Clay Pagoda (Vietnamese: Chùa Đất Sét; Đất Sét mean clay, chùa mean pagoda) has official name is Buu Son Pagoda (Vietnamese: chùa Bửu Sơn). Although this pagoda is not famous for its grand architecture or large area but it is a unique with a storage thousands of artifacts made from clay and possesses pairs of large candles and giant incense sticks that attracts many tourists to pilgrimage and visit. 

General information about Clay Pagoda

The pagoda is located at 286 Ton Duc Thang Street, Group 1, Ward 5, Soc Trang City. According to the elders, Clay or Buu Son Pagoda was originally just a small hermitage built around the beginning of the 19th century, for the purpose of practicing at home by Mr. Ngo Kim Tay. Initially, this pagoda was built with available natural materials such as bamboo and thatch. During the fourth generation of abbot, Mr. Ngo Kim Tong (1909 – 1970) renovated and expanded the pagoda and turned it into the unique structure as it is today. Although he did not go to sculpting or painting school, he did not study in a formal way, based only on folk contemplation, he created unique clay sculptures, which have extremely rare historical and religious value.

Clay Pagoda

The main gate of Clay Pagoda

At the result, on December 10, 2010, Clay Pagoda was ranked and honored as Provincial Historical-Cultural Monument.

Unique architectural features and cultural values

The area of Buu Son Tu is about 400m2, the architecture is simple with wooden columns and corrugated iron roof, however, this ancient pagoda contains nearly 2,000 large and small Buddha statues, along with sacred animals and other worshiping objects, all of which are preserved.

Clay Pagoda in Soc Trang

Artist Ngo Kim Tong molded from clay for 42 years (from 1929 to 1970). When traveling to Soc Trang and visiting Clay Pagoda, everyone was amazed by the talent and love for Buddhism of Mr. Tong, who created a project full of enthusiasm and feats.

Clay Pagoda in Soc Trang
The statues are made mainly from clay, exploited by Mr. Tong from a field a few kilometers away from the pagoda. After drying, the soil will be ground, filtering out impurities, tree roots, and grass roots. Combine this fine soil with incense powder and acacia to create a fragrant mixture. By doing so, Mr. Tong began shaping the statues, creating smooth, crack-free statues.

Clay Pagoda
Mr. Ngo Kim Tong has researched and applied support methods to create statues with high aesthetic requirements. He used wire mesh and wood to make the ribs, then used fabric to cover it with a mixture of materials to make the statue. The exterior of these statues is covered with metallic paint and varnish.

Clay Pagoda
His rich imagination has created hundreds of large and small statues, each with a unique look, expressing the spirit on each face. This shows his diligence, dedication and devotion to Buddhism, creating beautiful and meaningful works for life. 

The statues are include: Amitabha, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, Confucius, Jade Emperor, Lao Tzu, Maitreya Buddha,…Mr. Ngo Kim Tong also created many other impressive works, of which Da Bao Tower is the most outstanding work. This tower was built in 1939, when he was only 30 years old, is about 4 meters high and has a sophisticated design. The tower has 13 floors, each floor has 16 doors, in total Da Bao tower has 208 doors, 208 Buddhas statues; all surrounded by 156 dragons winding and moving, creating an impressive highlight for this project.

Clay Pagoda

Da Bao Tower

Bao Toa is the second unique building built in 1940, about 2 meters high. Above there is a lotus flower with 1000 petals in an octagonal shape, below there are 16 fairies standing as attendants. The base of the tower is shaped like 4 animals of the Four Sacred Animals (unicorn, dragon, tortoise, phoenix) and 12 unique, lively and impressive fish transformed into dragons. All of this demonstrates Mr. Tong’s talent and creativity.

Clay Pagoda

Bao Toa Tower

In addition, there are 4 pairs of giant candles that give this pagoda its name. It is known that at the end of his life, he temporarily stopped making statues and started casting candles in the main halls. With a weight of 200kg and a height of 2m, shaped very meticulously, it is estimated that each pair of such candles can burn continuously for more than 70 years, with the smaller candle weighing about 100kg burning for more than 40 years.

Clay Pagoda

The smaller candle which has been burning for more than 40 years

From the day Mr. Ngo Kim Tong passed away until now, this small candle has been lit every full moon day in July and has burned 1/5 of the tree.

Thanks to its timeless values, the pagoda was ranked as a Provincial Historical-Cultural Monument at two important times: first on December 10, 2010 and then on July 18, 2013. In particular, the Da Bao and Bao Toa tower at the pagoda received special recognition when confirmed as the two largest Buddhist artifacts made from clay in Vietnam. This is testament to the importance of Clay Pagoda in the culture and history of the country.

Source: collected by An

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