Binh Son Tower




Under the Ly-Tran dynasty, there are many towers in Vinh Phuc Province. Tower is a part of the important art of pagoda. Together with pagoda, tower is a place for Buddhist worship in commeration and laying the bronze mortal remainings. The storeys of the Tower represent the step of leading to the religious life then to Nirvana of the bronze.

Among the remaining towers, Binh Son Tower is the highest one. Its pen name is Vinh Khanh Pagoda or The Pagoda (in Lap Thach now is Song Lo District). The Tower has 15 storeys as the legend. The old people here say on the top of the Tower, there is an unblosomed Lotus flower cubic made of terra cotta, which makes the Tower has a rising up form, very beautifull. At present time, the Tower has 11 storeys and 1 platform. It is 16.5m high in total. The Tower is a square, gradually small to its top. Its lowest door is 4.45m wide and the highest door is 1.55m. 13,200 terra cotta tiles construct the Tower with 2 types: the square type is 0.22 x 0.22, and the other is rectangular 0.45 x 0.22m. In the middle of the Tower is a small space from its platform to the top. Its outer is paved by the square tile, 0.46m each side. On the surface of these tiles, people carve the various beautifull patterns such as lemon flower, baynian leaf, lion plays with the ball, winding dragon etc…Normally, one tile is carved one pattern but in rare case, the pattern is carved on 2 or 4 jointed tiles. The decorative work is very precise, liberal and strong figure full of art vital force of the prospecious self-control feudalism regime of Ly-Tran Dynasty (XII-XIII centuries).

The recent study points out that the tile used to build the Tower is the tile of high temperature burning. In order to erect vertically the tile on the Tower sides without mortar, the brick maker produces the special tile. That is that, each tile has a notch and edge to hold each other. This method is applied to build the platform. The other tile is that each tile has a small hole of trapezium. Two tiles place together shall make a small hook then the building worker will pour the liquit lead into this hook for two tiles couple closely. This method is applied to build the foot of the Tower.

The foot of the Tower has many pedal belts of lotus flourwer, so the Tower looks imaginably as if it grown out from the big lotus flourwer. The second storey of the Tower is 2.27m high, 3.30m wide. Four sides have mason bee nets each and six vertical rectangulars. Each support has three round case on which is a embossed dragon carving. Body of the dragon is winding lying on the buttercup creeper. These embossed dragon cases are put into the sunken buttercup carving cases having a shape of a comma. These four mason bee net doors have eight rectangular cases each side. Each case is decorated by a five-storey small tower with the corona radiating to four directions. Out of the small towers, we can see the other embossed decoratives as baynian leave, daisy creeper, creeping flouwer. In the eighth storey, we can see the decoration of small tower. All the 11 storeys are decorated by various flouwer padals, lion playing with ball, winding baynian leave, lemon flouwer etc…Each storey we also can see the tile jutted out a little as a roof. According to the words of the old painter Nguyen Son (he is an ex-Vinh Khanh Pagoda keeper) and the old in the commune, each lower storey has a Goddess of Mercy statue.

The dragon decorated on Binh Son Tower is that of horn dragon and winding, its head is slipped in the middle, its feet trample out, its back has a serrated form, one of its front foot strokes its hair. The dragon play with the ball figure in the foot of the Tower is in simple decoration, no vignette on the bodies of the two dragons, they are plain dragons only. This pair of the dragons does not tuern their heads oppositely; does not raise their feet to play the ball as lie in other pagodas but one dragaon advances toward the ball and the other surpasses the ball, turns its head back and the ball is on his tail.

According to Bezacier, a colonian scholar supposed that the date of Binh Son Tower bearing “Art of Tai La”. It means that it belongs to the culture of Tang Dynasty imported to Viet Nam in the Kao Bien period (about VII century). Kao Bien is a mandarin governed Giao Chau prefecture. This standpoint wants to separate this masterpiece of art of grahic depict out of local culture and bearing a national disdainfulness, increasing the “civilization” of the invaders. Now a day, the researchers of the art of graphic depict of Viet Nam affirm that Binh Son Tower is the art works of Viet Nam, made by the hands and brain of Vietnamese people from the Ly-Tran Dynasty. The absolute date of the Tower is still a mysterious question needing the further study and attention of the researchers.

