An interesting side visit for those who have the time and are not yet “templed out” is the Thiên Hương cave, which sometimes forms part of the package if you take the Tam Coc tour. Thiên Hương cave is located halfway up a steep mountain and is nearly 60m in height, 40m long and 20m wide. This temple commemorates and worships Trần Thị Dung (Linh Từ quốc mẫu), a former Queen and mother to the last Empress of the Ly dynasty (1009-1225)
This much revered woman was instrumental in the transition from the early Ly Dynasty to the Tran (her birth clan) by ceding her throne to her nephew Trần Thái Tông. After the Tran dynasty was established in 1226, she was “demoted” from princess to fit her new role as the King’s aunt. However her nephew Tran Thai Tong (1218-1277) could not bear to call her “aunty” and so instead gave her the name Quốc Mẫu – the mother of the nation.
Another claim to fame is her reputation for teaching people here how to raise silkworms and weave the cocoons into cloth. If you understand the reverence that Vietnamese hold for this precious cloth, this is no mean accolade!
Local residents say that the cave arch is like a large bell that embraces the altar, while the archetypal Vietnamese communal house and temple architecture is decorated with intricate reliefs of carved dragons and phoenixes.
The statues of Quốc Mẫu and her servants are kept in glass cabinets to preserve them while the altar itself is decorated with green and white cotton snakes to signify invulnerability. On the left is an altar of a tiger, a sacred guardian of the Vietnamese people and to the right is an altar to the Mother Forest God of Vietnamese folk religion.
When the sunrise the light shines down cave arch it creates a whimsical space that combines with the morning fog and the scents of fragrant flowers leading you into an ancient world of elves, spirits and myths.
Thien Huong cave,Thai Vi temple and Cửa Quán temples are an important and beautiful part of Vietnamese history and a journey you should not miss when coming to Tam Coc
Admission is free but for good luck and to show your respect for this holy place and this most revered woman, you are welcome to donate coins from your country as a “luck wish” and to support the ongoing maintenance of the temple.