Besides determining the plan, scale and structure of Ngu Dai Pagoda through historical periods, the archaeological team also collected a large amount of relics...
Archaeological excavation team at Ngu Dai Pagoda
Over a year of conducting archaeological excavation at Ngu Dai Pagoda in Hoang Tien ward (Chi Linh), the archaeological team has obtained many important relics, further affirming the values of the Pagoda in the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism system.
Thousands of ancient relics
According to some epitaphs remaining at the ruins of Ngu Dai Pagoda, the Pagoda was also known as Kim Quang Tu, and was built under the reign of King Tran Minh Tong, around 1320. The Pagoda used to be of large scale, magnificence but it was damaged through historical upheaval. Thanks to the early orientation to preserve and promote the values of this relic, in 2019, the provincial leaders agreed on the policy of investment in the exploration and archaeological excavation of relics at Ngu Dai Pagoda. In August 2019, with the consent of Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the National Museum of History in coordination with the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism conducted an exploration and excavation of Ngu Dai Pagoda on a total area of 1,200 m2. The results are positive when 4 architectural layers have been identified in 4 phases of construction, restoration and alteration of the relics. Specifically, the research results have proved that the Pagoda was built in the Tran dynasty at the beginning of the 14th century, restored in the early 17th century, and continued to be restored and renovated in the late 18th century and 19th century. In the early 20th century, the Pagoda was further invested in the new construction and relocated to its present position.
In addition to determining the plan, scale and structure of Ngu Dai Pagoda through historical periods, the team also collected a large amount of relics including 7 stone maps, 3,569 architectural decoration terracotta materials, 373 terracotta container templates, 1,756 terracotta container specimens, 1,689 ceramic container specimens, 235 copper coins, 39 metal ware of different kinds. These specimens dated from the dynasties of Tran, early Le, restorative Le, Nguyen, some Chinese templates (19th century), and the coins date from the Duong dynasty to the Minh dynasty (9th to 15th centuries).
The archaeological excavation team has also expanded the survey and exploration in the surrounding areas and discovered many places with traces of the pagoda and tower architectural works dating from the Tran dynasty. This further proves that in the Tran dynasty, Ngu Dai Pagoda was one of the pagodas belonging to Truc Lam Zen Buddhism system and had a close connection with the pagoda system in Yen Tu, Quynh Lam, Ngoa Van (Quang Ninh) as well as Thanh Mai, Con Son (Hai Duong) and Vinh Nghiem, Ma Yen, Am Vai, and Kham Lang (Bac Giang), forming a region of "Truc Lam Yen Tu Buddhist Triangle" that have resplendently developed as shown in history.
Some relics found during the archaeological excavations at Ngu Dai Pagoda
Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Chat, Deputy Head of Research-Collectibles Dept. of the National Museum of History, head of the archaeological excavation team of Ngu Dai Pagoda said: "It is no coincidence that people in the region have passed each other a saying "The first Ngu Dai, the second Yen Tu." In the 13th and 14th centuries, Buddhism was considered the national religion of Dai Viet country, having a profound influence on the cultural and spiritual life of its people. Truc Lam Buddhist Zen sect has the spirit of reincarnation and the system of theory and action associated with life. The Tran dynasty built many pagodas and towers to propagate the Dharma, and as a place for Buddhists to practice. Therefore, the investment in building many pagodas and towers from the coastal area of Van Don island (Quang Ninh) extending to the Chi Linh area (Hai Duong) in the Tran dynasty probably stems from this idea. "Along with the Van Kiep hamlet that King Tran built in Chi Linh, Ngu Dai Pagoda from the Tran Dynasty is certainly an important site in the strategy of combining Truc Lam Buddhism and the military base, ensuring the security for the Northeast of Dai Viet country”, Mr. Chat said.
From the results of archaeological survey, exploration and excavation, Dr. Pham Quoc Quan, Member of the National Cultural Heritage Council, former Director of the National Museum of History said: In the coming time, Hai Duong should soon prepare plans to protect the relics, and master plans for Ngu Dai Pagoda and continue to invest in researching and expanding archaeological excavation space to clearly determine the plan, scale and architectural structure of the pagoda and tower works in the area, increasing scientific values, creating a basis for preserving, restoring a space of cultural and spiritual tourism here.
The actual results obtained in the survey and excavation of Ngu Dai Pagoda are greatly important and timely at this time because this is not only the basis for the restoration and embellishment of the vestige items, in order to return the vestige to its inherent historical scale and stature, contributing to protect and honor typical historical and cultural values of the province. This also contributes an important part in providing scientific evidence for Hai Duong, together with Quang Ninh and Bac Giang, to prepare a dossier to submit to UNESCO for recognition of the Yen Tu group of relics and landscapes as a World Cultural Heritage.