One Pillar Pagoda is situated in the western part of Hanoi capital, near Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. It is on Ong Ich Khiem Street, Ngoc Ha, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi.
The legend has it that on Ly Dynasty, Emperor Ly Thai To had no children so he used to go to pagodas to pray the Buddha for a son. One night, he dreamt that he was granted a private audience to the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who was seated on a great lotus flower in a square-shaped lotus pond on the western side of Thang Long Citadel. He gave the King a baby boy. Months later, when the Queen gave birth to a male child, the Emperor decided to build a pagoda supported by only one pillar to resemble the lotus seat of his dream in the honor of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. The pagoda was built in a style of a lotus emerging out of the water.
It was said that Emperor Ly Thai Tong had this temple constructed in gratitude for the mentioned significant legendary event in 1049, by erecting a pillar in the middle of a lotus pond, and a temple of lotus-shape, exactly similar to what he saw in the dream. This unique shape of the pagoda together with the special story has been of great absorption to hundreds of thousands of international tourists!
Architecturally, One Pillar Pagoda was built of wood on a single stone pillar 1.25m in diameter, and it is designed to resemble a lotus blossom, which is a Buddhist symbol of purity, since a lotus blossoms in a muddy pond. Before the pagoda was opened, prayers were held for the longevity of the monarch, hence being considered a temple at that time. During the Ly Dynasty era, the temple was the site of an annual royal ceremony on the occasion of Vesak, the birthday of Gautama Buddha. A Buddha-bathing ceremony was held annually by the monarch, and it attracted monks and laymen alike to the ceremony. The monarch would then free a bird, which was followed by the people.
As time went by, the pagoda succumbed to many ravages caused by the colonial powers. In 1954, the French Union forces destroyed the pagoda before withdrawing from Vietnam after the First Indochina War, and then it was rebuilt.
What you see today of the pagoda is a new form recovered in 1955 when it was refurbished with a concrete pillar from its remnants by the Vietnamese Government. The structure today can be just called the replica of the original pagoda. Locals believe that if you pray here, it will invoke well-beings and prosperity.