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Pilgrimage to Khai Nguyen Pagoda and the Tallest Buddha Statue in Southeast Asia

Khai Nguyen Pagoda is a famous Buddhist temple located in Son Dong commune, Son Tay town in Hanoi, Vietnam. It has become one of the most popular spiritual tourism destinations thanks to the magnificent 72-meter tall Buddha statue enshrined within its grounds. After nine years of construction that started in 2015, the grand statue was finally completed and opened to pilgrims and visitors in early 2024. With its unique architecture and design symbolizing peace, the colossal Buddha has attracted thousands of devotees and sightseers who come to pay homage and admire this impressive landmark.

The pagoda was originally established in the first half of the 16th century according to archived stone inscriptions. However, over several centuries of natural wear and tear, by 1990 Khai Nguyen had severely deteriorated and was nearly in ruins. A restoration project initiated by the local government in 2006 helped refurbish the main buildings and structures. Meanwhile, monks and nuns as well as donors from the community fundraising for the construction of the giant Buddha statue that now stands proudly as the pagoda's centerpiece. While most components have been finished, some parts of the project are still ongoing with continued contributions.


Standing tall at 72 meters, the awe-inspiring Buddha is verified to be the highest in Southeast Asia. Its lotus throne base spans an area of over 1,200 square meters. Elaborately designed with three layered petals spreading outward symmetrically, the lotus depicts an auspicious symbol enormously significant in Vietnamese Buddhist culture. Each section of the throne displays carvings of Garuda, the mythical bird-like creature in Hindu and Buddhist mythology that serves as a divine mount.



The statue possesses finely detailed features such as nine-meter long hands with the right palm holding a Dharma wheel representing the teachings of Buddha and the left resting on another lotus. Its bright red third eye or urna located on the forehead is crafted from a single solid block of red stone. Sixteen levels were engineered within the immense structure, twelve of which are accessible by elevators and staircases. Every floor presents unique ornamentation relating to Buddhist worship and veneration of various celebrated sages and bodhisattvas.

One highlight is the second level housing statues portraying the 33 manifestations of Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. Most extraordinary among them is a two-ton gemstone Amitabha Buddha painstakingly carved from solid Canadian jade. Another focal point is the fourth floor enshrining Yakushi Buddha renowned as the healer and illuminator able to cure all illnesses of body and mind derived from greed, hatred, and delusion. Plus, thousands of miniature Buddha figurines decorating the interiors crafted from diverse materials like composite resin and jade.

At the base of the colossal figure resides the pagoda complex where monks reside and carry out daily worship duties. Visitors can explore the monastic grounds filled with ornate pavilions, gardens, and temples holding numerous antique Buddha statues, scriptures, and art pieces. Traditional Vietnamese vegetarian meals are often served to pilgrims in the spacious dining hall. Special ceremonies and festivals are held throughout the year, drawing massive crowds especially during holidays such as Lunar New Year where tens of thousands flock to pray and circumambulate.

For the spiritual visitors, making offerings, gaining blessings, and viewing the magnificent icon from multiple angles provides profound spiritual fulfillment and inner peace. Photographing and selfies with the towering form in the background have also become very popular online. Meanwhile, admiring intricate details up close on the lower floors through open doorways and windows grants a closer appreciation of the artistic mastery. Overall, the pagoda promises a memorable and inspiring excursion for people of all faiths and nationalities to encounter awe, reverence as well as connect to their spiritual roots.


In conclusion, the colossal 72-meter Buddha at Khai Nguyen Pagoda has not only become a new iconic landmark for Hanoi but also elevated Vietnam's status as a major religious tourism destination in Southeast Asia. With its picturesque settings and warm community, a visit offers multi-faceted experiences from spiritual reflection, cultural immersion, and architectural wonder that leave lasting impressions on many pilgrims and sightseers from around the world. Although construction is still progressing, the pagoda has firmly established itself as one of the top attractions for pilgrims pursuing tranquility and enlightenment along their journey to connect with Buddha.

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