Tu Van Pagoda is situated approximately 60km south of Nha Trang city. It serves not only as a site for religious practices but also as a unique tourist destination. The pagoda is entirely built from dried seashells and coral, earning it names like Oc Temple (Shell Temple) and San Ho Temple (Coral Temple).
|The pagoda is entirely made from dried seashells and coral. Photo: immivietnamvisa
Upon entering, visitors will be amazed by a huge Prajna Paramitta Boat (Thuyen Bat Nha) made of dead shells, measuring 10m in length. According to Buddhist beliefs, this boat was used by Mitreya Buddha to transport individuals who possess great righteousness and generosity across the sea of suffering after death. The sails of the boat contain excerpts from Buddhist prayer scriptures, aiming to bring tranquility to visitors as they enter the pagoda.
The Bao Tich Tower is what distinguishes this pagoda. Standing at a height of 39m, it is recognized as the tallest Bao Tich tower in Vietnam. Construction of the tower began in 1995 and took five years to complete. The interior architecture is adorned with seashells and coral. The tower features eight doors and two floors. The first floor is open to visitors and Buddhist monks, while the upstairs serves as a worship space for Buddha.
|The interior architecture of the pagoda. Photo: Ha Photography
The tower is elegantly designed, complemented by 49 small pyramidal towers on the exterior. Each sub-stupa houses various Buddha statues, including Amitabha Buddha, Bodhisattva, Shakyamuni Buddha, and Maitreya Buddha.
|The entrance gate of Bao Tich Tower. Photo: Ha Photography
Visitors to the pagoda can also immerse themselves in an intriguing experience of “Hell.” The Pathway to Hell is only 500m long, but it is meticulously crafted with rocks, coral, and shells, adorned with a beautiful dragon mural. The underground pathway is dimly lit, requiring visitors to use candlelight or flashlights. The cave comprises 12 gates, symbolizing the 12 layers of Buddhist hell. Each gate features descriptions of sins that individuals may commit throughout their lives. It is a marvel of architectural design at Tu Van Pagoda.
|The seashells delicately carved on the walls. Photo: Ha Photography
After traversing through the deep, dark realm of Hell, tourists return to the outside world by passing through an entrance shaped like a dragon’s mouth. They will be enthralled by the tranquil paradise of Bat Nha Hoa Vien – a garden adorned with large shady trees, statues of animals and sea creatures, all harmoniously blending with the surroundings.
|The entrance to Hell. Photo: Ha Photography
|Owing to its unique construction materials, Tu Van Pagoda is also known as Oc Temple (Shell Temple) and San Ho Temple (Coral Temple). Photo: Ha Photography
Other must-visit destinations in Nha Trang City
Right in the center of Nha Trang, tourists can explore some captivating cultural attractions and impressive architectural structures:
Po Nagar Cham Tower: Perched on a hill approximately 50 meters above sea level, Po Nagar Cham Tower is one of the few remaining grand Champa architectural complexes in Central Vietnam. The tower comprises four floors, and within it sits a majestic marble lotus with a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Nha Trang Cathedral: The entire Nha Trang Cathedral is constructed using thousands of three-dimensional stones, representing the distinctive Gothic style of the West. Officially known as Christ the King Cathedral, it is often referred to by locals as Stone Church or Mountain Church.
National Oceanographic Museum: With a history spanning nearly 100 years, the National Oceanographic Museum houses over 20,000 specimens of more than 4,000 marine species. Notably, the museum displays an enormous nearly 26-meter-long whale skeleton.
Long Son Pagoda: Located at the base of Trai Thuy Mountain, Long Son Pagoda attracts Buddhist pilgrims and tourists from far and wide. This site is renowned for its white sitting Buddha statue, standing tall at 31 meters and exuding a sense of serenity.