As far as130km from Hanoi capital, there located Keo Pagoda in Vu Thu District of Thai Binh Province. The pagoda is constructed by Duong Khong Lo, a Monk and famous doctor during Ly Dynasty.
Legend had it that Duong Khong Lo built Keo Pagoda between 1133 and 1154. Duong Khong Lo is a name of a Monk and famous doctor in Ly Dynasty. After successfully cured King Ly Thanh Tong from a serious disease, he was honorably given the title of Quoc Su (Royal Teacher) and plenty of money and land to build the pagoda.
Architecturally, Keo Pagoda is impressive to both domestic and foreign tourists inVietnam travel who have chance to visit the pagoda at least once time. The pagoda stretches the area of 7,200 square meters, bordering the Red River. There are two passages which separate the pagoda and temple. They are decorated with curved roofs that join together at the 11.5 meter-iron wood bell tower. This iron wood bell tower has three stories, each of which possesses its own tiled roof and bronze bell. Up to now, Keo Pagoda has proudly preserved one of the few surviving sets of rod puppets in Vietnam.
It is said that Keo Pagoda is a home to a wealth of ancient relics which ranges from intricately engraved wooden dragons to a collection of over 100 statues. Here is also preserved many valuable antiques, such as a pair of candlesticks from the Mac Dynasty, some pottery ware and altars from the Le Dynasty, imperial boats, etc. It is surprising that all of them are kept intact as they were during the time of the Le Trung Hung Dynasty in 16th century.
Keo Temple Festival
The yearly festival is celebrated from 13th to 15th of the ninth lunar month, 100 days after the death of the Buddhist dignitary Duong Khong Lo. The festival features religious and traditional rituals and customs held in celebration of the Buddhist monk who rendered great merits to the people and the country. The festival also hosts different traditional cultural activities reflecting the life style, which is imbued with traits of the Red River Delta’s agricultural culture. Keo Temple Festival attracts hundreds of tourists in Vietnam travel every year.
The pagoda’s own mythical appeal plays a significant role in drawing so many visitors to Vu Nhat Village each year on the 13th, 14th and 15th days of the ninth lunar month. Normally, people visit the commune to offer prayer at the Keo Pagoda in honor of the Buddhist monk. Similar to other Vietnam festivals and events, Keo Pagoda Festival commences with a procession of palanquin to remind people of the anniversary of Khong Lo’s death, followed by a boat race and a literary recital competition during the day. When night falls, it's time for music and a trumpet and drum competition, light from the main shrine illuminates preparations for the next day’s procession, prayers are offered until midnight.
On the 14th day of the ninth lunar month, in celebration of the birth anniversary of monk Khong Lo, in the morning, the procession ceremony comes after the incense-offering ritual. A carriage pulled by two pairs of white and pink wooden horses head the procession, accompanied by 8 flag bearers and 42 men carrying bat but luu bo, a classical Vietnamese weapon. Four people wearing black gauze outfits and white trousers, who carry a dragon in commemoration of Khong Lo’s journey by boat to the capital of the kingdom to treat King Ly Nhan Tong. Four people in the same outfit carrying a small gilded boat put in a stand, depicting the period of monk Khong Lo’s life when he was a fisherman. In the afternoon, at Gia Roi shrine, the mua ech vo (frog-catching dance) ritual pays respect to the gods, while incense is offered to Buddha.
The festival continues into the next day with further entertainment and traditional games such as duck catching, rice cooking competition and firecracker hurling competition. However, the most interesting performance that attracts a large number of tourist is the boat rowing dance on land which is performed by 12 people in fine costumes, standing in two parallel lines like the way they sit in the boat. As one performer beats a small drum and another holds a wooden fish, the 12 performers "row" while flexing their legs and calling out rhythmically. This performance also puts an end to the three-day Keo Pagoda Festival.
It is believed that together with this meaningful festival, Keo Pagoda will remain a tourist- attractive destination in Vietnam and a pride for Vietnamese architects, Vu Nhat villagers and all of Thai Binh Province – as well as our whole country!