raw material then they make a compound to create such complicated tiles of Ly dynasty.

According to history, every 100 unfired tiles they chose 1 tiles of the original. After burning by straw of 48 chosen tiles only 1 tile met the requirement. The time for having the broken tiles lasted two years and they had to reject thousands of the unfired and fired tiles. Such a great work!     

It is pity that during the fierce war, many researchers and scientists paid special attention to the Tower, but in the peaceful time as present, the Tower seems to be fallen into oblivion so the extremely and beautiful and oldest article works is not fully studied and known far and wide.



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