Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan beat the drum, opening the Yen Tu Pagoda Spring Festival in the northern coastal province of Quang Ninh on February 12, the tenth day of the first lunar month.
Prominent at the ceremony were Vice State President Nguyen Thi Doan and the Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha’s Executive Council, Most Venerable Thich Thanh Tu.
Buddhist dignitaries, monks, nuns, followers and visitors joined in offering incense to King Tran Nhan Tong, who reigned over the country from 1279 to 1293 and then left the throne to devote his life to Buddhism. They also joined another ceremony to pray for peace to the country and people.
Yen Tu has so far welcomed over 20, 000 visitors since the first day of the lunar year and the festival will last three months during spring. The site received over 2.1 million visitors in 2010.
Yen Tu Mountain is located about 50km from Halong City. The route of the pilgrimage, which winds from the foot of the mountain to its highest peak, is almost 30km. Dong Pagoda, which sits atop the mountain’s highest peak, is more than a kilometre above sea level.
The area’s beautiful natural landscape and awe-inspiring scenery, along with surrounding ancient pagodas and hermitages, are said to have been the reason that King Tran Nhan Tong passed the throne to his son so that he could devote his life living as a Buddhist monk at Yen Tu Mountain. Whilst there, he founded the Truc Lam meditation sect, which has led to Yen Tu being recognised as the country’s leading centre for Buddhism.