Friday, January 6, 2017

Chu Van Phat – Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas - a remarkable experience

Exactly a year ago, two friends and I, did a trip to Vietnam. We only spent a couple of weeks there. Our first stop was the city of Ho Chin Minh in the south of Vietnam. Thereafter we flew to Hanoi, in northern Vietnam. The trip north included a number of days marveling at the beautiful landscapes; the intriguing limestone boulders of Halong Bay. This was a breathtaking and enlightening experience.

Another highlight of my visit to this historically significant country was a little gem of a temple located in the 5th district of Ho Chin Minh. It is housed on five floors in an unassuming building in a narrow cul-de-sac. I have visited a number of temples in India, China, Taiwan and in Vietnam and this one rates as one of the most incredible I have ever experienced. As a matter of fact it was not listed in the Eyewitness Travel guide titled Vietnam & Angkor Wat. Fulvio De Stefanis, an avid travel and well versed in technology, discovered it as a must see listing with TripAdvisor as Chu Van Phat – Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

Captured here are images of the temple, as seen from the modest outside and its surroundings, depicting the Buddha configurations on each floor leading up the stairs to the major Buddha installation on the top floor, where as the title suggests, a vast number of Buddhas, situated in small cubicles, decorate the walls in extraordinary fashion.

Nothing prepares you for this visual experience, and more importantly, your heart and soul. Numerous trips to temples, cathedrals and museums can get overwhelming, however now and then a very special gem is a creative indulgence – often when you least expect it. To be honest we were taken off course in the opposite direction with Uber. Determined as always, we made a u-turn, and after a traffic-laden journey we arrived at our destination. And what an experience it turned out to be – our pilgrimage to find the temple did not disappoint – our determination paid off, big time.  

I take the liberty to include some of the TripAdvisor Reviewer Highlights. Visitor ratings are as follows – 13 excellent and 2 good. There are 26 review listings for this place of worship. Below find a few of the reviews, providing insight into the impact the visual gestalt had on those privileged enough to visit the site. Follow the provided TripAdvisor link to obtain more site specifics and other relevant information such as other landmarks in the area, including accommodation specific to your traveling needs.

“must do”
Absolutely incredible, un assuming from the outside but uplifting when inside. Up the stairs to the very top is the gift you came for. Richard E, Palm Springs, California. 31 October 2016.

“so beautiful!”
I had missed this temple on a previous visit to Ho Chin Minh. So pleased to have experienced it this time around. This is one of the most amazing temples, so beautiful...a real hidden treasure. I highly recommend finding this temple. Suzanne K, Brisbane, Australia. 4 January 2016.

“Most stunning temple I have ever seen, and I have seen a few…..”
This temple is truly a hidden gem, locked away at the end of a small alley. When you enter the building you have no clue what will be awaiting you on the top floor! Lower floors are dedicated to honour the deceased. It is humbling to be allowed to wander around this place of worship where people are mourning their …. Maria E. Jakarta, Indonesia. Reviewed 21 November 2015.
Most temples I have visited, like the one captured here, above and on the left, are excessively decorated in every way possible, this includes the exterior and interior, as well as every part of the complexly crafted structure, including the pillars, the walls, the roof as well as the furniture and religious objects placed on the tables surrounding the central Buddha figure. Offerings in all forms, shapes and colour add to an already visually complex experience. Rich colour combinations exploit the colour wheel to good effect, further enhanced by lighting and gilding. The smell of burning incense adds to the overall religious and spiritual experience. It does not get more excessive.The following YouTube video produced by Thomas brings the Chu Van Phat – Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas to life.

And this is what makes the visit of Chua Van Phat, the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas, very special. The religious installation of Buddhas and religious paraphernalia are thoughtfully integrated into the understated building structure. From a distance religious objects honouring the dead on mass are displayed behind glass in repetitive rows to read as an integrated whole, very much like a complex Chinese calligraphy scroll – when displayed in its entirety on a museum wall, from a distance, the calligraphy reads as patterns, texture and or decoration. 

This design approach is put to even greater effect on the top floor. When you enter the main room, the vast number of buddhas, 10 000 of them, are displayed in as many woodcarved niches, it reads as complex three dimensional wall paper. However the overall effect provides a perfectly simple backdrop to the huge central Buddha figure with colourfull religious paraphernalia on both sides. The little Buddhas are recessed into their shadowy niches creating a complimentary three-dimensional decorative effect. Simplicity in its complexity – it is very special indeed.

I often wonder who designs these incredible places of worship, are there various teams working together and what process of visualization and realization is followed. I would really like to view the drawings, the design renderings of the architect and interior designers, from concept to design ideas and more importantly the capturing of various design options for finishes – the inclusion of decoration and colour options. Then there are the artisans that realize the creations in a variety of materials and finishes. One marvels at their creativity and design expertise. I dedicate this blog post to the visionaries, designers and artists and especially the artisans that created this spectacular Temple. A truly remarkable experience.