After dinner on my firstÂ night in Hanoi I went across the street to ChÃ¹a BÃ DÃ¡ (Stone Woman Pagoda). The main hall was closed for the night, but the ancestor altar behind the main building was, as always, open, so I paid my respects there. The site's religious associations go back, at least, to the 11th century. The story goes that while digging the foundation footings for a temple, workers found a stone shaped like a woman: whether the stone was a sculpture or a naturally produced object is unclear in the accounts I have read. In any case, the object was considered sacred, and the stone woman was set up as an object of veneration. A fuller account is presented here, but the animist impulse blended, over the centuries, with Buddhism, especially the Chan form that came over the northern border from China. During the revolutionary struggle against the French, the monks of ChÃ¹a BÃ DÃ¡ supported the Communist insurgents, though I have not discovered what this support consisted of. In any case, in 1945,Â Há»“ ChÃ Minh visited the pagoda and encouraged an early form of engaged Buddhism. To a Soto Zen student, the phrase "stone woman" will surely suggest Master Dogen's "Mountains and Rivers Sutra," [1. The title is often translated as "Mountains and Waters."] in which the enigmatic line, "A stone woman gives birth to a child at night" appears. [2. Text of the sutra.] Just a coincidence. of course, but one with a particular resonance for me. Note: Some other "BÃ " (Mrs.) temples around Hanoi.