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The Yen Tu Complex of Monuments and Landscapes

Date of Submission: 01/02/2021
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(v)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Viet Nam National Commission for UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Quang Ninh, Bac Giang and Hai Duong provinces
Ref.: 6508
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Description

The Complex of Yen Tu Monuments and Landscapes is a series of monuments and landscapes that belong to the three provinces of Quang Ninh, Bac Giang and Hai Duong, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. These monuments and landscapes are all located on a river-mountain system of the so-called Dong Trieu bow-shaped mountain range, the highest peak of which being Yen Tu mountain at an altitude of 1,068m asl. Having been formerly the "backbone", the "aorta" of Dai Viet[1], the area has witnessed many important geological processes/phenomena e.g. transgression-regressions, continental-oceanic interactions, changes of river courses, evolution from deltaic to estuary plains and vice versa etc. Having also long been considered the “holy land”, one of the “blessing lands” of Giao Chau1, homeland of the Tran family - the family that later established a brilliant feudal dynasty of Dai Viet in the 13-14 centuries, the “ancestral land” of Vietnam’s Truc Lam Zen Buddhism etc., this area is famous for many majestic landscapes, many historical-cultural relics, many traditions and beliefs that are of both tangible and intangible heritage values and are preserved and promoted for at least more than 700 years, demonstrating a unique cultural tradition - a typical tradition of exploiting and using land, mountains, rivers and seas of the Vietnamese people for many centuries.

The Complex of Yen Tu Monuments and Landscapes includes a series of monuments and landscapes that belong to 04 Vietnam’s Special National Monuments and some other related historical and cultural relic sites in the three provinces of Quang Ninh, Bac Giang and Hai Duong of Vietnam i.e.:

  • Yen Tu historic and scenic area (Uong Bi city and Dong Trieu town, Quang Ninh province), recognized by Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture[2] as a national historic and scenic area at Decision No. 15VH/QD dated March 13, 1974 and by the Prime Minister as a special national monument at Decision No. 1419/QD-TTg dated September 27, 2012;
  • Tran Dynasty historical relic area in Dong Trieu (Dong Trieu town, Quang Ninh province), recognized as a national monument by Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture at Decision No. 313/VH/QD dated April 28, 1962 and by the Prime Minister as a special national monument at Decision No. 2383/QD-TTg dated December 9, 2013;
  • West Yen Tu relic and scenic area (Yen Dung, Luc Nam, Luc Ngan and Son Dong districts, Bac Giang province). In this area is the Vinh Nghiem pagoda which is recognized as a national monument by Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture at Decision No. 29-VH/QD dated January 13, 1964 and by the Prime Minister as a special national monument at Decision No. 2367/QD-TTg dated December 23, 2015. The wooden blocks of Buddhist scriptures that are currently archived at this pagoda were recognized as Documentary Heritage of the UNESCO Asia-Pacific region Memory of the World Program in May 16, 2012. The Vinh Nghiem pagoda festival (held annually on February 12 lunar year) is recognized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013;
  • Con Son-Kiep Bac-Thanh Mai relic area (Hai Duong province). In this area are Con Son pagoda and Thanh Mai pagoda which are recognized as national monuments by the Ministry of Culture respectively at Decisions No. 313/VH/QD dated April 28, 1962 and No. 97-QD/VH dated January 21, 1992. The Con Son-Kiep Bac relic area is recognized by the Prime Minister as a special national monument at Decision No. 548/QD-TTg dated May 10, 2012; and
  • Some other relevant historical and cultural sites in the three provinces of Quang Ninh, Bac Giang and Hai Duong.

Accordingly, the Yen Tu Complex of Monuments and Landscapes consists of 3 main areas:

  • Yen Tu-Dong Trieu relic area (Quang Ninh province);
  • West Yen Tu relic area (Bac Giang province); and
  • Con Son-Kiep Bac-Thanh Mai relic area (Hai Duong province).

1.1. The Yen Tu-Dong Trieu relic area (Quang Ninh province)

1.1.1. The Yen Tu historic and scenic area

The Yen Tu historic and scenic area has an area of ​​about 9,295 hectares, including many religious architectural works of pagodas, temples and tower stupas built since the Ly Dynasty (1009-1225) along the route stretching from Bi Thuong (at the foot of the Doc Do Pass) to Yen Tu mountain summit in Phuong Dong ward, Thuong Yen Cong commune (Uong Bi city) and Hong Thai Dong commune (Dong Trieu town), Quang Ninh province.

From more than 700 years ago, the book “An Nam Chi Luoc” (Simplified Geographic of An Nam) already notes that Yen Tu is considered “the 4th blessing land of Giao Chau”. Many other historical documents also note “in the third year of Tu Duc Reign (1850), Yen Tu was listed in the book of holy mountains”.

Because of its mystic beauty and sacredness, Yen Tu was chosen by Vietnamese Buddhists and followers as their place for prayer. Long before Christ (B.C.) a Taoist called An Ky Sinh already went here to practice his religion and attained enlightenment. After that, many generations of Vietnamese kept coming to Yen Tu to practice Buddhism and build pagodas, stupas and other structures.

In particular, during the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400), Yen Tu had been invested to become a large complex of Buddhism pagodas and temples. King Tran Thai Tong (Tran Canh, 1218-1277) initiated by coming to Yen Tu in April, 1236 (Binh Than year in lunar calendar). Following that, King Tran Nhan Tong (Tran Kham, 1258-1308) - the heroic king who led the Vietnamese in the two great resistance wars against the Mongolian invaders in 1285 and 1288 to bring peace to the country - at the time of his reign prosperity also gave the throne to his son to concentrate on studying and practicing Buddhism in Yen Tu.

In 1299, Tran Nhan Tong founded Truc Lam - a Vietnamese line of Zen with a system of theories and actions that associated Buddhism with life. With a Buddhist name Dieu Ngu Giac Hoang, he was considered the first patriarch of Truc Lam Buddhism, followed by two successors Phap Loa (1284-1330) and Huyen Quang Ton Gia (1254-1334), all the three being called Truc Lam Tam To (Three Patriarchs of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism). Since then, Yen Tu became the spiritual capital of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism, marking the development of philosophy and thought of the Vietnamese in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. Associated with the history of Truc Lam Zen Buddhsim in Yen Tu, a complex of architectural constructions including hundreds of pagodas, temples, tower stupas, graves, memorial steles and statues was built in a majestic, poetic landscape of tens of kilometers of forests and mountains by generations of Buddhists, followers and the following Le and Nguyen feudal dynasties. These works clearly reflect the development of architecture, fine arts, sculpture, typical for the artistic talent of Vietnamese people at that time. The birth and development of Truc Lam Buddhism is a natural product of the era, associated with the glorious independence and self-control period of the Dai Viet civilization. The system of pagodas, temples, tower stupas, stelae etc. in Yen Tu are precious material historical documents associated with the name and religious career of King-Buddha Dieu Ngu Giac Hoang Tran Nhan Tong and generations of Zen masters thereafter.

The memorial stelae in Yen Tu are very informative. A list of Buddhists who practiced their religion here can be found; hence the history of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism can be understood. Throughout the Ly, Tran, Le and Nguyen dynasties, Yen Tu was the destination for many great Zen masters e.g. Hien Quang (Ly Dynasty), the three patriarchs of Truc Lam (Tran Dynasty), Chan Nguyen (Le Dynasty) and the Buddhist nun Dam Thai (Nguyen Dynasty). Some masters were from the royal family of Vietnam e.g. King-Buddha Tran Nhan Tong and Huyen Quang, respectively the first and the third patriarch of Truc Lam, but there were also some from China e.g. Bhikshu Minh Hanh.

The birth of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism in Yen Tu left behind precious written prayers and guide books, teaching monks and followers of the Zen sect to practice, repent, and practice ten virtues e.g.: “Thiền Lâm Thiết Chủy Ngữ Lục”, “Đại Hương Hải Ấn Thi Tập”, “Tăng Già Toái Sự”, “Thạch Thất Mỵ Ngữ”, “Truyền Đăng Lục”, “Thượng Sĩ Hành Trang” etc. They are valuable intangible cultural heritages that are being preserved alongside the nation’s history.

