This paper focuses on the area surrounding Lung Khe, which is the local name of an ancient citadel located in Thuan Thanh District, Bac Ninh Province, northern Vietnam. The nearby Nam Giao học tổ (南交學祖) Temple and the Tứ Pháp Buddhist temples, as well as records related to Shi Xie (士燮), the head of the Jiaozhi Commandery (交州太守), indicate that interesting cultural exchanges occurred in this area. Examining archaeological evidence found by the late Dr. Nishimura Masanari and his colleagues, the paper discusses cultural relationships and contacts among ancient peoples in various areas, particularly in present-day northern and southern Vietnam.
The Context of Cultural Exchange and Interaction in the Age of Shi Xie
The latter half of the first millennium
Meanwhile, in India, the ideas of King Asoka encouraged “peaceful” cultural exchanges with other counterparts in various ways, including through religious practices, as suggested by Himanshu Prabha Ray.6 The strong impact of Indian religious practices in various areas, such as their role in the royal courts of rising powers in early Southeast Asia, is clear from both archaeological data and historical records.
In northern Vietnam, Indian ways of religious practice developed, at least during the second century
In central Vietnam, the domination of the Han Dynasty ended after the rebellion of Khu Liên (區連) in Xiang Lin in 137
In southern Vietnam, the first centuries
Religious sculptures made of stone and wood became important products and perhaps were presented as diplomatic gifts to northern Vietnam, as suggested by the presence of a stone Buddha image at Bên Củi, Nam Định city. The sculpture closely resembles several stone Buddha images found in southern Vietnam (Fig. 5).13
Archaeological Discoveries at the Lung Khe Citadel
Since the 1970s, the ancient citadel of Lung Khe has been surveyed and excavated several times by the Institute of Archaeology, the University of Social Sciences and Humanity (Hanoi), the Vietnam National Museum of History, and Bac Ninh Province, with the participation of Dr. Nishimura Masanari in 1998, 1999, and 2001. A five-year international co-operative project between the Vietnam National Museum of History, the Department of Culture, Sport, and Tourism of Bac Ninh Province, and the University of East Asia (Japan) is in progress, and excavations were conducted in 2014–2015 and 2016. Archaeological evidence indicates that the citadel was built in the second century
Several artifacts signifying a cultural relationship between central and southern Vietnam were found at Lung Khe, among which a kendi of Malleret’s Type 45, a fishing net, and a stone pesani are noteworthy. Several elements of local, Indian, and Chinese cultures are combined on a kendi found in the Nghi Ve brick tomb.19 In 2003, Nishimura Masanari joined the third excavation at the Minh Sư Mound (Gò Tháp, Đông Tháp Province). He analyzed the pottery assemblage unearthed at the site and recognized a potsherd that was similar to those found at Lung Khe (Fig. 8). A small pot containing traces of lime was also noted.20 Earlier in 2000, Nishimura joined the excavation at the Nhơn Thành site (Cân Thơ Province). Among the artifacts he analyzed was a small vase with two handles on the shoulder and peeled glaze, identified as an example of the Chinese Six-Dynasty style. Several pieces of stoneware with a brownish self-glaze were also found. These might have originated in northern Vietnam.21
The Development of Buddhism in Vietnam: A Story from Lung Khe
Closely related to the Lung Khe Citadel is a Buddhist center called Tứ Pháp Buddhas (Four Dharma Buddhas). The 1986 investigation identified four Buddhist pagodas: Pháp Vân (Chùa Dâu), Pháp Vũ (Chùa Đậu), Pháp Lôi (Chùa Tướng), and Pháp Điện (Chùa Dàn).22 The Pháp Lôi Pagoda stood inside the southeastern corner of the citadel, and the others were located not far from the citadel. A legend related to these pagodas tells of a monk named Khâu Đà La and seems to agree with chronicle records that Indians were present during the time of Shi Xie. A handwritten text, which might be a copy of wooden boards dating back to the seventeenth or eighteenth century that were used in an offering ceremony in Dau pagoda, refers to this story. This text is noteworthy for the statement, “During the Later Han, (the Dau tree) being sanctification, Shi Wang (士王) made statutes that were held in reverence.”23 In the inscriptions and royal edicts of the Lê and Nguyễn dynasties (from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century) housed in the Dâu Pagoda and the Tướng Pagoda, the Four Dharmas are referred to by several epithets: the Great God-Buddha, the Great God–Great Bodhisattva, and the Tutelary God (Fig. 9).24 Three wooden statues of this Buddhist group are now worshipped in Chùa Dâu and Chùa Dàn. Their artistic characteristics suggest a date in the seventeenth or eighteenth century. However, their iconographic features are unique. The wooden Dâu Lady Buddha has a feminine face that is beautiful but rather stiff, with a prominent urna on the forehead and snail-curled hair. The hands with large palms and the seated pose are typical of the Buddha in abhaya posture. The upper body is bare and the chest appears to be male (Fig. 10).
