Con Son Pagoda is located in Chi Linh, Hai Duong Province, about 70km from Hanoi city’s center. It is surrounded by other historical relics as well as the natural beauty of the mountainous landscape, pine forest and stream.
Con Son Mountain
Con Son Mountain looks like a resting lion. With a shrine on the top, its 238m northern ridge adjoins Ngu Nhac Mountain. Con Son borders U Bo Mountain and a valley with bamboo hedges to the west. Next to it is the 72-peak Phuong Hoang (phoenix) mountain range with its vast pine forests, sparkling streams, rugged cliffs and ancient towers and pagodas.
Con Son is also known as Tu Phuc or Hun. In the 10th century, Dinh Bo Linh, who would later become future King Dinh Tien Hoang, from Hoa Lu in present-day Ninh Binh Province rose up against 12 warlords competing for power. Pursued by Dinh Bo Linh’s forces, Pham Phong At, one of the warlords who ruled the northeast region, fled to Con Son Mountain to hide together with his entourage. Following the advice from his subordinate, Dinh Bo Linh set the forests on fire to smoke out the warlord, who had to surrender and was captured.
Con Son Pagoda
Located at the foot of Con Son Mountain is Con Son Pagoda built at the end of the 13th century. The pagoda was one of the three centers of the Buddhist Truc Lam Trinity under the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400). The pagoda was extended in 1329 and underwent several restorations during the 17th and 18th centuries and in the last few decades. But the pagoda’s slipper-shaped tiles and stone pedestals from the Tran Dynasty are still preserved.
The Pearl Well
Gieng Ngoc, or Pearl Well, is located on the side of Ky Lan Mountain at the foot of a tower. Legend has it that in the full moon night of the seventh lunar month, Huyen Quang, one of the founders of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism, sleeping in his room at Con Son Pagoda dreamt of seeing a shiny pearl on the side of the mountain. He wanted to get closer to scrutinize the pearl, but the sound of the pagoda’s bell woke him up. However, he could not stop thinking about his dream. So together with his assistants, Huyen Quang went to the mountain. There he found a well containing fresh and cool water. When the monk returned to the pagoda, he held a ceremony to thank the deities for the precious source of water. He also made the well deeper. Since then, the Pearl Well’s water has been offered in rituals at the pagoda.
The White Cloud Temple and Fairy Chessboard
Am Bach Van stands on the flat top of Con Son Mountain next to Ban Co Tien and several other large flagstones called “immortal chessboards” by local residents. Six hundred rocky steps lead up to the chessboards.
According to legend, visitors from Kinh Bac (northern citadel) arrived in Con Son on autumn afternoon. After offering incense and enjoying the scenery, the visitors stayed at the pagoda. Early the next morning, they went to the mountain to play chess and drink wine. On the way up the mountain they heard chatter and laughter. But when they reached the temple on the mountain’s top no one was there, just a board with chess pieces showing an interrupted game. The visitors thought that some heavenly deities must have ridden clouds to Con Son Mountain to play chess and hurried back to heaven when somebody approached the top of the mountain.
Con Son Stream
Aside from these magic places, Con Son boasts many pine tree forests, some having grown for several centuries, and several smaller forests of bamboo, myrtle and peony. When the spring comes, it looks as if Con Son wears a flower dress.
Gently flowing all year round, Con Son Stream is also a well-known tourist destination. Locals call the two large flat rocks on the stream’s banks Thach Ban (stone table). A legend says Nguyen Trai (1380-1442), a politician and poet under the post-Le Dynasty (1427-1789), used to sit on these rocks, composing poems and pondering national issues.
Nguyen Trai Temple
The temple was dedicated to Nguyen Trai, built at Con Son in December 2000 and inaugurated in 2002 in celebration of the 600th birthday anniversary of Nguyen Trai.
The constructions of the temple cover an area of 10,000m². The main temple stands at the foot of To Son Mountain, flanked by two mountains An Lac and Ngu Nhac. To its right is Con Son Stream. Inside the temple there are also the right and left ceremonial halls, inside and outside gates, stele house, the urn for burning votive offerings and Nghia Lake. The temple is a token of gratitude of the Vietnamese people to Nguyen Trai, the World Cultural Celebrity.