Danang

Linh Ung Pagoda and the Lady Buddha of Danang

From anywhere along the shorefront of Da Nang, or out to sea, you will see the Lady Buddha towering along the edge of the Son Tra Peninsula. Many say Her illuminating presence, day and night, gives Da Nang that chill and peaceful vibe. Surrounding the Lady Buddha is the vast complex of Linh Ung Pagoda, which is testimony to a thriving and dynamic Buddhist culture in modern-day Vietnam. 

Origins of Ling Ung Pagoda 

The official name of the Lady Buddha Pagoda in Da Nang is Da Nang Linh Ung Bai But Pagoda (Vietnamese spelling: chùa Linh Ứng Bãi Bụt Đà Nẵng). Bãi Bụt refers to the beach area below the pagoda and translates as Buddha Beach. This name existed long before the modern pagoda complex. 

During the reign of Emperor Minh Mang, it is said that a Buddha statue washed up on this beach. The locals built a shrine for it as a blessing for fishermen and to calm the waters of the bay. 

The first stone to the modern complex was laid in June 2004, and the main structures officially opened six years later on 30 July 2010. Since then, there have been other sections added and further development of gardens. 

Other Linh Ung Pagodas of Danang 

There are two more famous Linh Ung Pagodas of Danang. oldest of these is on Marble Mountain or Thuy Son (Water Mountain), namely Linh Ung Non Nuoc (Linh Ứng Non Nước). It was built in the 17th century, renovated by the first Nguyen Emperor Gia Long, and reconstructed by his son and successor, Minh Mang.

The other Linh Ung Pagoda is fairly recent. It is located in the Bana Hills Resort and simply known as Linh Ung Ba Na (Linh Ứng Bà Nà). Linh Ung means ‘miracle fulfilled’ or it could even translate as ‘wish-fulfilling’. 

Gateway to the Son Tra Peninsula 

Lady Buddha and Son Tra Peninsula viewed from Pham Dong Beach
Lady Buddha and Son Tra Peninsula viewed from Pham Dong Beach
[ image by Roger Shitaki ]

The Son Tra Peninsula (bán đảo Sơn Trà) sits on the north-eastern flanks of Da Nang. It forms the lower bite of the Bay of Da Nang, with Hai Van Peninsula on the other side. Son Tra Peninsula is a protected area with ancient forests and is often called the lungs of Danang. 

Linh Ung Pagoda is the first main vantage point that offers splendid vistas of both Da Nang and a view up the peninsula. Although visitors in Da Nang are drawn to the calming presence of the Lady Buddha, there’s also the whole peninsula to explore. 

More about the Son Tra Peninsula 

The Lady Buddha of Da Nang

The Lady Buddha of Da Nang
[ by konkarampelas from Pixabay ]

The Lady Buddha of Da Nang is standing Avalokiteshvara (Thiên Thủ Quan Âm) or Guanyin. She is the Goddess or Buddha of mercy and compassion. In her right hand, she holds a symbolic water pot of life-giving benediction.

With her left hand, she postures with the ring finger touching the thumb with other fingers raised. This mudra is known as the Prithvi and it connects one to the earth and promotes healing and spiritual balance.

This is actually the tallest standing Quan Am in Vietnam reaching some 35 meters and 67 meters across at the lotus base. Shrouded in her headscarf, there’s a two-meter seated Buddha above her head, which you might be able to glimpse. 

Although you can go into the worshipping area in the base, usually you cannot go up into the statue itself. There are seven levels inside with another 21 altars of worship. 

At the far end of the Lady Buddha square is a bonsai pond and a fat tummy Laughing Buddha or Budai (Di Lặc). There are two dragon guardians at the gateway, and monkeys often come to this area. 

Other Sites at Linh Ung Pagoda 

The entire area of the pagoda is about 20 acres, so there are things to see and enjoy. There are fantastic views, quiet areas around, and plenty of places to sit and rest. 

The Nine Story Stupa Tower

The Nine Story Stupa Tower
[ image by Roger Shitaki ]

As you come to the main parking area at the top, to the right is the newest area of the Lying Buddha (tượng Phật Nằm) dominated by a 9-floor pagoda tower. The gates and pillars have beautiful ornate detail and there are often seasonal flowers on display amongst the bonsai trees. 

You can go inside the pagoda and up into the tower. Each level has a different altar of worship. There are some nice views of Da Nang from inside, but not as good as from inside the Lady Buddha statue. The right side garden edge has a great view of the peninsula. 

This is often the less crowded and more peaceful section of the complex. If you enjoy photography, it’s a very satisfying location. Down at the bottom of this section, there’s a fine view of the blue ocean yonder. 

View of the blue ocean yonder
[ image by Roger Shitaki ]

Gift Shop and Motorbike Parking

Across the parking lot from here, you will see the road lead a little up to the main entrance of the Linh Ung Pagoda. It’s free to enter, but just at the top is the motorbike parking and it costs 5 000 VND. 

As you near the entrance, to the right is a small gift shop. They sell Buddhist paraphernalia like amulets, bracelets, statues, and so on. There’s a small section with health foods, teas, souvenirs, oils, and cosmetics. You can get some ice creams and drinks here too. 

Ling Ung Pagoda Main Hall

Ling Ung Pagoda Main Hall
[ by Kevin Decherf from Flickr ]

From above, the main hall takes the shape of a turtle. It has a slightly more modern design and shape, but maintains traditional motifs like the dragon columns and roof ornamentation.

Inside you’re first greeted by a large Laughing Buddha statue. The center deity is Sakyamuni Buddha (Thích Ca Mầu Ni Phật) or the historic Buddha. To the right is an Avalokitesvara or Guanyin (Lady Buddha), and to the left is a Maitreya, or the Buddha to appear at the end of this age or kalpa. 

Arhat statues
[ by Kevin Decherf from Flickr ]

Out in the courtyard, there are two rows, and 18 in total, of meticulously crafted Arhat statues. They display various emotions and facial expressions. Arhats are advanced beings who have not yet attained completed Buddhahood. 

These statues, and other works seen around, are also a display of local talent and craftwork. These arhats were carved up by the artist Nguyễn Việt Minh from the Non Nuoc Craft Village (làng nghề đá Non Nước) with stone materials from Thanh Hoa, 600 km north.

When you walk to the bottom of the courtyard towards the triple gate, there’s a staircase that leads down to the lower courtyard with restrooms just at the bottom. To the right, you will head to the Lady Buddha and if you are here in the late afternoon, you can catch a great sunset view of Da Nang. 

Gardens Along The Side and Back 

If you have time, don’t forget to investigate gardens and small temples along the side and also at the back. You’ll find rock gardens with water cascades and Buddha statues, and walking up the slope to the rear is a new section with a large pond and a sunken garden with statues of animals that features in stories of the Buddha. 

How to Get to Son Tra Peninsula and Ling Ung Pagoda

Linh Ung Pagoda is only about 7 km for My Khe Beach or a little more from downtown. The most comfortable way is a taxi which is around 200 000 to 300 000 VND (oneway). For singles or couples, a Grab motorbike for one would be about 50 000 VND.

Going by motorbike is the most advantageous for stopping off at the viewpoints along the way. Some people even walk to the pagoda, but best not to do that between 10 am and 4 pm because of the heat. Cycling is also quite popular. 

Many tours will stop off at the pagoda and may include some stops in Danang such as Marble Mountain and Dragon Bridge, or it can be part of a package touring the peninsula. 

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