Spiritual markers of Vietnam’s sea and island sovereignty

Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago off the central province of Khanh Hoa boasts a number of Buddhist temples.

Vietnam’s sea and island sovereignty, Truong Sa, Khanh Hoa, temples, pagodas, Son Ca lighthouse
A pagoda on Sinh Ton island.

These pagodas serve as markers for Vietnam’s sovereignty over Truong Sa and are a must-visit destination for soldiers, people on the archipelago and offshore fishermen.

The sound of a pagoda bell and sea waves at dawn makes Song Tu Tay (Southwest Cay) island a peaceful village in the mainland. Song Tu Tay pagoda, with a main hall and two chambers on its sides, worships Buddha and people who laid down their lives for safeguarding national sovereignty.

Abbot Thich Thuong Dat told, “The pagoda provides an important spiritual mainstay for local people and offshore fishermen.”

Pagodas on Truong Sa all face east to welcome the first ray of sunlight each day. Vo Thanh Hoa, who lives next to Sinh Ton pagoda, said: “I visit the pagoda in the morning and afternoon everyday to burn incense and pray for good health for people and soldiers here.”

Phan Van Minh, an employee at the Son Ca lighthouse, said the sound of the pagoda bell, sutra chanting, and Buddhist prayers foster a feeling of safety for islanders and fishermen.

“I visit the pagoda on the first and full moon days to pray good health for my family and other people. There I find a tranquil state of mind,” said Minh.

Venerable Thich Nguyen Hoa has been staying at pagodas on Truong Sa over the past 6 years. He said islanders visit the pagoda on the first and 15th day of the lunar month to show their respect for Buddha and attend dharma talks. On normal days, they come to help monks, he noted.

“Pagodas are a sacred place. Visitors, be they soldiers, people or fishermen, will find peace and tranquility which are helpful for their work,” Venerable Thich Nguyen Hoa added.

Pagodas on Truong Sa have been an endless source of encouragement for people and soldiers to protect Vietnam’s sea and island sovereignty.    

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