This type of Buddha cannot be found anywhere in the north and may reflect an older tradition that is now lost. Ruan Rongchun explained that the constituent features of the Jiaozhi Buddha statue are rather complicated, combining direct influences from Mathura and indirect influence from the Deccan by way of Funan.25 Along with these sculptures should be mentioned the wooden Buddha images of southern Vietnam. Buddha images made of wood constitute the most distinctive art style of southern Vietnam. Several Buddha images made of wood have been found at several sites, such as Giông Xoài (Óc Eo), Nhơn Thành (Cân Thơ Province), and in the Đông Tháp Mười area (belonging to Đông Tháp and Long An provinces). About thirty images have been found at the Gò Tháp site (also known as the Plain of Reeds, Đông Tháp Province).26
Well-executed wooden Buddha images in various sizes represent a long tradition and show the influence of several schools of Indian art. The standing images can be classified into three groups. The first group includes those standing in the delicate tribhanga posture. Both the tallest and smallest examples belong to this group and were found in the Đông Tháp Mười area. Their elongated bodies and legs represent the influence of the Amaravati style. Other features typical of this group include an elongated neck, a small face with a roundish chin, and a flat chest. This group can be dated to the earliest phase of the manufacture of wooden Buddha images in southern Vietnam, most probably from the second to the fourth century
The second group displays more elements that have been drawn from Gupta art at Sarnath, including the abhanga standing posture. Some images, mainly life size, represent the Great Man (mahapurusa). Chronologically, they date to the fifth–sixth century. These well-preserved images provide good examples for the study of Buddhist iconography and artistic features (Fig. 11).27
The third group contains features that are frequently seen in Dvaravati art, especially the stiff samabhanga posture. The best-preserved example was found in Phong Mỹ village at the southern end of the Đông Tháp Mười area. There is no line on his strong neck. The broad shoulders and stiff body, as well as the two legs firmly planted on the lotus base and marked by prominent knees, are typical features of the Dvaravati style.28
It is interesting that evidence of workshops for manufacturing wooden Buddha images has been found at several sites, such as Gò Tháp, Nhơn Thành, and Giông Xoài. Among these, the workshop at Gò Tháp may have been the largest. Regarding the woodwork, the mortise and tenon joinery used in the Động Xá boat burial (second century
A study of the pantheon of the present Dâu Pagoda indicates that it was probably modeled on the earlier Tứ Pháp system.29 The worship of the holy stone, Thach Cuong (“light-radiating stone”), may also be the product of a tradition other than Buddhism (Fig. 12). Similar phenomena are the worship of monoliths at the Nhât Trụ Pagoda (Hoa Lư, Ninh Bình), and of the “holy foot” in about twenty-two places in Vietnam.30 This cultural tradition provides more evidence for the early existence of Buddhism in Jiaozhou, as Tantian (Đàm Thiên) (542–607) reported to Emperor Wen of the Sui that the area of Jiaozhou had long been in communication with Tianzhu (天竺, referring to India): “Early on, when the Buddha-Dharma reached Jiangdong (江东) and still had not been established (there), in Luy Lau (羸𨻻) more than twenty temples had (already) been built, more than five hundred monks had (already) been ordained, and fifteen volumes of scriptures had (already) been translated.”31
To sum up, data from archaeology, historical records, and traditional and existing culture and religion in the Lung Khe–Dâu area reflect the existence of an important political, cultural, and religious center in Jiaozhou during the first half of the first millennium
Brigitte Borrel et al., “Contact between the Upper Thai-Malay,” in Before Siam, ed. Nicolas Revire and Stephen A. Murphy (Bangkok: River Books and the Siam Society, 2014), 110–112.