In addition, thanks to its natural diversity, Yen Tu is also regarded as an ecological museum. Next to the complex of pagodas, temples and tower stupas are forests filled with pine, bamboo and apricots trees. Throughout, architectural masterpieces can be seen in various ways: one might be hidden in the old forest, another is situated obviously in a wide, open space and the next could be hidden by the clouds. At the top of Yen Tu, visitors can look down to the East to enjoy Ha Long Bay with thousands of rocky islands forming a sort of diamond necklace; to the South to observe Hai Phong city along with the Da Bac and Bach Dang rivers flowing gently like a sparkling ribbon; to the West over the green fields of Hai Duong and Bac Ninh provinces, or to the North endless ranges of mountains. Every year, the Yen Tu festival begins on the 10th day of the first lunar month and takes place throughout the three months of spring.

Some representative monuments of the area are pagodas and tower stupas of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism and the Yen Tu National Forest. A few of them will be selected for detailed description to demonstrate the outstanding universal value, authenticity and integrity of the area in the nomination dossier.

1.1.1.1. The Truc Lam Zen Buddhism pagodas and tower stupas

  • Bi Thuong Pagoda (Bi Thuong village, Phuong Dong ward, Uong Bi city). Constructed at the end of the Hau Le Dynasty[3] on the southern slope of a steep hill, the pagoda plays the role of an “Entrance pagoda” before visitors make their pilgrimage to the Yen Tu historic and scenic area.
  • Suoi Tam Pagoda (Phuong Dong ward, Uong Bi city; Suoi = Stream, Tam = Bathing). The pagoda is associated with a legend that King-Buddha Tran Nhan Tong took a bath in this stream while climbing up the Yen Tu to practice his religion.
  • Cam Thuc Pagoda (Thuong Yen Cong commune, Uong Bi city and Hong Thai Dong commune, Dong Trieu town; Cam Thuc = Fasting). Shaped in the “” form and consisting of 6 compartments, the pagoda was built in the Tran Dynasty on a round-shaped hill. Over time, the ancient pagoda was demolished and restored many times. With time the pagoda was ruined, leaving only the foundation, a few fallen tower stupas and a mausoleum built in the Nguyen Dynasty. Although being only meare traces, they are enough to tell about the presence of the pagoda in the past. Based on these vestiges, in 1993 the pagoda was rebuilt on the old foundation.
  • Chua Lan Pagoda (Nam Mau village, Thuong Yen Cong commune, Uong Bi city; Lan = cling on). Built in the Tran Dynasty, this is the fourth pagoda on the way from Doc Do (the Do (Red) Pass) to Yen Tu. There is also a story by local people for the name of the pagoda. In the past, during the rainy season, the Nam Mau area was usually flooded with water. To get to the pagoda, one had to use a raft and the pagoda abbot had to stretch a rope for visitors to cling on. This gradually became a popular technique to go to the pagoda during the rainy flooded season, hence its name.
  • Giai Oan Pagoda (Thuong Yen Cong commune, Uong Bi city; Giai oan = Exculpate). Built in the Tran Dynasty, the pagoda is hidden by the foot of the mountain, leaning against the cliff, in front of the Giai Oan stream that is murmuring day and night, whispering the endless Zen song. Two mountain ranges on the left and right of the dragon’s head form the hands of a throne to surround the pagoda - a beautiful feng-shui land - makes the pagoda even more sacred.
  • Hoa Yen Pagoda (Thuong Yen Cong commune, Uong Bi city; Hoa = Flower, Yen = Smoke). Starting from a small shrine during the Ly Dynasty at an altitude of 600m asl, the pagoda was then built in the middle of a wide, gentle mountain slope with a very majestic terrain, still retaining many ancient relics. The pagoda builders had followed the mountain slope to make two large levels of foundation with solid rock-walls. Thin white clouds flying across the pagoda resemble smoke, hence the original name Van Yen pagoda (Van = cloud, Yen = smoke). During the Le Dynasty, when King Le Thanh Tong visited the pagoda, seeing the beautiful scenery here with hundreds of types of flowers blooming, clouds forming flowers on the front door, he changed the name to Hoa Yen pagoda.

Hoa Yen is the main pagoda of the Yen Tu pagoda system and is mentioned in many historical books. Accordingly, after ascending to Yen Tu to practice and attain enlightenment, King-Buddha Tran Nhan Tong regularly opened courses on Truc Lam Zen Buddhism for Phap Loa, Huyen Quang, Bao Sai, Phap Khong and many other disciples here.

After being given the robe and begging-bowl and becoming the second Truc Lam Zen Buddhism patriarch, Phap Loa built a bigger and more magnificent Hoa Yen pagoda. In addition to the front and the main halls for worshiping Buddha, the pagoda also has many other ancillary works e.g. the drump tower, bell tower, guest house, monasteries, scripture printing house, assembly hall etc., forming a large architechtural complex.

  • Mot Mai Pagoda (Thuong Yen Cong commune, Uong Bi city; Mot Mai = Half-roofed). Nestled on the side of the mountain in the middle of the sky, half hidden deep in the mountain cave, the other half exposed outside, the pagoda only has a part of the roof as its name suggests (also known as Ban Mai Pagoda). During the Tran Dynasty, this was just a small shrine - called Am Ly Tran (mundane distant shrine) - with a tranquil, serene scene, far away from mundane. King-Buddha Tran Nhan Tong often came here to read books and compose sutras. Texts and bibliographies were stored here and the pagoda was built at this place only after the King-Buddha attained Buddhahood.
  • Am Ngu Duoc, Am Thung Shrines (Thuong Yen Cong commune, Uong Bi city). Am Ngu Duoc was the place for medicine research and preparation, while Am Thung was the place for medicine production.
  • Bao Sai Pagoda (Thuong Yen Cong commune, Uong Bi city). When King-Buddha Tran Nhan Tong practiced in Yen Tu, there was only a cave shrine on the right behind the present-day pagoda. The shrine was called Ngo Ngu Vien, the meditation place of Bao Sai, a loyal disciple of King-Buddha Tran Nhan Tong. He was assigned by the King-Buddha to edit and publish all the scriptures of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism for teaching Buddhists followers throughout Dai Viet.
  • Van Tieu Pagoda (Thuong Yen Cong commune, Uong Bi city). At the beginning, when he just became a monk, King-Buddha Tran Nhan Tong built a shrine here to live, called Am Tu Tieu shrine, which became a pagoda only thereafter. From here, one can see the whole view of Giai Oan bus station and Uong Bi city, Quang Ninh province. Even further, one can see Hai Phong city, Bach Dang river like a soft silk ribbon. Because of this prime location, the King-Buddha chose to set up the shrine.
  • Chua Dong Pagoda (Thuong Yen Cong commune, Uong Bi city). At the time when the King-Buddha Tran Nhan Tong went to Yen Tu to practice, there was no pagoda but a very large square rock outcrop at the height of 1,068m asl, the highest peak of Yen Tu mountain range, behind was the steep cliff of Bac Giang province. The King-Buddha chose this place for meditation. During the Le Dynasty (1428-1527), the pagoda was built-donated by the wife of Trinh Lord. All architectural structures and worshiping objects in the pagoda were made of bronze to adapt to the all year around wet air. Due to the harsh nature, the pagoda was damaged and underwent many restorations. In 2007, it was rebuilt as it is today.

1.1.1.2. Yen Tu National Forest

Located in Thuong Yen Cong commune and Phuong Dong ward, Uong Bi city, the Yen Tu National Forest is representative of nature in the Yen Tu Complex of Monuments and Landscapes, still preserved intact hundreds of years ago. Yen Tu National Forest has a total area of ​​2,783 ha, encompassing all the relics of the Yen Tu historic and scenic area (the northern boundary bordering West Yen Tu Nature Reserve of Bac Giang province). Forest coverage accounts for 80% of the area, especially natural forest accounts for 64.6%. In particular, there are 321ha of forest that remains unaffected, including ecology-dominating species of Northeast Vietnam e.g., táu mặt quỷ (Hopea mollissima), táu muối (Vatica odorata), sến mật (Madhuca pasquieri), chẹo (Engelhardtia chrysolepis Hance), giẻ (Desmos chinensis), trâm (Syzygium zeylanicum), etc.

Yen Tu National Forest belongs to 2 climatic zones:

  • Below 700m asl, e.g. at Van Tieu and Bao Sai areas, is the tropical, multilayer forest.
  • Above 700m asl is the sub-tropical, year-round wet and cloud-covered forest.

