Worshipping stones is closely associated with Buddhism. In fact, Buddhism was introduced into Bac Giang in the early stage and lived in harmony with the local indigenous religion. There are a lot of folk beliefs in villages and communes relating to Buddhism. The worship of stone (worshiping Thach Linh – name of a general – which means “sacred stone”) at the Ao Mieu relic site and Bo Da pagoda, Tien Son commune, Viet Yen district, is a vivid illustration.
The stone stele “Thanh tich bi ky” at this relic site records stories of the god made in the eighth year of Tu Duc in 1855. The stele tells the legend and rituals to worship Chuyen Hung Thach Tuong Dai Vuong. According to the legend, General Hung Thach was the son of Nguyen Hoa. His mother surnamed Cao was foretold in a dream by a mountain god, and then she gave birth to a child after three years and two months in pregnancy.
At that time, the country was invaded, the King sent messengers to seek talents for national salvation. Hung Thach met the messengers and told them to ask the King to carve a stone elephant and flag to disperse the invaders. Hung Thach rose up and grew instantly into a magnificent man and rode his stone elephant to the battlefield. Defeating the enemy, General Hung Thach flew to the mountain. At Bo Da pagoda, the statue of General Thach Linh is placed at an altar. Meanwhile, there is a big stone in a pond at the Ao Mieu relic site, which is called “Mother Stone”. Another name of the pond is Thanh Tri (the holy pond) originated from the legend that Saint Thach Linh was born in that pond.
The worship of Buddha Thach Quang at Dau pagoda (another name of But Moc or Linh Quang pagoda) in Noi Hoang commune, Yen Dung district, shares characteristics relating to Buddhism, which was disseminated in Dau-Luy Lau area, Thuan Thanh district, Bac Ninh province. According to the legend, there was a fisherman living in Noi Mang (Noi Hoang) village. One day, he was unable to catch fish but saw a stone in “dam” (a fishing tool made of bamboo). As this phenomenon was repeated for many times, the man took the stone to burry on the mountain and prayed for catching a lot of fish. Since then, he caught a lot of fish. Being old without children, the man visited the stone every day and prayed for descendants. After that, the man and his wife had a son. The couple later built a pagoda, and many people came to pray and their wishes were all satisfied. Since then, the pagoda was named “But moc”. As it is located at the foot of Mountain Dau, it is called “Dau” pagoda. The stone is still worshipped at the centre of the pagoda.
Legends about General Thach Linh, But moc (Buddha), and sacred stone in folk beliefs in Bac Giang demonstrate holy manifestation of natural forces. Such process illustrates the combination between local folk beliefs and exotic religion to reach a harmony. Buddhism is very close to the daily life of people as well as in their spiritual world.
The statue of General Thach Linh is placed at an altar at Bo Da pagoda.
Stone worshipping is also associated with another culture, which is the worship of Thanh Hoang (the tutelary god of the village). Both rituals easily harmonise with each other. Notably is the worship of General Thach Linh as the tutelary God of the village at Phan communal house in Quang Thinh commune, Lang Giang district. There are also other forms of stone worshipping. In the spiritual life in several localities, people still worship stones with special shapes such as the Buddha footprint at Am Vai pagoda (Luc Ngan), and the sacred stones in Non cave, Kham Lang commune, and at the Suoi Mo temple relic site (Luc Nam), and another on Bo Da mountain, Dau pagoda in Noi Hoang commune … In the mind of locals, such stones are special because they were created by gods. Therefore, the worship of these stones shows their aspirations for a warm and happy life.
In conclusion, stone worshipping in Bac Giang features local folk beliefs. It is an ancient culture beauty which has been ingrained in the local spiritual life./.