Saint Giong - Soc Temple

A serene atmosphere envelops the mountainous scenery of Ve Linh Commune in Soc Son District. It is here about 30km north of Hanoi’s centre, where it is told in a legend that Saint Giong flew back to heaven on his horse after defeating foreign invaders.

If the weather permits you might see abounding colors.  A serene lakes - believed to be the footprints of Saint Giong’s horse - contrasting against the palate of green hills and trees that mingle with the local bamboo. The white colors of the temples giving the place the look of a painting in the dawn and evening sun.

 

The temple complex was built in the pre-Le Dynasty (980), and has altars to worship Saint Giong, his mother, and local gods and goddesses.  The most important feature of the temple buildings is the main altar, made from a mixture of clay, sugarcane juice, paper and lime. Seven statues are worshipped at the temple. The fact that the statues are standing is quite rare as most of local temples worship sitting statues.

 

The sculptor Nguyen Kim Xuan, the creator of Giong’s statue, modeled the heroic figure to symbolize the strength of Vietnamese people to maintain peace and wipe out invaders. The ststue is 40m tall and weighs 50 tones.

 

The legend

 

During the sixth Hung King dynasty (around 500BC), Vietnam was threatened by the kingdom of Yin, to the north of Vietnam.

 

King Hung was worried and assembled his court to prepare the defence of the country. A mandarin of the civil service reminded the King that the original founding King of the country, Lac Long Quan (the Dragon King of the Lac Tribes), had said that if the country were ever to face danger, it should pray for his help.

The king then invoked the spirit of the founding King. Three days later, a very old man appeared in the midst of a storm and said that he was Lac Long Quan himself. He prophesized that in three years Yin’s troops would invade. He asked the King to send messengers all over the country to seek help, and prophesized a general sent from heaven would come to save the country.

 

Three years later, the foreign armies did indeed invade. In the capital city of Phong Chau, King Hung hoped the prophesy would come true.

 

A few years earlier, in the village of Phu Dong, in the northern province of Bac Ninh, a woman in her sixties reported she had seen the footprints of a giant in her field.

 

Amazed, she tried to fit her feet in the footprints and suddenly felt that she was overcome by an unusual feeling. She became pregnant and delivered a boy whom she named Giong. Even at the age of three, Giong was not able to crawl, to roll over, or to say a single word.

 

Surprisingly, on hearing news the King had sent a messenger to the village asking for help, Giong suddenly sat up and spoke to his mother, asking her to invite the messenger to their home. He then instructed the messenger to request the King to build a horse and a sword of iron for him so that he could go and chase the invaders away. When the horse and sword were eventually brought to his home, Giong stood up on his feet, stretched his shoulders, became a giant of colossal proportions, and asked his mother for food and new clothing.

She cooked many pots of rice for him but it was not enough for his appetite. The whole village brought over their whole supply of fabric and it was still not enough for his size.

 

Giong put his helmet on, carried his sword, jumped on the back of his horse and rode away, as fast as a hurricane. The iron horse suddenly spit fire, and brought Giong to the front line at the speed of lightning, he quickly defeated the invaders.

Afterwards, he left his armour on Soc Mountain (Soc Son District, Hanoi) and both man and horse flew into the sky.

 

In recognition of Giong’s achievement, King Hung proclaimed him Phu Dong Thien Vuong (The Heaven Sent King of Phu Dong Village). To the Vietnamese, he is better known as Thanh Giong (Saint Giong).