Inventories show Yen Tu National Forest has 830 plant species, of which 38 are listed in the Red Book of Vietnam e.g. divisions of Pteridophyta, Gymno-spermatophyta and Magnoliophyta. There are many precious wooden species e.g. Gụ Lau (Sindora tonkinensis), Vàng Kiêng (Nauclea purpurea Roxb.), Thông Tra (Podocarpus neriifolius D. Don), Thông Tra lá ngắn (short-leaf Podocarpus neriifolius D. Don), Tùng La Hán (Podocarpus macrophyllus), Giổi Xanh (Michelia mediocris Dandy), Giổi Đỏ (Michelia tonkinensis), Sến Mật (Fassia pasquieri H. Lec), Đinh Thối (Hexaneurocarpon brilletii P. Dop), Vù Hương (Cinnamomum balansae) etc. Those that live since and along with King-Buddha Tran Nhan Tong and the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism include:

  • 700-year-old pines (there remain 242 trees).
  • Old frangipanis (Plumeria) (there remain 13 trees).
  • Vast bamboo (Phyllostachys) forest (Trúc Lâm = Bamboo Forest, wherefrom the name of the Zen Sect); and
  • Yellow apricot (Ochna integerrima) trees that bloom beautifully during spring.

The Yen Tu National Forest also has a rich and diverse fauna with 35 mammal species, 77 bird species, 34 reptile species, 15 amphibian species. There are a number of rare and precious animals that are still protected in Yen Tu such as: Big Loris (Nycticebus coucang), Red-faced Monkey, Snub-nosed Monkey, Otter Monkey, Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), Large Flying Squirrel, Iguana (Physignathus cocincinus), Pythons, Snakes, Golden Turtle etc.

1.1.2. Tran Dynasty historical relic area in Dong Trieu

The historical sites of the Tran Dynasty in Dong Trieu are located in the ancient An Sinh, now known as Dong Trieu, covering an area of 22,063ha and including many relics e.g. kings’tombs, pagodas, temples, shrines, tower stupas etc. Most of the relics are located in the communes/wards of An Sinh, Trang An, Tan Viet, Thuy An, Binh Khe of Dong Trieu Town.

As written in official historical books, Dong Trieu was the original hometown of the Tran family before it moved to Nam Dinh (province), which later became the cradle of the Tran Dynasty. The book “Dai Nam Nhat Thong Chi” (Dai Nam Comprehensive Encyclopaedia) has a paragraph saying: “According to the information written on the stele in Yen Sinh, the ancestors of the Tran Dynasty were from Yen Sinh, Dong Trieu district, who later moved to Tuc Mac, Thien Truong (Nam Dinh). That was why the Kings of the Tran Dynasty, who chose Yen Sinh to stay and practise Buddhism after leaving their throne, also chose this place for their burial”. According to family records of the Tran Dynasty, their ancestors were living in An Sinh. Most of men were strong fishermen who learned martial arts to fight against pirates. Women stayed at home to do farming or weaving works. Later, during one of his fishing trips, Tran Kinh discovered the coastal area of Thien Truong, which had abundant alluvial soils that were good for farming. He and other boatmen in his family gathered more local people, travelled to, re-settled in the new land and gave it a new name - Tuc Mac (now known as Tuc Mac Commune, My Loc District, Nam Dinh Province). From there the Tran family then established a new empire. In “Dong Trieu Huyen Phong Tho Ky” (a hand-written book in old Chinese), it is stated that: “The ancestors of the Tran family first resided in the commune of An Sinh. Most of them were fishermen. Later they moved to Tuc Mac, My Loc. Therefore, all Kings of the Tran Dynasty were buried in An Sinh after their death. Nowadays, there are old temples in An Sinh, Me Son worshiping the 8 Kings of the Tran Dynasty”.

In 1381, to protect the tombs from being robbed and ruined by Cham people, the Tran Dynasty moved them from Thai Binh and Nam Dinh (provinces) to An Sinh. It is written in the book “Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu” (Complete Annals of Đại Việt) “In June, statues from the tombs in Quac Huong (Nam Dinh) and Thai Duong (Hung Ha, Thai Binh), Long Hung and Kien Xuong were moved to the big mausoleum in Yen Sinh to avoid being destroyed by Cham people”. After that, the Dynasty built a large mausoleum including the Tu Phuc and Ngai Son tombs, and a big temple called An Sinh for worship purposes.

Dong Trieu is home to many historical and cultural heritage sites of many historical times. Among them the most noticeable are tombs, temples, shrines, pagodas and tower stupas of the Tran Dynasty with special architectural style, containing a precious archive of Han Nom (Sino-Vietnamese characters) records e.g., lacquered boards (engraved with Han Nom characters), epitaphs, pairs of wood panels (on which are inscribed paralleled sentences), ordination papers/panels etc. For the Tran Dynasty, Dong Trieu was not only the original hometown but also a special cultural centre.

The Tran Dynasty historical relic area in Dong Trieu includes original relics which have great historical and cultural value. Results from archaeological studies on these relics provide us with lots of information about the architectural style, the art of decoration and construction techniques, which is very useful for the conservation and restoration of other relics of the Tran Dynasty in the country.

Based on historical documents and findings from archaeological studies, it is agreed in all workshops and seminars on the historical relics of the Tran Dynasty in Dong Trieu that: Talking about Dong Trieu is talking about tombs of the Kings of the Tran Dynasty and the complex of temples, shrines, pagodas and tower stupas etc. - this is the largest, most representative and distinctive cultural centre of the Tran Dynasty. Most of the pagodas and tower stupas in Dong Trieu belong to the complex of pagodas and towers that represents the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism. In short, Quang Ninh (now Dong Trieu town and Uong Bi city) was the Buddhist capital and the cultural centre of the Dai Viet under the Tran Dynasty (while Thang Long (Hanoi), Thien Truong (Nam Dinh province) and Long Hung (Thai Binh province) were political centres).

Some representative monuments of the area include: Pagodas and tower stupas of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism; Mausoleums and tombs of the Tran family; Temples and shrines of the Tran family; and other related cultural-historical relics. A few of them will be selected for detailed description to demonstrate the outstanding universal value, authenticity and integrity of the area in the nomination dossier.

1.1.2.1. Pagodas and tower stupas of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism

  • Ngoa Van Pagoda (Tay Son village, Binh Khe commune, Dong Trieu town). In the Tran Dynasty, when King-Buddha Tran Nhan Tong came to Yen Tu, he built just a small temple here to practice meditation. Only after he left for nirvana were other Buddhist works built by later generations for religious practice to become the Ngoa Van Pagoda. Located on the Bao Dai mountain at about 600m asl, the pagoda is surrounded by a rich forest cover and cloud all year round, hence the name Ngoa Van (Ngoa Van = “lying in clouds”).
  • Quynh Lam Pagoda (Trang An ward, Dong Trieu town). Built on a low hill of a slope that descends down from Yen Tu summit, surrounded by mountains that resemble a jewel in the middle of the forest, that’s why it is named Quynh Lam (In Sino-Vietnamese, “Quynh” is the red jewel, “Lam” is the forest). Formerly the pagoda site belonged to Ha Loi commune, Dong Trieu district, Kinh Mon prefecture, Hai Duong province. Now it is located right in the center of Trang An ward, Dong Trieu town.

In the Tran Dynasty, Quynh Lam pagoda was spaciously built to become a major Buddhist center of the country. In particular, in 1317, during the time that Phap Loa (the second patriarch of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism) chaired the Buddhist Association, he expanded the pagoda into a major training center of the sect.