Song Lo (former is Lap Thach) people or visitors from far and wide when going from Xuan Hoa Town to Then river port to Phu Tho or from Then river port to Xuan Hoa then to Vinh Yen, even no time to visit Vinh Khanh Pagoda but spend some time to look at the Tower, the Tower exists nearly 1,000 years old but still maintaining the dazzling bright red of the terra cotta tile, no mossgrow and resound the gentle advice from bygone days. 


1. Thap Rice Field in Tu Yen Commune.

The elderly say the present Tower is build originally in the middle of Nau rice field, Yu Yen Commune. But for unknown reasons, only through a fierce storm and a very heavy rain night, the Tower suddently “jumps” to Tam Son Commune territory as it is now. At present, Tu Yen people call Nau field as Tower field.

2. A Golden Duck

Legend has it that once upon a time, in the West of the Tower has aonther green tower. One night, people living surrounding the tower heard a bang then the tower dispears. In the location of the collapsed tower, it becomes water well having a foot shape. Its heel turns to the Southwest and its water always changes color: when it is quite clear, when yellow, when red and when it is blue…The elderly also tell that in the bright moon night, a duck is swimming in the well. The well now exists, but no people in Tam Son Commune can see the goldem duck.

3. Story on Nguy Do Chiem

In the old time, near the Binh Son Tower is a market. A mother and a son, unknown reason from where to come, erect a hut to sell water under the baynian tree in the top of the market. Her son goes to school every day but on the way to his school, he hears vaguely from a distance “you are going to be happy”. He tells his mother that sentence. His mother brings betel, areca, and water to the Tower, then shr knees for cult. Suddently, three stones having the kitchen God figure drop from the top of the Tower. She brings the back the hut and makes up a three – legged stove. She heats and heats but the stones are still bright red, no soot blackened. 

After some time, some people who selling glue drop at her hut for drinking water. They keep looking at the Tower and the stones fo the stove. One of the guset asks her to give him the stones. In addition, if it is done, he will show her the best place to cover her mortal remaings husband. Right that night, she leads the guests to back her native village to bring her husband’s remains to burry in Hinh Nhan Hill at the foot of Sang Mountain. When she is at the point of death, she calls her son and tells him the old day guests told her that when you have flag, sword you have to go and cult before your father’s tomb. On the way there, meeting anything, any animal you have to kill it. When he is grown up, his name is Chiem. He always helps people so people are very kind of him. At the time, there is a gang of robbers. The robbers often maltreat the decent people there. Chiem gathers the young and go to the mountain to drill. At night, they take it in turn to guard the people. Chiem is elevated to the status of leader. Having flag and sword, he remembers his mother advice; Chiem goes to the mountain to cult his father’s tomb. When he just comes out of his hut, he meets a pregnant woman, who often helps his mother before; he could not dare to kill her. When going to the tomb, he sees two snakes. He thinks these are souls of his father and mother appeared, he dares not kill also. He puts away his sword and cults and go back.

On the next day, he mobilizes people going to the mountain to bring rock and lay on the road in Dong Que Commune. The road is made only one night. People do not know how many people to take part in this work, but they collect many loads of farmer’s pipe. Seeing that, a rascal refers to the mandarin that Chiem gathers troops to betray the Court. The Court dispatches 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. Chiem’s name is stronger and stronger. The Court calls him Nguy Do Chiem. 

Some guests in the lod days live in China. They look at the astronomy and know that Chiem does not kill people, animal (if he kills people and animal, he can be a small mandarin but he has a well-off life for his whole life. As he does not kill people and animal, he can be a King the he can fight against the Chinese). Therefore, they find a solution to kill him. They meet and tell him that: “yuor farther’s and mother’s tombs thrive but insufficience of the dragon’s hand. To have it, you have to make a canal from Sang Mountain through their tombs. Chiem immediately make the canal. When completing the canal, he feels too exhausted while the Court troops come; the local troops and people are broken. Chiem carries his sword to come into the Tower and disappears.

4. The Observatory Station for Watching the French Motor Boat

During 1947-1948 years, on the top of Binh Son Tower has a big baynian tree. The old people say its roots go through the Tower down to the earth. A group of our gurinlar climbs the root upto the top of the Tower to view the motor boat of the French in order to inform their commander to fight them. Only the Tam Son people tell about this event, and it is not found in the Lap Thach history book. Anyway, we consider it as a folk legend of Binh Son Tower. 


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