The statue of Buddha Emperor Tran Nhan Tong is a 1:1 scaled replica of the original statue, currently located at the Hue Quang tower of Hoa Yen pagoda, Yen Tu relic complex in Quang Ninh. The statue depicts the wise king (1258-1308) who ‘took off his royal robe and put on his Buddhist robe’, founded the Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen sect and transformed into Buddha.

The statue is 83.8 cm high and was carved from a monolithic block of stone dating back to the 17th century. However, researchers believe that the stone block used to sculpt the statue was originally a component of the Hue Quang tower built during the Tran dynasty. The statue was recognized as a National Treasure in 2020.

The unique original artifact that history and culture lovers can admire with their own eyes is the National Treasure ‘Ngo Van – Yen Tu Gold Box’. The gold box was discovered on June 21, 2012 in Trai Loc village of Dong Trieu town, Quang Ninh province, during construction to expand the pilgrimage road to Ngoa Van relic where King Tran Nhan Tong was said to have transformed into Buddha.

The spherically shaped box is 4.2 cm high, weighs 56.44 grams, and contains 81-87% pure gold. The body of the box has 11 embossed segments, with each segment resembling a rounded lotus petal. All decorative motifs on the box are crafted using engraving and molding techniques with extremely sophisticated and complex patterns, such as lotus flowers, clouds, and apricot blossoms, reflecting the ideological values of the Tran dynasty.

Among nearly 200 documents, artifacts, and images at the exhibition, there are several artifacts on display for the first time, such as a pair of Buddha’s fingernails made of pure gold and a bronze phoenix statue dating back to the 14th century at An Sinh temple in Quang Ninh.

Visitors to the exhibition have a panoramic view of the typical values of the Yen Tu – Vinh Nghiem – Con Son, Kiep Bac relic and landscape complex. This is the first relic complex spanning across three provinces in Vietnam seeking UNESCO recognition as a World Heritage site.

The complex has a cultural landscape in the form of a continuous chain, evolving organically in the provinces of Quang Ninh, Bac Giang, and Hai Duong in Northeast Vietnam. Yen Tu stands out in Asia and the world as the place where the unique Truc Lam Zen sect of Vietnam was initiated and is also the hometown of the Tran family. By the smooth and close combination of religious ideology and State power, the Truc Lam Buddhist practitioners and the Tran Kings changed the spiritual, socio-economic, and military-political life of the country, forming a strong, independent, and sovereign Dai Viet state, according to the dossier submitted to UNESCO.

Outstanding images of six special national relic sites and 32 component relics of the complex are all clearly introduced. Among them are a series of pagodas in Yen Tu, a series of the Tran dynasty relics in Bac Giang, and a series of relics in Hai Duong. These are unique cultural, historical, and spiritual tourist destinations that are continuously preserved and restored.

Notably, visitors will be able to practice printing and carving Buddhist woodblocks of Vinh Nghiem pagoda in Bac Giang, which has been officially recognized as a World Documentary Heritage by UNESCO.

Vinh Nghiem Pagoda in Yen Dung district, Bac Giang province, is one of the four centers of the Truc Lam Zen sect in Vietnam. The pagoda currently houses 3,050 woodblocks in Chinese and Nom scripts, a few in Sanskrit, engraved from the 17th century to the early 20th century.

Visiting the exhibition, many students enjoyed practicing printing woodblocks on Do (Poonah) paper. These are scriptures compiled by the three Patriarchs of Truc Lam and subsequent sects.

With all images, documents, and artifacts of historical and cultural values on display, organizers hope to instill pride in visitors, helping to raise public awareness of the work of preserving and promoting the country’s historical and cultural values.

The exhibition at Quang Ninh Museum is scheduled to last until December 25.