The bronze bell is an important musical instrument in religious space of Vietnamese communities as pagodas or temples. So far, the oldest bronze bells are the bell of Thanh Mai pagoda (Hanoi) casted in 798, the bell of Nhat Tao temple (Hanoi) casted in 948 and Van Ban bell (Hai Phong - 13th-14th century).
Those bells often have the same structure such as: the handles have a shape of two dragons leaning their backs to each other to form arc. The heads of the dragon are symmetric with the open mouth or holding the pearl; the noses are big and upturned; the eyes are round and the eyebrows like a long band. The body of the bell has a cylindrical shape, square shoulder and flaring mouth. Commonly, bells were decorated with square patterns and with four clapping-knobs in a flower shape.
The inscription on the bell revealed the date and other information about history, culture and social economy of the Le - Nguyen dynasty.
For example, the bell with the inscription said “Gia long Nhâm Tuất chú tạo” means this bell was casted in 1802, reign of Gia Long. It also referred to economic data, for example, many bells preserved in the Vietnam National Museum of History had mentioned the cost amount for making the bell.
Besides, the inscription also listed the name of the donators, almost the court's senior officials. Sometimes, it described the scenery of the pagoda or appraised the sound of the bell.
The inscription on the bells in the Nguyen dynasty also reflected the spiritual life and the Buddhism. It could analyze the necessity for casting a bell and how the bell can help man awake to the Buddhism.
Below were the bells that housed in the Vietnam National Museum of History:
Thanh Mai Pagoda's Bell, 798
Nhat Tao Temple's Bell, 948
Chan Tien Pagoda's Bell, 1573
Bac Bien Pagoda's Bell, 1670
Vo Dong Pagoda's Bell, 1793
Tu Dinh Pagoda's Bell, 1882
Linh Tiến Pagoda's Bell, 1822
Long Nhiệm Pagoda's Bell, 1829
Dinh Phuong Cham
EN: Tran Trang