The Duyen Ninh Pagoda (or Chùa Duyên Ninh in Vietnamese) is a popular Buddhist shrine known for its association with love and romance. Originally named Chùa Cầu Duyên, young lovers often come here to seek blessings, while single people praying for a suitable partner or looking for good fortune in love visits the temple.
The entrance gate of the pagoda is in the traditional three-way “Tam Quan” style, reflecting the Buddhist concept of “three ways of seeing.” The current temple faces northeast and is supported by the living rock face. Its architecture is relatively simple and includes a main hall, an ancestral house, a living room, dining room, and relic tower. As with most Vietnamese temples, the surrounding gardens are beautifully designed and well-maintained, complementing the pagoda’s serene ambiance. However, it is the pagoda’s unique emphasis on love that sets it apart from others.
Temple of Love
Chua Duyen Ninh was built in the 10th century during King Dinh Tien Hoang’s reign. It became one of the most famous pagodas in Vietnam and is still a popular destination, especially during the Lunar New Year when people come to pray for success, good health, prosperity, and most importantly, love.
Legend has it that the pagoda was a gathering place for young princesses of the Dinh-Le dynasty. It was here that Princess Le Thi Phat Ngan and General Ly Cong Uan (later to become King Ly Thai To) exchanged vows and prayed for a child. Their wish was granted, and Ly Phat Ma, the future King Ly Thai Tong, was born. Thus began the legend of Chua Duyen Ninh as a temple of good luck for those in love.
Later, when King Ly Thai Tong returned to suppress a local rebellion he changed the name of his birthplace to Chua Duyen Ninh. Later still, Empress Phat Ngan, his mother, retired to the pagoda to meditate and care for her father’s final resting place. According to legend, the former Empress also acted as a matchmaker for several couples, further enhancing the pagoda’s reputation as a place to pray for love and marital happiness.
The Gods of Love
Like many Vietnamese pagodas, there is a mix of Buddhist piety, folk religion and Taoist ancestral worship. At Duyen Ninh Pagoda, for obvious reasons, there is a particular focus on gods and goddesses representing love, childbirth, fertility, and motherhood.
Not surprisingly, you will see large numbers of younger people here, especially young women and men hoping to find ”Mr. or Ms. Right”. Meeting your future life partner at Duyen Ninh is particularly auspicious, making it doubly attractive to many young suitors. As such, it is not hard to understand why this place is so popular with young people, especially around the time of the Spring Festival.
Situated in Chi Phong ancient village, Duyen Ninh Pagoda is part of the Hoa Lu Ancient City complex. To reach the temple from Ninh Binh city, visitors can follow Trang An Street for approximately 10 km. The pagoda is located next to the street, close to King Dinh Tien Hoang temple and between the tourist attractions of Bai Dinh Pagoda and Trang An eco-tourism area. The pagoda faces northeast.
You don’t have to pay an entry fee, and the pagoda’s yard is available for motorbike parking. However, during festivals, the organizers may charge a parking fee of 5000-10000VND per motorbike. Although some might consider this a money-making scheme, it’s important to keep in mind that petty theft is a prevalent problem in Vietnam, and motorbikes are highly valued. The parking fee includes a “security” fee to guarantee the safety of your vehicle while you visit the temple.