  • Am Moc Cao Shrine (meaning a grass-made shrine) (located on the left bank of Phu Am Tra stream, Trai Loc village, An Sinh commune, Dong Trieu town). This was the residence for the last 10 years of the life of Mother-Queen Thuan Thanh Bao Tu, the wife of King Tran Anh Tong and the mother of King Tran Minh Tong. When accompanying King Tran Anh Tong's coffin for burial at the Thai Lang mausoleum, she left the capital to come here to build a grass residence to live, worship and take care of her husband's tomb. She passed away in autumn, July 1330 (lunar year). At present only the foundation of the shrine remains.
  • Trung Tiet Pagoda (Nghia Hung village, An Sinh commune, Dong Trieu town; “Trung” = filial piety and “Tiet” = loyalty).
  • Ho Thien Pagoda (Binh Khe commune, Dong Trieu town). Story has it that under the Tran Dynasty, Ho Thien was the place of spiritual practice of the high monks. After finishing the course at Quynh Lam Pagoda, the monks moved to Ho Thien Pagoda to continue their spiritual practice. The pagoda is located on Tru Phong mountain, south of Phat Son mountain, at an altitude of 580m asl. In the Sino-Vietnamese sense, Ho Thien Ho means the lake of heaven. The book Đại Nam Nhất Thống Chí (Dai Nam Comprehensive Encyclopaedia) writes: “Ho Thien pagoda in Phu Ninh commune, Dong Trieu district, built in the Tran Dynasty, was damaged due to long time, ruins still remain. In front of the pagoda there is a lotus lake, and there are a couple of cranes that often migrate back and forth”.
  • Ngoc Thanh Pagoda-Temple (Ngoc Thanh mountain, Dam Thuy village, Thuy An commune, Dong Trieu town). Because here existed both Buddhist pagoda and Taoist temple the structure was called Ngoc Thanh Pagoda-Temple. According to the book Đại Nam Nhất Thống Chí (Dai Nam Comprehensive Encyclopaedia), the pagoda-temple was built in the Xuong Phu Dynasty (the reign of King Tran Gian Hoang (reigned 1377-1388).
  • Trai Cap Pagoda (Trang Luong commune, Dong Trieu town). The pagoda is fairly large, thousands of square meters in area. The collection of relics and remnants revealed here shows that the pagoda carried typical features of the Tran Dynasty Truc Lam Zen Buddhism pagoda in the Quynh Lam-Ngoa Van-Ho Thien pagoda system in the area.

1.1.2.2. Mausoleums and tombs of the Tran family

  • Tu Phuc Mausoleum (Trai Loc village, An Sinh commune, Dong Trieu town). Tu Phuc Mausoleum is the place to worship the memorial tablets of the first two kings of the Tran Dynasty i.e. Tran Thai Tong (reigned 1226-1258) and Tran Thanh Tong (reigned 1258-1278), which were moved from Nam Dinh and Thai Binh provinces in 1381. In Sino-Vietnamese meaning, “Tu” is the refuge, “Phuc” is the goodness, so the mausoleum name also implies a place to keep, or a place to bring all the goodness.
  • Thai Lang Mausoleum (Dong Thai Mausoleum) (Trai Loc village, An Sinh commune, Dong Trieu town). The Mausoleum contains tombs of King Tran Anh Tong (the 4th king of the Tran Dynasty, reigned 1293-1314) and his wife, Queen Thuan Thanh Bao Tu. The mausoleum was built in the Thai rice field, hence the name Dong Thai.
  • Muc Lang Mausoleum (Dong Muc Mausoleum) (Trai Loc village, An Sinh commune, Dong Trieu town). The Mausoleum contains the tomb of King Tran Minh Tong (the 5th king of the Tran Dynasty, reigned 1314-1329). The mausoleum was built in the Muc rice field, hence the name Dong Muc.
  • Ngai Son Mausoleum (An Lang Mausoleum) (Trai Loc 2 village, An Sinh commune, Dong Trieu town). The Mausoleum contains the tomb of King Tran Hien Tong (the 6th king of the Tran Dynasty, reigned 1329-1341). It was built in a place called Ngai Son in An Sinh, hence the name Ngai Son. An Lang is the old name of the Mausoleum while in Thai Binh province, implying the wish for peace.
  • Phu Son Mausoleum (Phu or Phu Xu Mausoleum) (Xom Moi hamlet, Bai Dai village, An Sinh commune, Dong Trieu town). The Mausoleum contains the tomb of King Tran Du Tong (the 7th king of Tran Dynasty, reigned 1341-1369). The mausoleum was built at Phu Xu hill, hence the name Phu Xu.
  • Nguyen Lang Mausoleum (Dong Hy Mausoleum or Chieu Lang Mausoleum) (An Sinh commune, Dong Trieu town). The Mausoleum contains the tomb of King Tran Nghe Tong (the 8th king of the Tran Dynasty, reigned 1370-1372). Dong Hy is the name of the rice field where the mausoleum is placed, hence the name of the Mausoleum. “Nguyen” means “Origin”, the name of the Mausoleum was meant to commemorate the efforts of restoring the Tran Dynasty by King Tran Nghe Tong. Meanwhile “Chieu” means burning one’s fingers, implying the mistake of King Tran Nghe Tong in over-trusting Ho Quy Ly, which resulted in the loss of the Tran Dynasty.
  • Hy Lang Mausoleum (Dong Hy Mausoleum) (Ngoc Thanh mountain, Dam Thuy village, Thuy An commune, Dong Trieu town). The Mausoleum contains a fake tomb of King Tran Due Tong (reigned 1373-1377) and later the tomb of King Tran Thuan Tong (reigned 1388-1398). The mausoleum was placed in an area called Dong Hy, hence the name.

1.1.2.3. Temples and shrines of the Tran family

  • An Sinh Temple (originally was An Sinh Shrine) (An Sinh commune, Dong Trieu town). Built in the Tran Dynasty, the fourteenth century, it is the place for worshipping the Five Kings of the Tran Dynasty i.e. King Tran Anh Tong, King Tran Minh Tong, King Tran Du Tong, King Tran Nghe Tong and Kham Minh Thanh Vu Hien Dao Kinh An Sinh (possibly Tran Lieu - the Lord of An Sinh area). The temple was built in An Sinh village hence its name.
  • Thai Temple (Thai To Temple, Thai Mieu Temple) (Trai Loc village, An Sinh commune, Dong Trieu town). Built in the early Tran Dynasty and being the place for worshipping the early kings of the Tran Dynasty, the Temple is often referred to by local people as Thai Temple. As the temple was damaged during the Nguyen Dynasty, it was rebuilt by local people into a communal house to worship Tran kings so it was also called Doc Trai communal house.

1.2. West Yen Tu relic area (Bac Giang province)

Yen Tu mountain range is part of the Dong Trieu bow-shaped mountain range that embraces the Northeast of Vietnam. Its eastern slope mainly belongs to Quang Ninh province while its western slope belongs to Bac Giang province. In West Yen Tu mountains rise after mountains with abundant and rich flora and fauna. Many relics, scenic areas and cultural-historical works are preserved, which are related to the process of founding and defending of Vietnam as a country, notably in the Ly-Tran period, and especially to the process of formation and flourishing of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism founded by King-Buddha Tran Nhan Tong in the late 13th century. Situated along the Luc Nam River, from the districts of Son Dong, Luc Nam, Luc Ngan down to Yen Dung district of Bac Giang province, these cultural-historical relics as well as the scenic areas are grouped into the West Yen Tu relic area. Some of them will be selected for detailed description to demonstrate the outstanding universal value, authenticity and integrity of the area in the nomination dossier.

The West Yen Tu relic area consists of two main types of heritage i.e. a system of pagodas and tower stupas of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism and a Nature Reserve.

1.2.1. Pagodas and stupas of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism

  • Pagodas and stupas of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism in Luc Nam district. These include such pagodas as Chua Cao, Hon Thap, Chua Non, Binh Long, Ho Bac, Ma Yen and the Suoi Mo relic and scenic area.

The Suoi Mo relic and scenic area is located in Nghia Phuong commune, where the Suoi Mo stream originates from Da Vach clif and Ho Chuoi lake flowing down the Huyen Dinh-Yen Tu mountain, creating many waterfalls and natural baths. Along the stream there are Den Thuong, Den Trung and Den Ha Temples that worship Princess Que My Nuong, daughter of King Hung Dinh Vuong, who was proclaimed by local people Thuong Ngan Thanh Mau (Princess of the Mountain and Forest). The Golden Stream forest area on the Phat Son-Yen Tu range is a majestic sightseeing spot with beautiful natural landscapes, a unique stream with 24 waterfalls and many historical relics e.g. Dong Vanh Pagoda, Ban Phu Temple which worship Tran Kings and their queens and princesses.