Romila Thapar, A History of India, vol. 1 (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1992), 109–115; Himanshu Prabha Ray, “Multi-Religious Linkages across the Bay of Bengal during the First Millennium
References to types of vaulted brick graves and the use of grave goods can be found in Olov R. T. Jansé, Archaeological Research in Indo-China, vol. 1 (Cambridge,
Brick tombs of Han types were discovered in various places and coastal areas, including those from Quảng Ninh Province, as reported in Đỗ Văn Ninh, “Báo cáo khai quật khu mộ Hán Mạo Khê, Quảng Ninh” (Report of the Excavation at Mao Khe Cemetery from the Han Dynasty, Quang Ninh) (unpublished report of the Institute of Archaeology, 1972), and in Lê Thị Liên, Bùi Thanh Hợi, and Kiêu Đinh Sơn, “Báo cáo khai quật mộ cổ Bí Thượng, Uông Bí, Quảng Ninh” (Excavation Report on the Bi Thuong Ancient Tomb, Uong Bi Town, Quang Ninh) (unpublished report of the Institute of Archaeology, 2006).
A large number of graves of various types reflecting both the Đông Sơn and Han cultural characteristics of the owners have been found at the Đông Sơn and Thiệu Dương sites in Mã River Valley, and at the Làng Vạc site in Lam River Valley, as reported in Hà Văn Tân, ed., Khảo cô học Việt Nam (Vietnamese Archaeology), vol. 2 (Hanoi: Social Sciences Publishing House, 1999), 209–260. In the Thu Bôn River Valley, the graves found at Lai Nghi and other sites contain luxury grave goods originating from India, as reported in Lam Thi My Dzung, “Sa Huynh Regional and Inter-regional Interactions,”
Ray believes that the diverse channels of communication, including oral transmission by priests and pilgrims, traders, wandering storytellers, and entertainers, brought about cultural exchanges across the Bay of Bengal. Ray, “Multi-Religious Linkages across the Bay of Bengal,” 149.
Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư (Complete Annals of Đại Việt), trans. Viện Khoa học Xã hội Việt Nam (Hanoi: Social Sciences Publishing House, 1993), 25–27. Shi Xie headed the Jiaozhi Commandery from 187 to 226
Mật Thể, Việt Nam Phật giáo sử lược (Brief History of Vietnamese Buddhism) (Hanoi: Minh Duc Publishing House, 1960), 63–74.
Phạm Lê Huy, “Nhân Thọ xá lợi tháp và văn bia tháp xá lợi mới phát hiện tại Bắc Ninh” (Nhân Thọ Śarīra Stupa and Śarīra Stupa Inscription Newly Found in Bac Ninh Province), Khảo cô học (Archaeology) 181 (1–2013): 60–80; Trân Anh Dũng and Nguyễn Mạnh Cường, “Tháp Nhạn ở Nghệ Tĩnh qua hai lân khai quật” (Nhan Stupa in Nghe Tinh Province after Two Excavations), Khảo cô học (Archaeology) 3 (1987): 69–83.
Trân Quôc Vượng and Hoàng Văn Khoán, “Đâu ngói ông Trà Kiệu” (Tile Ends from Tra Kieu), in Những phát hiện mới Khảo cô học 1985 (New Archaeological Discoveries in 1985) (Hanoi: Social Sciences Publishing House, 1986); Nishimura Masanari, Archaeology and Ancient History of Vietnam (Betonamu no Koko-Kodaigaku) (Tokyo: Doseisha, 2011), figs. 122, 123.
