Am Vai Pagoda is situated in Nam Duong commune, Luc Ngan, Bac Giang province. It was built on a mountain of the same name, the Am Vai Mountain. The distance from the foot of the mountain to Am Vai pagoda is about 5 km.
To reach the pagoda, you will need to travel through many mountain passes and slopes. But the scenery is worth the journey.
Am Vai pagoda is located in a favorable location in accordance with the Feng Shui instruction book. “Looking toward the sun with mountain on the back, vast lake or space in front”. The back of the pagoda is a mountain, and the front of the pagoda is a vast valley full of sunshine and winds beside the Luc Nam River which still flowing for thousands of years up to now. Farther up to the sunrise is the large and high area of Yen Tu forest where King Tran Nhan Tong established Truc Lam sect more than 700 years ago. Since then thousands of monks have been trained by the three Patriarchs Tran Nhan Tong, Phap Loa and Huyen Quang.
When Truc Lam sect became an independent dhyana, Am Vai Pagoda was the place to receive many monks to attend the monastery. It became an important branch of the dhyana to connect with other Buddhist centers in Vietnam such as Vinh Nghiem, Quynh Lam and Yen Tu.
According to some archaeologists, the Am Vai Pagoda was originally a small temple. In the Tran dynasty, there was a Buddhist nun (a Princess of Tran dynasty) practiced her religious life there. Therefore, the new temple is called Am Vai (Vai means Buddhist nun, Am means little pagoda). Later in the Le dynasty, perhaps the temple was rebuilt with a larger scale. The layout of the pagoda is in the shape of the Chinese word (工) “Công ( working in general)”, while the outside is surrounded by the shape of the word (口) “Khẩu ( Mouth)” or (國) “Quốc ( Country)” on an area of about 2,500 square meters, with several establishments such as forecourt, three refuges, corridors, the worshiping house of founders, the house of monks.
The temple was just left only the ruins due to war chaos, and lacked of restoration, and embellishment. From 1990 onwards, the people of Nam Duong commune (mainly Bieng villagers) rebuilt the pagoda. People used rice ball and rice dumpling to convey backpack filled up with sand, lime.
We looked at the stone tower built of old light brown color sandstone for long time. The roof edging of the tower recorded four Chinese characters meaning “Precious Lotus Tower”. The art of carving on the tower and the contents of the ancestral tablet saved in the tower are important remnants of the early birth of this ancient pagoda.
Many people still say that: Am Vai pagoda is very sacred. Especially for couples who wanting to have a baby or wishing to have a boy to maintain the continuity of family line.
Along the mountain trail, we stopped by Money Cave, Rice Cave. The legend has it that there was a master living in the pagoda. Next to the pagoda, there were to caves. Every day the two caves gave off an amount of money and rice that is just enough for the master to use in the day. One day he tried to enlarge the caves, hoping that he will get more money and rice. Therefore from that moment the cave stopped flowing out neither money nor rice. Pilgrims who crossing here always burned incense to pray for fortune and luck at the caves.
Although the pagoda is located at an altitude of 438 meters above sea level, but water flows from the underground all year round, creating the “Fairy Well”. Next to the pagoda there is a big tamarind tree hanging with countless green and juicy bunches of berries.
The trail sloped upward gradually, weaving between mountain sides with limitless expanse of Alang grass. It is here and there in the midst of the grass-plots, standing resurrection plants with wind and dew stature such as Memecylon edule, indigoberry, tammarin, myrtle, myrtly and so on.
Going to Am Vai pagoda, visitors will enjoy spectacular views of mountain scenery, poetic village, the fresh water flowing all year round, and get immersed in the nature.