Bach Ma Temple Hanoi: Location, History, How to Get There
Bach Ma Temple (Vietnamese: Đền Bạch Mã) is located in the heart of Hanoi Old Quarter, near Hoan Kiem Lake, and regarded as one of the best historical monument associated with the event of King Ly Thai To’s capital relocation. The temple is the Four Guarding Temples of Thang Long Citadel which were established to form an enclosing boundary of strongholds around the city and deal with potential threats.
- Location: 76 Hang Buom Str., Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam
- Opening Hours: Daily during 8:00 AM - 11:00 AM; 2:00 PM - 8:00 PM
- Entrance Fee Ticket: Free of Charge
- Dress code: Decent Clothes Recommended
History of Bach Ma Temple in Hanoi:
Bach Ma Temple was first built in the 9th century, acting as a place for the worship of Long Do - the ancient god of Hanoi. Legend said that Long Do the God deserved great credit for prevailing over the practice of witchcraft by Cao Bien, General of China’s Tang Empire.
Formerly, the temple was named Long Do. Then, it was changed to Bach Ma to tell the story of King Ly Thai To’s relocating the imperial capital from Hoa Lu Ancient Capital in Ninh Binh Province to Thang Long (Hanoi nowadays) in 1010 AD. Plenty of historical records say that the King kept failing in his attempt to build the new citadel without any clear explanations.
Only when the King got his courtier to pray did he notice a white horse coming out of the Long Do temple, wandering and leaving traces on the ground before vanishing. From that moment, Ly Thai To ordered to build the citadel walls alongside of the marked traces and succeeded in moving forward till completion. Since then, he decided to change the name of Long Do Temple to Bach Ma (meaning “white horse”).
Architecture of Bach Ma Temple in Hanoi:
Bach Ma Temple has been recognized as an outstanding monument and kept restoring in the reign of many royal dynasties. Its layout was adapted from the shape of the word “Three” in Chinese. From the outside, the temple looks like a 8-roof communal house embellished with ancient patterns which bear a significant resemblance to Hoi An fine arts.
Most of the pillars and wooden beams inside Bach Ma Temple are very well carved, antique precious pictures are well refined by very skillful engravers, rendering an aura of nostalgic grandeur to the Bach Ma Temple.
The temple is believed to be a sacred place in Hanoi which French colonialists and troopers in the 19th century could not have enough courage to vandalize or even relocate its property. As a consequence, Bach Ma Temple remained as a typical embodiment architectural ideas and styles of the Nguyen Dynasty.
Take a look at the interior of the temple and you would notice an unorthodox tie-beam composition made of iron wood, playing a key role in not only decorative art expression but also bearing capacity. Besides, there are a large number of altars featuring sophisticated art forms of engraving, not to mention valuable antiques such as paintings, imperial titles, ancient weapon samples, stone stelae, metal bells, palanquins…
What Things to Do and See in Bach Ma Temple?
Usually, people pay a visit to Bach Ma Temple so that they can admire evidence of ancient engraving artistry and the serene ambience it creates. However, if you have a chance to travel here from Feb 12th to Feb 13th (Lunar Calendar), you should find yourself immersed in the solemn atmosphere of Bach Ma Temple’s annual traditional celebration.
On Feb 12th, groups of palanquin bearers, unicorn dance team, drum crew, flag crew, etc. will walk in procession from Ma May street back to Bach Ma Temple. Later, the rite of sacrifice is performed, regarded as a crucial part of the whole ceremony. Not until all the main acts are done are visitors allowed to enter the temple and take part in other activities.
On the next day Feb 13th the elders will continue to promote more rites of sacrifice, while mini-events of entertainment and art forms are held to attract the public. These days also emphasize a host of cultural celebrations and Vietnamese folk games, namely tug of war, cock-fight, human chess, festival song competition.
How to Get to Bach Ma Temple in Hanoi?
Bach Ma temple is situated in the heart of Hanoi Old Quarter, making it a little difficult to find the way due to the city’s narrow and crowded streets. The following route is typical for tourists to take: Start from Nguyen Thai Hoc Str. Cua Nam Str. Phung Hung Str. Hang Vai Str. Hang Buom Str. Bach Ma Temple at No.76.
The problem of transportation in Hanoi can be tackled by simple solutions: Choosing the right means of transport and a good tour guide if you can. The best and easiest way is to get a grabbike to take you right to the temple, as it would be to crowded for taxi or car.
Buses are more suitable for large groups and easier to take. Buy tickets for the buses whose number is 18 or 32, get off at Tran Nhat Duat station then Bach Ma Temple is just 500 meters away from your location.
If you start from Hoan Kiem Lake, it would be easy to follow Dinh Liet Street -> Ta Hien Street -> Hang Buom (No76). In case you want to take time and do more sightseeing, a pedicab would be the best choice. Pedicab riders are sure to know the streets like the back of their hand.
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