“Ho Chi Minh wanted to be cremated when he died, as is our custom. But, when Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, the civil war was still going on. The generals were afraid that if the people knew he had died, they would lose heart and stop fighting. This was just after the North had suffered a terrible defeat during the Tet Offensive of 1968 and already rumours were circulating that he died because of the stress. But I think he died of old age. He was 79 and in those days, people didn’t live as long – although 79 is no age at all now. Millions of people come from all over each year to pay their respects and, perhaps to pray.” He gestured to the long line of people snaking across the square. “They come as early as 6:00 in the morning and it can take two and a half hours to actually get to the mausoleum. There, if you go inside, you can still see his body, preserved by nitrogen in a glass sarcophagus.”
“The Emperor Ly Thai To was getting old but he still had no children. He went from pagoda to pagoda, praying to Buddha for a son. One night he dreamt that he came across the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara seated on a great lotus flower in a square-shaped lotus pond on the western side of Thang Long Citadel. The Emperor pleased with the Bodhisattva to give him a son. Months later, the Queen gave birth to a male child. The Emperor was so pleased he ordered the construction of a pagoda supported by only one pillar to resemble the lotus seat of his dream in the honour of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in 1049." Han said as he led us up to the pagoda. “A pillar rises from the middle of a lotus pond, and on it sits a temple in the shape of a lotus flower, a Buddhist symbol of purity, since a lotus blossoms in a muddy pond, and like the one he saw in the dream. At the time it was located in what was then the Tây Cấm Garden in Thạch Bảo, Vĩnh Thuận district when the capital was called Thăng Long. Before the pagoda was opened, prayers were held for the longevity of the monarch, and 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 freed a bird, which was followed by the people.