Typical sites and artifacts of Oc Eo culture found after the excavations of L. Malleret in Oc Eo field are discussed in Lê Xuân Diệm, Đào Linh Côn, and Võ Sĩ Khải, Văn hóa Óc Eo—Những khám phá mới (Óc Eo Culture—Recent Discoveries) (Hanoi: Social Sciences Publishing House, 1995); Bùi Phát Diệm, Đào Linh Côn, and Vương Thu Hông, Khảo cô học Long An—Những thê kỷ đâu Công nguyên (Long An Archaeology—The Early Centuries
Louis Malleret, L’archéologie du Delta du Mekong, vol. 2 (Paris:
Lê Thị Liên and Tông Trung Tín, “Vê một pho tượng Phật đang được lưu trữ trong Bảo tàng Nam Hà” (On a Buddha Statue Stored in Nam Ha Museum), in Những phát hiện mới khảo cô học năm 1993 (New Archaeological Discoveries in 1993) (Hanoi: Social Sciences Publishing House, 1994), 193.
Results of the excavations at Lung Khe (also called Luy Lâu in some reports) can be found in Tông Trung Tín and Lê Đình Phụng, “Báo cáo nghiên cứu khu di tích Luy Lâu, Thuận Thành, Hà Bắc năm 1986” (Research Report on Luy Lau Site, Thuan Thanh District, Ha Bac Province in 1986) (unpublished report by Institute of Archaeology, 1986); Trân Đình Luyện, “Một thê kỷ nghiên cứu Luy Lâu và những vân đê đặt ra” (One Century of Research at Luy Lau and the Questions Asked), in Một thê kỷ khảo cô học Việt Nam (One Century of Vietnamese Archaeology) (Hanoi: Social Sciences Publishing House, 2005), 2:47–52; Nishimura Masanari, “Thành Lũng Khê: Nhận xét mới từ những điêu tra khảo cổ học” (Lung Khe Citadel: New Remarks from the Archaeological Investigations), in Một thê kỷ khảo cô học Việt Nam (One Century of Vietnamese Archaeology) (Hanoi: Social Sciences Publishing House, 2005), 2:53–71; Nguyễn Xuân Mạnh, Đặng Hông Sơn, Phạm Thị Len, and Nguyễn Thị Biên, “Khai quật thành Luy Lâu, tỉnh Bắc Ninh năm 2014” (The Excavation at Luy Lau Citadel, Bac Ninh Province, in 2014), in Những phát hiện mới khảo cô học năm 2015 (New Archaeological Discoveries in 2015) (Hanoi: Social Sciences Publishing House, 2016), 322–325; Đoàn khai quật Luy Lâu, “Những phát hiện qua cuộc khai quật thành cổ Luy Lâu, tỉnh Bắc Ninh năm 2014” (The Discoveries from the Excavation at the Ancient Citadel of Luy Lau, Bac Ninh Province, in 2014), in Những phát hiện mới khảo cô học năm 2015 (New Archaeological Discoveries in 2015) (Hanoi: Social Sciences Publishing House, 2016), 325–329; Huang Xiaofen, Lê Văn Chiên, et al., Báo cáo sơ bộ kêt quả khai quật di tích thành cô Luy Lâu lân thứ 3 năm 2016 (xã Thanh Khương, huyện Thuận Thành, tỉnh Bắc Ninh) (Brief Report on the Result of the Third Excavation at the Ancient Citadel of Luy Lau in 2016) (unpublished report of Vietnam National Museum of History, January 2017).
Imamura Keiji, “The Distribution of Bronze Drums of the Heger I and Pre-I Types: Temporal Changes and Historical Background,” Bulletin of the Department of Archaeology, the University of Tokyo (東京大学考古学研究室研究紀要) 24 (2010): 3, 29–44.
