In the heart of Buon Ma Thuot Town stands the Khai Doan Pagoda that boasts a unique feature: a design that is a combination of the Central Highlands long house and palaces of the Hue Royal Court.
In 1951, Doan Huy Hoang Thi Cuc, the mother of Bao Dai, the last king of the Nguyen Dynasty who abdicated his throne in 1945, donated seven hectares that she possessed in the Central Highlands region to build a pagoda, recognizing the increasing popularity of Buddhism in the country.
After work on it was completed in 1953, Doan Huy named it the Khai Doan Pagoda, combining the given names of her deceased husband and herself.
The appearance of Khai Doan Pagoda marked Buddhismâ€™s development in the Central Highlands region. The first abbot of the pagoda was Monk ThichÂ Duc Thieu. Until now, Khai Doan has had seven abbots, and the pagoda has gone through several expansions and embellishments.
Today, increasing numbers of devout Buddhists as well as tourists visit the pagoda.
Khai Doan Pagoda was given a reddish brown earth color, the color of basalt soil in the Central Highlands.
We entered the pagoda through the cong tam quan (three-entrance gate). As there are several steps to climb to reach the pagoda from this gate, those who are on vehicles or otherwise unable to negotiate the stairs can use the rear entrance.
The sanctum’s pillars are carved in a style similar to Hue’s Royal Court
Inside the pagoda, its unique features becomes obvious. While the roofs are characteristic of the nha dai (long house), its pillars were carved in style similar to the Royal Court in Hue.
Nha dai, a long house on stilts where several families live together, is favored by the Ede ethnic minority. The long-roofed house is distinct from the nha rong in that the former is a residence while the latter serves as a venue for meetings or festivals.
The 320-square meter sanctum of the pagoda has seven bronze Buddha and Bodhisattva statues. The 1.1-meter tall Sakyanumi Buddha statue is highest, placed in the middle. In front of the statue is a Buddha relic gifted by Monk Narada Thera from Sri Lanka in 1953 when the pagoda was inaugurated.
We were also impressed by a large bell that weighs 380 kilograms and is 1.15 meters high. Made by highly skilled craftsmen from the former feudal capital of Hue, the bell has sophisticated carvings on it and its chimes can be heard far away, reminding Buddhists and others that it is time to meditate on the ephemeral nature of life.
We felt a sense of quiet and ease at the pagoda. Monks walked by slowly with measured steps. Pilgrims were silent as they tuned in to the sacred atmosphere.
In the garden surrounding the pagoda is a statue of the Buddha under a tall Bodhi tree that reminded us of the enlightenment that the Compassionate One attained and pointed humankind to. The fresh, tranquil atmosphere swept away the stress weâ€™d been carrying from our daily lives.
There is a shop in the pagoda where tourists can buy Buddhism-related souvenirs and next to it is a house where tourists can rest and drink tea for free.
Khai Doan Pagoda is located at 89A Phan Boi Chau Street, Thong Nhat Ward, Buon Ma Thuot Town, Dak Lak Province.
Along with the Bao Dai Palace, Lac Giao communal house, and Buon Ma Thuot Penitentiary, the Khai Doan Pagoda has added to Dak Lakâ€™s tourist attractions, but it offers more than an aesthetically pleasing experience.
It offers a space to reflect on our lives and ways to make it more meaningful.
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