Scientists search the Xuan Dai Mountain site. They have uncovered big stones that served as Thong Pagoda’s foundation (Photo: dantri.vn)

Thanh Hoa (VNS/VNA) - Remnants of the foundations of a 10th century pagoda in Xuan Dai Mountain, Vinh Loc district, the central province of Thanh Hoa, have just been excavated.

The results have been announced recently by scientists from Ho Citadel Heritage Preservation Centre and the Vietnam Archaeology Institute.

At an excavation site on the mountainside behind Vinh Ninh Primary School, archaeologists discovered four layers of foundations constructed from large stones. Most of the stones remain in their original places, arranged in a line running east to west. Some of them fell out of line.

Each layer of the foundation has a different width and distance from the other layers. For example, the gap between the second to the third stone layer is 8.8m while the third stone layer is locates 0.5-0.7m higher than the second layer.

Around the excavation site, archaeologists found four pillars dating back to the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400). Four other fallen pillars from the Le Trung Hung Dynasty (1533-1789) were also found. The Le Trung Hung pillars are carved in a more sophisticated style than the ones from the Tran dynasty, according to archaeologists.

A great number of tiles from the Tran Dynasty were also found, as well as glazed ceramic tiles from the Late Le Dynasty (1428-1527), lotus decorative patterns from the Le Trung Hung Dynasty and metal nails.

According to a book titled So Luoc Lich Su Van Hoa Chua Thong (A Quick Review of the Culture and History of Thong Pagoda) by Tran Duy Phuong, “Du Anh Pagoda and Thong Cu Pagoda are other names of Thong Pagoda, which was first built in the Early Le Dynasty (980-1009) of bricks and tiles brought from the ancient citadel in Hoa Lu (today’s Ninh Bình province).”

At the end of the Tran Dynasty, King Tran Nghe Tong (1370-1372) brought his daughter, princess Du Anh, to attend a local festival and get treated for an illness at the pagoda. She got healthier after consuming herbs taken from nearby Ho Cong grotto.

The King then improved the pagoda. Du Anh directly managed the construction on the building as well as the creation of statues and a bell. The pagoda was named after her.

According to researcher Nguyen Duc Binh from the institute, the excavation site behind the school was the location of the old temple dedicated to the princess.

Another book on geology of Vinh Loc district mentions there is a temple dedicated to the princess near the pagoda. “The temple is located on the mountainside.”

The eight pillars at the foundation of different periods prove the temple existed for a long time and that the structure had been renovated multiple times, Binh said.

Architectural remnants and objects unearthed at the site show that the site is even older than two other ancient structures found in the district – Ho Citadel (built in 1397) and Nam Giao royal worship platform (1400).

Binh said the relic site must have been built on a large area, with space to protect various valuable antiques.

“As the excavation site is small, we still cannot see the whole scale of the structures,” Binh said. “The site needs to be further excavated in order to gather enough evidence and information for future preservation.”

Researcher Do Quang Trong, Director of the Ho Citadel Preservation Centre, suggested displaying the unearthed objects at the site to enhance people’s awareness of the importance of protecting heritage sited and to develop the value of the relic site.

“The site may be named one of the locality’s destinations for spiritual tourism,” he said.-VNS/VNA