Photo by Steve Shay
Excavation began Saturday morning, Nov. 3, to build a new temple at the Vietnamese Cultural Center in West Seattle. Pictured far right is Lee Ducly Bui, Director of the Center. Ground had to be broken during "The Dragon Hour", between 7:00 a.m. and 8:59 a.m. to honor the founding king.

Vietnamese Cultural Center breaks ground on second temple; Timing was of the essence

The Vietnamese Cultural Center, 2236 SW Orchard St. in West Seattle broke ground on its second temple, to be built just south of its current temple. It will be twice the size. These relatively small structures contain a statue and alter where worshipers briefly enter to pay their respects.

The existing temple honors Vietnam's national hero, Saint Tran Hung Dao, Supreme Commander of the "Dai Viet" armies that repelled two major Mongol invasions in the 13th century. Two marble tigers stand guard on each side of the entrance.

The second temple will greet worshipers with pink marble dragons instead of tigers. They were shipped from Vietnam and just arrived. This temple will honor Emperor Hung Vuong, the king who founded the nation nearly 50 centuries ago.

It is the Vietnamese tradition to begin excavation at a very specific moment to honor the disruption of the trees, and, in this case, also to honor the king. The backhoe began to dig at 8:50 a.m. The "Dragon Hour" is from 7.00 a.m. to 8:59 a.m. This is also the Chinese, and Vietnamese, Year of the Dragon.

"If you build something for the next generation, or a thousand years to come, you have a special year, day, and specific hour," explained Lee Ducly Bui, Director of the Vietnamese Cultural Center. "We have between 7:00 - 9:00 (in the morning). The king symbolizes the dragon and so we do this during the Dragon Hour. I told the construction worker, 'You have to do this before 9:00 a.m. If you start late that's no good because after 9:00 is the Snake Hour. We don't want that.'"

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