Đoàn khai quật Luy Lâu, “Những phát hiện,” 326–327.
Trân and Hoàng, “Đâu ngói ông Trà Kiệu,” 235; Tông and Lê, “Báo cáo,” 34, drawings 21, 24, 25; William A. Southworth, “Ngói mặt hê ở di chỉ Trà Kiệu” (Tile Decorated with Kala Face at Tra Kieu Site), in Những phát hiện mới khảo cô học năm 1994 (New Archaeological Discoveries in 1994) (Hanoi: Social Sciences Publishing House, 1995), 455–457; Trịnh Sinh and Nguyễn Kim Dung, “Vài suy nghĩ vê niên đại sớm ở Trà Kiệu” (Some Thoughts on the Early Date at Tra Kieu), in Những phát hiện mới khảo cô học năm 1994 (New Archaeological Discoveries in 1994) (Hanoi: Social Sciences Publishing House, 1995), 457–458.
Tông and Lê, “Báo cáo,” 29, figs. 14, 15, 20, 22, 23, 26, 27.
Nishimura, Archaeology and Ancient History of Vietnam, figs. 124, 125; Malleret, L’archéologie du Delta, pls. XXXV, LI; Nishimura, “Thành Lũng Khê,” fig. 7.4.
Nishimura Masanari, “Nhận thức bước đâu vê đô gôm địa điểm chân Gò Minh Sư” (Initial Awareness of the Pottery of the Site at the Foot of Minh Su Mound), in Những phát hiện mới khảo cô học năm 2003 (New Archaeological Discoveries in 2003) (Hanoi: Social Sciences Publishing House, 2004), figs. 21, 19.
Nishimura Masanari, Nguyễn Duy Tỷ, and Huỳnh Đình Chung, “Excavation of Nhơn Thành at the Hậu Giang River Reach, Southern Vietnam,” Meishu Shi Yan Jiu Ji San (Journal of Fine Art History Research) 25 (2008): 1–71.
These are the Chinese literary epithets of the Buddhist temples that represent the natural elements of cloud, rain, thunder, and lighting. The temples also have local names, one of which (Chùa Dâu, “Mulberry Tree”) reflects the legend that the statues were made from the mulberry tree.
Shi Wang refers to Shi Xie. I personally examined the manuscript kept by the abbot at the Dau Pagoda in 1986.
Lê Thị Liên and Tông Trung Tín, “Tâm bia đá ở chùa Phi Tướng (Thuận Thành, Hà Bắc)” (The Stone Stele at Phi Tuong Pagoda, Thuan Thanh District, Ha Bac Province), Khảo cô học (Archaeology) 3 (1987): 84–89.
Ruan Rongchun, Fujiao Nanchuan Zhilu (The Southern-Spreading Route of Buddhism) (Henan: Meishu Chubanshe, 2000), 61–62.
Lê Thị Liên, Nghệ thuật Phật giáo và Hindu giáo ở đồng bằng sông Cửu Long trước thê kỷ X (Buddhist and Hindu Art in the Cuu Long River Delta prior to the Tenth Century) (Hanoi: Thê Giới Publishing House, 2006), 42–48.
Ibid., fig. 19.
Tông Trung Tín, “Nhận xét vê sơ đô thượng điện các chùa Tứ Pháp” (Remarks on the Plan of the Main Shrine in the System of Four Dharma Pagodas), Khảo cô học (Archaeology) 3 (1993): 46–53.
Nguyễn Duy Hinh, “Đên Độc Cước: Dâu chân thân—Biểu tượng Phật” (Mono-foot Temple: God’s Footprint—Buddha’s Symbol), Khảo cô học (Archaeology) 1–2 (1988): 72–83.
Kim Son, Thien uyen tap anh (Collection of Outstanding Figures of the Zen Garden 禪苑集英), trans. Lê Mạnh Thát (Saigon: Vạn Hạnh University Press, 1999), 50. This event has been cited in Jayne Werner, John K. Whitmore, and George Dutton, Sources of Vietnamese Tradition (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 18.