  • Pagodas and stupas of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism in Luc Ngan district. This district is notable with the Am Vai Pagoda (Nam Duong commune). Located on a beautiful terrain of natural mountains and forests, creating a beautiful landscape, it is said that the pagoda was built in the Ly Dynasty and was part of the system of pagodas that flourished in the Tran Dynasty along the West Yen Tu when the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism was at its peak.
  • Pagodas and stupas of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism in Yen Dung district. This district is well known with the Vinh Nghiem Pagoda (Quoc Khanh hamlet, Tri Yen village), which was one of the biggest centres of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism, the first monastic training school in Vietnam. Many valuable relics and antiques are preserved here e.g. the set of worshiping statues, worshiping objects, reliefs, carvings, epitaphs, patterns on architectures. In particular the archive of more than three thousand wooden blocks of Buddhism scriptures has been recognized on May 16, 2012 as Documentary Heritage of the UNESCO Asia-Pacific region Memory of the World Program.

Based on ancient Sino-Vietnamese bibliographies currently archived at the pagoda, Vinh Nghiem was built in the Ly Dynasty (XI century), called then Chuc Thanh Pagoda. By the Tran Dynasty (XIII-XIV centuries), the pagoda was expanded, embellished and renamed Vinh Nghiem.

Vinh Nghiem Pagoda is located in a beautiful feng-shui landscape - head rests on mountain, feet reach river. In front of the Pagoda is the Phuong Nhon junction, where the Thuong and Luc Nam rivers confluence, behind it are the legendary Co Tien (Fairy), Con Voi (Elephan) and Con Lan (Unicorn) mountains, while on the right and left are green fields and populous residential area.

It is worth mentioning that all three Patriarchs of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism (Tran Nhan Tong, Phap Loa and Huyen Quang) all took Vinh Nghiem Pagoda as the promotion center of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism, as a typical expression and testimony to the onset of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism - the national religion, the philosophy of life of the Vietnamese people in Tran Dynasty, which continues to exist to this day and is spread to other countries around the world.

It can be said that Vinh Nghiem Pagoda is the most important relic of Vietnamese Buddhism in general and Truc Lam Zen Buddhism in particular. The study of Vinh Nghiem Pagoda is of great significance in the process of restoring the unified Zen Buddhism of the Tran Dynasty. With that essential role, Vinh Nghiem deserves to be honored as the ancestral place for everlasting inheritance and promotion with all the spirituality, morality and power of the Buddhists.

  • Pagodas and stupas of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism in Yen The district. In this district relic of the Doi Bia (or Linh Quy) Pagoda (An Thuong commune) was discovered and studied. The second excavation in 2020 revealed an architecture of the Tran Dynasty containing typical features of a Truc Lam Zen Buddhism pagoda, including the foundation, brick floor, construction materials and architectural decorations, and the brick foundation of a tower stupa (6.6 x 6.6m in dimensions) that was built in the Le Dynasty.

1.2.2. The West Yen Tu Nature Reserve

Similar to the Yen Tu National Forest in the Yen Tu historic and scenic area (Quang Ninh province), the West Yen Tu Nature Reserve is also a representative of nature of the Yen Tu Complex of Monuments and Landscapes, preserved intact until today since hundreds of years ago. The West Yen Tu Nature Reserve is located on the western slope of Yen Tu mountain range, in the area of Luc Nam and Son Dong districts, Bac Giang province. This is the largest concentrated natural forest of Bac Giang province, which connects with the evergreen forest of Quang Ninh province to account for most of the natural forest area of the Dong Trieu bow-shaped mountain range. The West Yen Tu Nature Reserve, covering an area of 13,022.7 ha of forest and special-use forest land, 11,765.4 ha of buffer zone, was established under Decision No. 117/2002/QD-UBND dated July 22, 2002 of the Bac Giang Provincial People's Committee.

According to scientists, natural forests in Yen Tu mountain range not only have high biodiversity value but also play an important role in climate regulation and water supply for the downstream areas of Northeast Vietnam. According to preliminary inventory, up to 728 plant species and 285 species of wild animals have been recorded here.

In addition to the biodiversity value, the West Yen Tu Nature Reserve also has many scenic landscapes e.g. Thac Giot waterfall, Ba Tia waterfall, Da Ran beach, Ao Vua (King’s) pond, Ho Tien (Fairy’s) lake, Nuoc Vang and Nuoc Trong streams etc.

In addition, in the district of Son Dong there are other scenic spots right at the foot of Chua Dong Pagoda (in Quang Ninh province) e.g. Vung Tron, Khe Ro (An Lac commune), Dong Thong, Ba Tia waterfall (Tuan Mau commune and Thanh Son townlet). On clear days, standing on Dong Thong area one can even see the Chua Dong Pagoda.

1.3. The Con Son-Kiep Bac-Thanh Mai relic area (Hai Duong province)

The Con Son-Kiep Bac-Thanh Mai relic area, including Con Son-Kiep Bac historical-cultural area and Thanh Mai Pagoda, is located in Chi Linh city, Hai Duong province. They can be divided into two types: The pagodas and tower stupas of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism; and the Tran Hung Dao Grand Prince Temple (Kiep Bac). Some of them will be selected for detailed description to demonstrate the outstanding universal value, authenticity and integrity of the area in the nomination dossier.

1.3.1. The pagodas and tower stupas of the Tran Dynasty Truc Lam Zen Buddhism

  • Con Son Pagoda. Located at the foot of Con Son mountain, the pagoda is a fairy tale treasure of the country since ancient time, which still retains many valuable relics and antiques. Story has it that this was the place where the wood was smoked to make charcoal and there was a fire on the enemy, quelling the 12 warlords of King Dinh Bo Linh in the Xth century, so in addition to the name Con Son, the Con Son mountain is also called Ky Lan (Unicorn) or Hun (smoke) mountain. The pagoda also has another, pseudonym (polite) name “Thien Tu Phuc Tu”, which means that the pagoda is blessed by heaven. However, folk used to call it Con Son pagoda or Hun pagoda.

The Pagoda’s architecture is shaped in the Chinese ‘工’ character, including the Front and Great Halls for worshiping Buddha where stand Ly Dynasty-made Buddha statues up to 3m in height. Following is the Patriarch House which worships the three Patriarchs: King-Buddha Tran Nhan Tong, Phap Loa and Huyen Quang. At the back are the Back Hall, the shrine for worshiping Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva and the so-called “Đăng Minh Bảo Tháp” tower stupa where remnants of Huyen Quang - the third Patriarch of Truc Lam are kept, which was restored in 1719. The road to Tam Quan (the three-doors entrance to the pagoda with the middle door usually being larger than the other two side doors) is paved with brick, running under the hundred-year-old pine trees mixed with lush green litchi canopies. The pagoda yard includes 4 stelae houses containing ancient stelae dating Tran and Le Dynasty times, of which the “Thanh Hư Động” stele, created during the Long Khanh year (1372-1377) of the Tran Dynasty was recognized as National Treasure in 2015, and the “Côn Sơn Tư Phúc Tự Bi”, created during the 8th year of Hoang Dinh (1607) was recognized as National Treasure in 2017.

In the first year of Khai Huu (1329), the pagoda was embellished on a large scale by Phap Loa, the second Patriarch. Much evidence of this restoration is still present today. Huyen Quang, the third Patriarch, later also returned to practice at Con Son Pagoda. Here he built the “Cửu Phẩm Liên Hoa” tower (an 8-facet, 9-storey co-axial tower, each storey is lotus-shaped, representing the nirvana - the highest symbol of the Buddhist world. Stone- or brick-made tower can not rotate while wooden tower can), edited scriptures, preached the sermons for the development of the Zen sect. After he passed away at Con Son on January 23, Giap Tuat lunar year (the 6th year of Khai Huu, 1334), King Tran Minh Tong granted rice fields for worshiping and built the Patriarch tower behind the pagoda and gave it a special ordination, the “Huyền Quang Tôn Giả” Tower.

  • Thanh Mai Pagoda. Thanh Mai Pagoda is a scenic location in Hoang Hoa Tham commune, Chi Linh city, 12km from Highway 18A, about 15km from Sao Do (center of Chi Linh city), about 17km from Dong Trieu town and about 50km from Hai Duong city. The pagoda was built under the Tran Dynasty, then expanded by Phap Loa, the second Patriarch (1284-1330) around 1329. Since then it has become a great reputated scenery associated with his life and career as well as that of the next Zen Patriarch Huyen Quang (1254-1334).

The pagoda was built on the Phat Tich mountain (also known as Tam Ban mountain, i.e. three consecutive mountain levels of the three provinces of Bac Giang, Hai Duong and Quang Ninh, belonging to Dong Trieu bow-shaped range, at about 200m asl). The pagoda is on the second level of the mountain, on the flatest piece of land, inside an old maple forest.

