Marble Mounts – The 'rockery' masterpiece in the heart of Da Nang

VietNamNet Bridge - With many caves, temples and traditional villages, Ngu Hanh Son, or the Marble Mountains, is a fascinating stop on the journey to discover heritage sites in central Vietnam.

About 8 km to the southeast of Da Nang’s center, the Marble Mounts combines the beauty of nature with historical value, cultural and spiritual values. In the early 19th century, King Gia Long, the founder of the Nguyen Dynasty, passed by and named the five mountains as Ngu Hanh Son. He also named each of them according to one of the five elements of the universe: Kim Son (metal of gold), Moc Son (wood), Thuy Son (water), Hoa Son (fire), and Tho Son (earth).

According to oriental philosophy, metal, wood, water, fire and earth are five elements that create the universe. Five is a very important number in oriental mentality and life. And so, the five mountains that compose Marble Mountain are filled with mystery.


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Huyen Khong Cave.

Following a long coastal road from Danang to Hoi An, tourists will see a giant "bonsai" named Marble Mount. Thuy Son is the highest and the most beautiful mount. It covers an area of 15ha and has three peaks namely Thuong Thai, Trung Thai and Ha Thai. As a result, the pagoda built on the mountain was named Tam Thai. Thuy Son has been utilized as a popular tourist resort because of its alluring beauty.

Stone steps carved into the mountain lead to Tam Thai Pagoda where Phat Di Lac is worshipped. In the past, the pagoda was used to worship Hindu and Buddhist gods and is now dedicated to Cham deities. Also on the cliff of the mountain are such beautiful grottoes as Linh Nham, Van Thong, Tang Chon and Huyen Khong. Huyen Khong Cave was a base for Vietnamese revolutionaries during wartime.

If you are adventurous, visiting the cave system in Marble Mountain is a fun experience. To visit all caves here, from the Guan Yin (Metal Mountain) Cave to Huyen Vi Cave (Fire Mountain), Am Phu, Hoa Nghiem, Linh Nha, Huyen Khong, Van Thong, Thien Long, Thien Phuoc Dia (Water Mountain), it will take you a few days.

The most famous and beautiful cave is Huyen Khong, on the Water Mountain. To reach Huyen Khong grotto, tourists must go through the Hoa Nghiem cave, located on the edge of a mountain, with fresh and pleasant air.

Walking for a few steps, the fairy scene appears. Going to a cave, many people will think about going into a dark cave with electric light as in many other places, but the Huyen Khong grotto is completely different.

From the door, a blast of sunlight illuminates the cave, making everything float in space. Huyen Khong Cave has a lot of big and small holes on the ceiling, which look like windows, where sunlight comes in to illuminate everything in the cave.

The light moves from time to time during the day, lighting up every corner in the cave. Light dances inside the wide cave, with its high ceiling, creating magical beauty to Huyen Khong. Any visitor steps into the cave being surprise of the scene.

There are several altars and temples in the cave, with many statues of Buddha and deities.

Huyen Khong Cave does not have many stalactites but it has special natural beauty and a spiritual atmosphere.

At the bottom of the mountain are a lot of souvenir and handicraft shops selling all kinds of statues and jewelry made from Non Nuoc stone.

The temples

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A temple inside Huyen Khong Cave.

The exciting aspect of the journey to discover Marble Mountains is a mixture of the magical cave system and ancient temples.

There is Kim Son Pagoda on the Metal Mount, Linh Son Pagoda and Huyen Vi cave, Pho Da Son temple and Pho Da Son cave on the Fire Mountain, Long Hoa and Hue Quang temples in the Earth Mount, Tam Thai, Linh Ung, Tam Ton and Tu Lam temples on the Water Mount... Most of the temples lean against the mountain.

Along with the cool wind blowing in from the sea and the green space of trees and mountains, visitors will easily perceive a world of peace and serenity.

Cultural and historical vestiges are still on every pagoda and tower of the early 19th century and on Champa sculptures of the 14th and 15th centuries.

There are poets of the Le and Tran dynasties engraved on stones. All monuments such as the grave of Prince Tran Quang Khai’s mother, a temple for worshiping Princess Ngoc Lan (Minh Mang King’s younger sister), autograph of conferring Tam Thai pagoda to be the national one, Da Chong tunnel, Ba Tho cave, Kim Son mountain, Am Phu cave, etc. are evidence to the legendary Marble Mountains.

Stone carving village

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Stone products of Non Nuoc Village.

After hours of adventure in the Marble Mountains area, visitors will stop at the Non Nuoc stone carving village located at the foot of the mountain. As one of the oldest traditional villages in Da Nang, which is nearly 200 years old, this place is famous for beautifully and exquisitely handmade stone products created by the skilled hands of artisans.

The founder of the village was craftsman Huynh Ba Quat from Thanh Hoa Province.  In the late 18th century, he and others from his hometown brought their families to live in this village.  There is a place of worship here now which is dedicated to the founding ancestors of the village, and the villagers hold a special ceremony on the sixth day of the 1st lunar month every year to honour their ancestors.

Initially, the village’s craft products had been made to serve the daily lives of the local people, and included such items as rice mortars, grain grinders and tombstones.  More recently, its product range has expanded and they are now considered to be some of the city’s highest value exports.

Besides the household utensils, the jewellery is very pretty, delicate and colourful, and there is a variety of statues of Buddha, sphinxes, birds and animals, national heroes and famous characters.  These statues are extremely exquisite and come in many different sizes, from a small statue measuring just a few centimetres to a giant sized one.

To maintain and develop their occupation, the Non Nuoc carvers are deeply aware of preserving their relic site and protecting their traditional skills. The stone used is now sourced from the northern region, not from local sources any more, and precious stones are even imported from other countries.

Initially, stone carving was based on the experience and skills passed down from generation to generation, but there are now professional training courses.  There are over 300 carving businesses in the village, with thousands of carvers.

Every day, in spite of life’s ups and downs, the village is full of the laughter of the craftsmen and the sound of the hammers striking chisels.  With their skilful hands and love for the art, they produce impressive polished statues and petite, sophisticated items incorporating both traditional and modern motifs, and these have been taken to many parts of the world by visitors.

The Non Nuoc Stone Carving Village is a “must see” and a “do not miss” destination during your visit to our beautiful seaside city.  You will have a chance to explore a local craft village and watch skilful carvers creating their beautiful sculptures.

Compiled by Pha Le

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