Thanh Mai pagoda was recognized as a national relic in 1992. Thanh Mai pagoda festival takes place annually on the 1st to 3rd of March lunar year, on the occasion of the Second Patriarch Phap Loa's death (March 3 of lunar calendar), with many rituals e.g. teaching scriptures, preparing vegetarian altar, bridling one’s passions etc.

Remnants of the ancient Thanh Mai pagoda remain bricks, foundations, some wall fragments and tower stupas. Ancient artifacts preserved at the pagoda include:

  • Vien Thong Bao Thap Tower Stupa - the place where relics of the second Patriarch Phap Loa are preserved - built in 1334 with a stone stele on top;
  • Pho Quang Tower Stupa, built in the 23rd year of Chinh Hoa (1702); and
  • Linh Quang Tower Stupa, built in the 24th year of Chinh Hoa (1703) etc.

There are also 4 steles in the pagoda: two four-sided steles of the Le Dynasty, one of the Mac Dynasty, and one of the Tran Dynasty being the “Thanh Mai Viên Thông tháp bi”, recognized as a National Treasure on December 22, 2016 for its great value for the study of Buddhist history in particular and Vietnamese culture and history in general.

The “Thanh Mai Viên Thông tháp bi” stele was erected in 1362, more than 30 years after the second Patriarch Phap Loa passed away. The stele was engraved on green limestone, 131cm high not including the stone turtle base, 82cm wide and 14cm thick. The two sides of stele were engraved with more than 5000 Chinese characters, which introduce the life and career of Patriarch Phap Loa, as well as a chronicle of Buddhism and Buddhist religious activities of the Truc Lam Zen sect during the Tran Dynasty. On the stele, there is also an engraved poem titled “Vãn Pháp Loa tôn giả đề Thanh Mai tự” (挽 法螺 尊者 題 青梅 寺 - Making a poem at Thanh Mai Pagoda to pay tribute to the second Patriarch Phap Loa) by King Tran Minh Tong.

  • Ngu Dai Son (5-storey tower)_relic. The relic is very large in size, up to thousands of square meters. Over time the relic was severely damaged. Excavations in 2019-2020 have revealed a rich collection of relics and antiques dating from the Tran to the Le and the Nguyen dynasties. The relics carry typical characteristics of the Truc Lam Buddhist pagodas and towers of the Tran D

1.3.2. The Con Son-Kiep Bac historical-cultural relic area

The Con Son-Kiep Bac Special National Monument includes historical relics related to the splendid feats of the three times Tran's militia defeated the Mongolian invaders in the 13th century and of the 10-year resistance war of the Lam Son popular forces against the Ming army in the 15th century. This place is also associated with the lives and careers of national heroes Tran Hung Dao, Nguyen Trai and many other cultural celebrities e.g. Tran Nguyen Dan, Tran Nguyen Han, Phap Loa, Huyen Quang etc. On June 18th, 2010 the Prime Minister issued Decision No. 920/QD-TTg approving the master plan for conservation of Con Son-Kiep Bac historical-cultural relic area in relation to tourism development of the Chi Linh town of Hai Duong province. The Con Son-Kiep Bac historical-cultural relic area was also recognized as Special National Monument by Prime Minister at Decision No. 5480/QD-TTg dated May 10th 2012. Also during 2012 the traditional festivals of the Con Son Pagoda and the Kiep Bac Temple were inscribed by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in the List of National Intangible Cultural Heritages. The highlights of the Con Son-Kiep Bac historical-cultural relic area are the Con Son Pagoda and Kiep Bac Temple.

  • Kiep Bac Temple. Kiep Bac is the combined name of the two villages of Van Yen (Kiep village) and Duoc Son (Bac village), located in a firtile valley, the three sides of which are surrounded by the Rong (Dragon) mountain while the remaining side faces the Luc Dau Giang - the confluence of six rivers: Cau River, Thuong River, Luc Nam River, Duong River, Kinh Thay River and the main tributary of Thai Binh River. In the 13th century, this was the military base and residence of Grand Prince Tran Hung Dao, the national hero, the supreme military commander of Dai Viet people in the resistance war against Mongolian invaders.

Kiep Bac temple (or Tran Hung Dao Temple) was built in the early 14th century on a piece of land in the center of Kiep Bac valley mainly for worshipping Grand Prince Tran Hung Dao. In the temple, there are 7 bronze statues of Tran Hung Dao, his wife and their two daughters, Pham Ngu Lao (a talented general of Tran Hung Dao), Nam Tao (the Southern Cross - the God who records all human births) and Bac Dau (the North Star or the Big Dipper) and 4 spiritual tablets of their 4 sons. Every year, the temple festival is held on the day of Tran Hung Dao's death (August 20th of the lunar year).

In the front hall of Kiep Bac Temple there are two pieces of elephant leg bone, which is said to be the war elephant of Tran Hung Dao while he was bogged down in the field near Thai Binh province. Although the soldiers tried their best to save the elephant from being bogged down, they still could not save it. Tran Hung Dao had to leave the elephant to continue marching to the battlefield, pointing his sword to the ground and vowing to return to save the elephant. win. But after winning the battle back, the elephant already died from being sunk in the mud.

In addition, Con Son Pagoda also has a number of temples of other Vietnamese cultural celebrities e.g. Nguyen Trai, Tran Nguyen Han and Tran Nguyen Dan. These beautiful temples merge with Con Son Pagoda into a harmonious complex.

  • Nguyen Trai Temple. Nguyen Trai is one of the most respected heroes of Vietnam, who was honoured by UNESCO as “World Cultural Celebrity”. He was one of the main architecturers of the resistance war of Dai Viet people against the Ming aggressors in the early XVth Nguyen Trai Temple was built at the foot of Ngu Nhac (the five sacred mountains of Taoism) mountain in Thanh Hu Dong area. To the right is the Con Son stream flowing from North to South, winding from right to left, embracing the temple area.

The temple includes the main altar hall, two left- and right-wing houses (for mandarins and martials respectively), inner curtain, outer curtain, stele houses, a small furnace for burning votive papers, a bridge to the main gate, a bridge over Con Son stream for going to Thach Ban, lineage hall, garden and yard system, water supply and drainage etc. The main altar hall leans back against To Son (in feng-shui the most important mountain among mountains), its two sides lean against the two mountains Ngu Nhac and Ky Lan (Unicorn), being respectively Thanh Long (Blue dragon) on the left and Bach Ho (White Tiger) on the right. In the front is a large lake, followed by Truc Thon mountain that faces Phuong Hoang mountain, and farther away is An Lac mountain range.

  • Tran Nguyen Dan Temple. Tran Nguyen Dan Temple is located even further above both Nguyen Trai and Tran Nguyen Han Temples, close to the upstreammost origin of Con Son stream. Tran Nguyen Dan (1325-1390) was a great meritorious official during the reign of three Tran Kings i.e. Tran Nghe Tong, Tran Due Tong and Tran Phe De. He is the grand-father of Nguyen Trai. In 1385 Tran Nguyen Dan retired, together with his wife brought Nguyen Trai back to Con Son to grow him up. They planted the pine forest, the re (Aristolochia contorta) garden and built an architectural complex in this mountainous area called Thanh Hu Dong - a grandiose work in harmony with nature, a typical scenic area that had for long become well-known and mentioned in poems and historical texts of later dinasties.

In 1390 Tran Nguyen Dan passed away in Con Son. In his memory the then Tran King had this Temple built in the Con Son coniferous forest leaning back against Ngu Nhac mountain, facing to the Southeast direction, with An Lac Mountain being its Tien An (the front fencing wall) and Con Son lake being where water and wind accumulate; An Sinh range being the dragon that is adorating. In the temple, the system of diaphragms, parallel sentences, worshiping objects are arranged and decorated according to traditional rituals. The statue of Tran Nguyen Dan looks majestic and kind.


[1] Dai Viet, An Nam, Giao Chau etc. are all the ancient names of the present day Vietnam.

[2] At present the Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

[3] There are two Le dynasties, one from 980 to 1009 and the other from 1428 to 1789. The first one is called Tien Le (Early Le) and the second one is called Hau Le (Later Le).

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Criterion (ii): The relics on the ground and excavated from underground at the Yen Tu Complex of Monuments and Landscapes are excellent examples of the long cultural exchange, being a place that received many external cultural influences, many globally valuable doctrines and ideas of human civilization, especially Buddhism and Feng-shui. In particular, the Complex demonstrates a unique cultural phenomenon of Vietnam and humanity, which is the international cultural exchange with India, China and the region on the basis of Vietnamese culture. The most distinguished monks of Dai Viet, typically Kings Tran Thai Tong and Tran Nhan Tong of the Tran royal family gradually initiated a separate, Vietnamese line of Buddhism. The sect simulated almost the entire process of initiation and development of Buddhism in India, thereby creating Vietnam's own Buddhist lineage suitable to Vietnamese culture and people, enriching the world treasure of Buddhist ideas and culture. All of these interchanges and interactions have been expressed in landscape design, planning, architectural style and decoration with diverse cultural developments through different development periods of the nominated property.

Criterion (iii): The dense relic system, amid a majestic natural area, including dozens of pagodas and temples, hundreds of towers, thousands of rare and precious antiques, especially rare scriptures and books, preserves spiritual and ideological values of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism and the splendid and brilliant culture of Dai Viet civilization. These spiritual and ideological values ​​of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism and that brilliant culture have always accompanied the development history of the Vietnamese nation, inherited by successive generations and being spread by later generations of Zen masters to many countries around the world. In particular, the wooden block “Thiền Tông Bản Hạnh” (Zen Buddhism in Vietnamese style), written in Sino-Vietnamese (Nôm) and still preserved at Vinh Nghiem Pagoda (Bac Giang province), has been selected by the Vietnamese Nôm Preservation Foundation, USA as the international standard character for Nôm texts using Unicode (NomNaTongLight.ttf) and is installed on computers around the world. The uniqueness of this wooden block is that it uses both Han (Chinese) and Nom characters while most wooden blocks found in Korea, Japan and China only use Chinese characters.

Criterion (v): The Yen Tu Complex of Monuments and Landscapes is a vivid illustration of human interaction with the environment and natural landscapes, and of the traditional, continuous human settlement, reflected in the establishment of the sacred and mysterious Yen Tu, thousands of years ago, as a “Buddhist center” with a complex of architectural masterpieces located in a majestic and poetic landscape. In particular, all these architectural masterpieces are located in good Feng-shui places e.g. “rồng cuộn, hổ chầu” (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), “tả thanh long, hữu bạch hổ” (Blue Dragon on the left, White Tiger on the right) etc., that are both safe and stable, at the same time good for dharma preaching and for safe-guarding the country.

To the west of Yen Tu, there is a lot of vegetation and especially a series of architectural works and pagodas bearing the hallmarks of Buddhism in the Ly-Tran dynasty. The area also has many stories relating to Emperor Tran Nhan Tong and Truc Lam Buddhism, and the intersection of royal culture with ethnic minorities; between the mandarins, the princesses, the courtesans etc. of the royal court and the ethnic people of the then Dai Viet.

The Tran Dynasty historical relic area in Dong Trieu, with hundreds of Kings’ mausoleums, temples, shrines and pagodas, all being placed on the high terraces of the Kinh Thay-Bach Dang river system, also demonstrates the deep understanding of the terrain conditions at that time by the Vietnamese so as to select the stable and safe pieces of land for placing mausoleums, temples, shrines and pagodas, aiming at the everlasting for these works.

The overall value of the nominated property is a typical example of the interaction between the Truc Lam Zen Buddhist culture and the regional landscape and environment and the tradition of use of nature in line with the spirit and ideology of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism. That is to interact, to adapt, with love, to nature, in harmony with nature, and to protect nature. All these have resulted in the unique characteristics of the Truc Lam Buddhist pagodas and towers as well as other Tran Dynasty’s relics in the area, containing profound humanistic values of Dai Viet society from the Tran Dynasty (13-14th centuries) till the Nguyen Dynasty (19-20th centuries).

Criterion (vi): The Yen Tu Complex of Monuments and Landscapes is closely related to the birth of the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism, a pure Vietnamese line of Buddhism. Truc Lam Zen Buddhism focuses on inner feeling but at the same time enters into life with a liberal and forgiveness approach. Truc Lam Zen Buddhism advocates connecting religion with life, maintaining bold national identity, true patriotism, closely and positively combining Religion with Life and vice versa. The theory of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism resulted from a combination of many factors including also inheritance and promotion of those of older generations. King-Buddha Tran Nhan Tong, the founder of Truc Lam, by inheritance, has gathered into many precious texts and books e.g. Thiền Lâm Thiết Chủy Ngữ Lục, Đại Hương Hải n Thi Tập, Tăng GToái S, Thạch Thất Mỹ Ngữ, Truyền Đăng Lục, Thượng Sĩ Hành Trang etc. These were the books that guided Buddhists and followers of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism on how to practise their religion and become good people.

In addition, there are many literacy works recorded in the wooden blocks of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism - the “Thiền Tông Bản Hạnh” book - e.g. “Cư Trần Lạc Đạo Phú” (to live a human life and be filled with the spiritual happiness) written as a rythmic prose, “Đắc Thú Lâm Tuyền Thành Đạo Ca” (a poem about the contentment of living in the woods and achieveing spiritual enlightenment) by King-Buddha Tran Nhan Tong; “Vịnh Hoa Yên Tự Phú” (a rythmic prose that describes the beauty of the Hoa Yen Pagoda) by Huyen Quang second patriarch etc. These valuable poetic Zen writings have developed a positive impact on society and attracted the attention of many Vietnamese and international scholars. The wooden blocks of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism present both Han and Nom texts which were carved deliberately in different writing styles e.g. “chân thư”, “thảo thư”, “lệ thư” and “hành thư” (simple writing, shorthand, formal writing and quick writing) etc., presenting great calligraphic art works. Along with the texts, many pages are also illustrated with skillfull paintings with a perfect pictorial composition, which deserve to be mentioned as valuable artworks.

In general, the nominated property is closely associated with the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism ideology and Dai Viet culture which lasted for many centuries. That is the sense of obedience to nature and living an active life, promoting the Buddhist ideology and benevolence (being close to people, friendly with people and for people), which is invaluable heritage of Dai Viet as well as mankind. When people are in need of support and help, Truc Lam Zen Buddhism is ready to salvate; when peace enjoy peace together. Thus, the kindness and positivity thoughts of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism existed during the whole 13-14th centuries and are preserved and promoted until today.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Yen Tu Complex of Monuments and Landscapes covers a total area of over 30,000 hectares, including many historical and cultural relics and landscapes related to the Tran Dynasty and the Truc Lam Zen Buddhism on Yen Tu mountain range in the provinces of Quang Ninh, Bac Giang and Hai Duong. Over times and ups and downs, many relics were ruined and have to be renovated, but many are still intact and some of them will be selected for inclusion in the nomination dossier.

The Government of Vietnam, provincial authorities and local people are taking great care to preserve and promote these relics and landscaps. In the first relic recognition of Vietnam in 1962, the Tran Dynasty historical relic area was recognized as a national monument. In 1964, Vinh Nghiem pagoda (Bac Giang province) and in 1975, the Yen Tu historic and scenic area (Uong Bi city, Quang Ninh province) were also recognized as national monuments. In addition, within the Yen Tu historic and scenic area there are many relics that are recognized as national, special national and provincial monuments, and are inventorized, studied, excavated and protected in accordance to the provisions of the Cultural Heritage Law. Some typical examples can be mentioned e.g.: Chua Kem Pagoda and Historical sites of the Yen The Insurrection (Bac Giang province), both recognized as special national monuments by the Prime Minister at Decision No. 548/QD-TTg dated May 10th 2012; Suoi Mo Temple (Bac Giang province), recognized by the Ministry of Culture as a national historical-architectural-art relic at Decision No. 28/QD-BVH dated January 28th 1998. In particular on May 16th 2012, in Bangkok (Thailand), the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Committee officially registered Vinh Nghiem Pagoda wooden blocks into the Documentary Heritage List in the Memory of the World Program. The Prime Minister, at Decision No. 1419/QD-TTg dated September 27th 2012, recognized the Yen Tu historic and scenic area (Quang Ninh province) as a special national monument. Further, he, at Decision No. 2383/QD-TTg dated December 9th 2013, also recognized the Tran Dynasty historical relic area as a special national monument.

The master plans for preserving and promoting the value of the Yen Tu historic and scenic area (Uong Bi city, Quang Ninh province) and Tran Dynasty historical relic area in Dong Trieu (Dong Trieu town, Quang Ninh province) were approved by the Prime Minister in 2013.

The identification, recognition of monuments and approval of these master plans are the basis for the management, protection and promotion of heritage values of these monuments for future generations in accordance with the spirit of the 1972 UNESCO Convention on the protection of World Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites.

Currently, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is actively guiding and coordinating with the People's Committees of three provinces of Quang Ninh, Bac Giang and Hai Duong to protect the integrity of the Yen Tu Complex of Monuments and Landscapes by improving the legal framework in the form of relevant national laws, governmental decrees e.g. Law on Cultural Heritage, Law on Forest Protection and Development, Law on Environmental Protection, Tourism Law, Biodiversity Law etc. Based on these laws and decrees, all activities taking place in the heritage area and affecting the heritage value will need approval from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and relevant ministries.

Above all, the local authorities and people believe that preservation of integrity of heritage sites and protection of environment around them means protection of life of today and tomorrow. This awareness will help protect the integrity and promote the outstanding global values of Yen Tu Complex of Monuments and Landscapes.

Through all the times and ups and downs of history, especially the impact of wars and natural processes, many structures in the nominated property have been destroyed and degraded, however, many other relics have been paid special attention by the State of Vietnam in form of renovation, embellishment, research and excavation. Many other relics are still intact on the ground or are protected unexposed underground. Recent archaeological explorations in these three provinces have partly exposed them out and one may see that the authenticity of the relics remains intact.

A significant part of the nominated property is covered by primeval forests, special-use forests with beautiful natural landscapes, still unspoiled, containing a high biodiversity value and playing an important role in regulating climate and supplying fresh water for the downstream area of Northeast Vietnam.

Comparison with other similar properties

In order to be able to compare the Yen Tu Complex of Monuments and Landscapes with other World Heritage sites, it is necessary to use some criteria for selecting comparable sites e.g.:

  • Priority is given to World Heritage sites recognized according to similar criteria i.e. (ii), (iii), (v) and (vi);
  • World Heritage sites that are inscribed according to one or several similar criteria (especially criteria (v) and (vi));
  • World Heritage sites that have similarities with the Yen Tu Complex of Monuments and Landscapes, especially those located in Northeast and Southeast Asia;

In addition, it is also necessary to compare with other sites in the Tentative List of World Heritage sites with similar criteria to the Yen Tu Complex of Monuments and Landscapes.

Using the mentioned-above selection criteria, the Yen Tu Complex of Monuments and Landscapes can be compared to several world heritage sites and sites that are currently in the Tentative List, especially those related to Buddhism e.g.:

  • The Trang An Landscape Complex (Ninh Binh province, Vietnam), inscribed in 2014 on criteria (v), (vii) and (viii). Situated near the southern margin of the Red River Delta, the Trang An Landscape Complex is a spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys, many of them partly submerged and surrounded by steep, almost vertical cliffs. Exploration of caves at different altitudes has revealed archaeological traces of human activity over a continuous period of more than 30,000 years. They illustrate the occupation of these mountains by seasonal hunter-gatherers and how they adapted to major climatic and environmental changes, especially the repeated inundation of the landscape by the sea after the last ice age. The story of human occupation continues through the Neolithic and Bronze Ages to the historical era. Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Viet Nam, was strategically established here in the 10-11th centuries AD. The property also contains temples, pagodas, paddy-fields and small villages. 
  • Hiraizumi - Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land (Japan), inscribed in 2011 on criteria (ii) and (vi). Hiraizumi - Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land comprises five sites, including the sacred Mount Kinkeisan. It features vestiges of government offices dating from the 11-12th centuries when Hiraizumi was the administrative centre of the northern realm of Japan and rivalled Kyoto. The realm was based on the cosmology of Pure Land Buddhism, which spread to Japan in the 8th century. It represented the pure land of Buddha that people aspire to after death, as well as peace of mind in this life. In combination with indigenous Japanese nature worship and Shintoism, Pure Land Buddhism developed a concept of planning and garden design that was unique to Japan.
  • Royal Hill of Ambohimanga (Madagascar), inscribed in 2001 on criteria (iii), (iv) and (vi). The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga consists of a royal city and burial site, and an ensemble of sacred places. It is associated with strong feelings of national identity, and has maintained its spiritual and sacred character both in ritual practice and the popular imagination for the past 500 years. It remains a place of worship to which pilgrims come from Madagascar and elsewhere.
  • Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley (Afganistan), inscribed in 2003 on criteria (i), (ii), (iii), (iv) and (vi). The cultural landscape and archaeological remains of the Bamiyan Valley represent the artistic and religious developments which from the 1st to the 13th centuries characterized ancient Bakhtria, integrating various cultural influences into the Gandhara school of Buddhist art. The area contains numerous Buddhist monastic ensembles and sanctuaries, as well as fortified edifices from the Islamic period. The site is also testimony to the tragic destruction by the Taliban of the two standing Buddha statues, which shook the world in March 2001.
  • Lushan National Park (China), inscribed in 1996 on criteria (ii), (iii), (iv) and (vi). Mount Lushan, in Jiangxi, is one of the spiritual centres of Chinese civilization. Buddhist and Taoist temples, along with landmarks of Confucianism, where the most eminent masters taught, blend effortlessly into a strikingly beautiful landscape which has inspired countless artists who developed the aesthetic approach to nature found in Chinese culture.
  • Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range (Japan), inscribed in 2004 on criteria(ii), (iii), (iv) and (vi). Set in the dense forests of the Kii Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean, three sacred sites - Yoshino and Omine, Kumano Sanzan, Koyasan - linked by pilgrimage routes to the ancient capital cities of Nara and Kyoto, reflect the fusion of Shinto, rooted in the ancient tradition of nature worship in Japan, and Buddhism, which was introduced from China and the Korean Peninsula. The sites (506.4 ha) and their surrounding forest landscape reflect a persistent and extraordinarily well-documented tradition of sacred mountains over 1,200 years. The area, with its abundance of streams, rivers and waterfalls, is still part of the living culture of Japan and is much visited for ritual purposes and hiking, with up to 15 million visitors annually. Each of the three sites contains shrines, some of which were founded as early as the 9th century.
  • Asuka-Fujiwara: Archaeological sites of Japan’s Ancient Capitals and Related Properties (Japan), currently on the Tentative List suggesting criteria (ii), (iii), (iv), (v) and (vi). The site is comprised of a cluster of archaeological sites of ancient capitals in the Asuka region, where the imperial capital was located from the time of Empress Suiko's enthronement in 592 AD. to its relocation to Heijōkyo (Nara) in 710, as well as the scenic areas and surrounding cultural landscape deeply associated with these archaeological sites of ancient capitals.

The component features of the site are principally the archaeological remains of palaces and residences of the emperor and imperial court and their related facilities (such as gardens, etc.); the site of Japan's first genuine capital city; and the remains of temples and burial mounds (the Takamatsuzuka Tomb with its famous wall paintings, the Kitora Tomb, and others) constructed in and around it for members of the imperial house, nobility, and other important personages during the century this area functioned as the capital. These remains have been preserved beneath the earth in good condition down to the present, and the structures and objects that have been excavated and surveyed to date convey vital insights into politics, society, culture, and religion during the period of the formation of the ancient Japanese state. Moreover, what these ruins tell us about the design philosophy, site planning, and construction technology of the era, coupled with the wall paintings and other artifacts found in specific archaeological remains are seen as displaying strong influence from mainland China and the Korean peninsula, clear evidence of the significance of cultural and technological contacts between Japan and the other countries of East Asia.

Yamato Sanzan, a place of famous scenic beauty intimately associated with these archaeological sites, is also referenced frequently in the poems of the Man'yōshu, Japan's first poetry anthology, and is thus closely linked not only to the representative work of ancient Japanese literature, but also to the influence it exerted upon successive generations of artistic activity.

Taken as a whole, the aforementioned archaeological and scenic sites, along with the surrounding natural environment, comprise a historical and cultural landscape of outstanding importance.

Thus, this site, comprised of a cluster of archaeological sites and historic features that originate from close exchange with mainland China and the Korea peninsula, offers physical evidence for the process of the formation of the ancient Japanese state and also constitutes an extraordinarily valuable cultural landscape.