JADE EMPEROR PAGODA - A SACRED PLACE IN THE HEART OF SAIGON



Jade Emperor Pagoda Saigon also known as Ngoc Hoang Pagoda or Phuoc Hai Temple, was built in the early twentieth century by a Chinese called Luu Minh. In 1982, Most Venerable Thich Vinh Khuong took over the pagoda, officially putting it under the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha. This pagoda was renamed to Phuoc Hai in 1984 and 10 years later, on October 15, 1994, it was recognized as a national architectural and artistic relic.

Table Contents
jade emperor pagoda
Source: Wikipedia

Jade Emperor Pagoda is one of the most outstanding tourist attractions in Ho Chi Minh City. As the name suggests, the Jade Emperor is the main figure worshiped here, in addition to Taoism, Huyen Thien Bac De and other gods in Chinese beliefs, Buddhism and Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva and so on. Particularly, this is also a place to pray to Kim Hoa Thanh Mau and 12 midwives (for fertility), as well as Mr. To and Mrs. Nguyet (for love).

I - Where is the Jade Emperor Pagoda located? 

ngoc hoang pagoda

Source: Vinpearl

Located at No.73, Mai Thi Luu Street, Da Kao Ward, District 1, this pagoda possesses a beautiful address in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City. Ngoc Hoang Pagoda is not far from famous attractions such as the Independence Palace and Notre Dame Cathedral, with less than 10 minutes of travel by car. Moreover, if you want to experience the bustling atmosphere after visiting this sacred place, Nguyen Hue Walking Street and Ben Thanh Market are also nearby.

The Jade Emperor Pagoda opening hours

- On normal days: 7am - 6pm

- On the 1st and the full moon: 5am to 7pm

As a famous spiritual site of Saigon, Ngoc Hoang Pagoda is one of the traditional religious establishments that attract a large number of pilgrims and worshipers. There can be hundreds of visitors visiting the Jade Emperor Pagoda Ho Chi Minh City on the full moon days, the first day of the lunar year, particularly on some special full moon days such as January 15, July 15, and October 15 of the lunar calendar. However, the biggest festival and attracting the most visitors is the ceremony of the Jade Emperor on the 9th day of the first lunar month. From the evening of the 8th, the abbot of the temple starts a chanting of prayers for peace, and the whole next day is dedicated to the Jade Emperor ritual.

II - Architecture of the Jade Emperor Pagoda Saigon

jade emperor pagoda saigon

President Obama visited the pagoda in 2016 - Source: Zingnew

Although located in the city center, Ngoc Hoang Pagoda owns a spacious space with an area of ​​about 2,300m2. This place is extremely airy and green with a lot of trees, birds and man-made landscapes such as turtle ponds, fish ponds with turtles, and fish brought by visitors. The natural space combined with a dignified atmosphere helps worshipers find a moment of peace and quiet in the midst of the noisy city.

Because it was originally a Chinese temple, the architecture of the Jade Emperor Pagoda Vietnam is still boldly Chinese with brilliant decorations and sophisticatedly carved mascots, despite having undergone many restorations. It is built of bricks, roofed with yin and yang tiles, with roof bank and roof corners decorated with many colored ceramic statues. Ngoc Hoang Pagoda Saigon still preserves many unique ancient artworks made of wood, ceramic, and paper mache materials such as worshiping pictures, worshiping statues, altars, etc. There are 16 horizontal paintings and 53 couplets, most of which are exquisitely carved on wood with high artistic value.

1 - Main site of the Jade Emperor Pagoda

From the outside, there is a three-way gate, on the roof of which there are statues of two winding dragons in the pose of “fighting for a pearl”. In the campus, there is a shrine to worship the god Protector, with a decoration of a lion holding a pearl by its mouth on the roof. This campus connects the three-way gate with the main worshiping architecture of Ngoc Hoang Pagoda, which is divided into three compartments, each of them is a unique architectural work of art with bold ancient features:

The middle compartment

 

jade emperor pagoda ho chi minh

Source: Zing

Also known as nave, this is the largest compartment out of the three of the Jade Emperor Pagoda Ho Chi Minh City, consisting of the front hall, the middle hall and the main hall. On days with worshiping ceremonies, the space right behind the main gate leading to the nave is used as a place for chanting and presenting food. The front hall is the place to worship Tho Dia (Earth God) on the left and Mon Quan God on the right. The middle hall worships Medicine Buddha, which is the only Buddha statue made of bare wood, placed in a glass cage. On both sides there are statues of Thanh Long Grand General (Azure Dragon) and Phuc Ho Grand General (Subdue Tiger) made of paper mache as big as real people.

The main altar in the main hall of the Jade Emperor Pagoda worships the statue of the Jade Emperor made of papier-mâché, painted with gold and gilded in sophisticated techniques. This is the largest sitting statue in the pagoda with a height of more than 3m, on a pedestal of nearly 1m high. There are also heavenly soldiers and generals standing around, with many smaller statues including Nam Tao, Bac Dau, Hoa Da Tien Su, Te Thien Dai Thanh, … 

To the left of the altar of the Jade Emperor is the altar of Huyen Thien Bac De, one of the incarnations of the Emperor. This statue in Jade Emperor Pagoda has a sitting position, with the right footsteps on the turtle and the left foot steps on the snake, symbolizing the suppression of demons and evil spirits. The two sides of this statue have two gods, the one on the right holds a sword, the one on the left holds a Dharma seal, expressing Taoist features. To the right of this altar is the Thuy Nguyet Palace worshiping Chuan De Buddha, which was placed in the Taoist pagoda to show the subtle and delicate harmony between Taoism and Buddhism.

The left compartment consists of three shrines

The left compartment in the Jade Emperor Pagoda consists of three shrines. The first one is dedicated to the two Gods of Song An, General Ma, Tutelary Lo Ban, and Thai Tue. The second shrine worships the Kings of 10 palaces in Hell with 10 wooden carvings representing the gates of hell, evenly distributed 5-5 on each side. The third shrine worships gods and goddesses related to family matters such as love, marriage, childbirth, raising children and so on.

Ngoc Hoang Pagoda is now known by many people as one of the famous temples of wishing for love and for fertility in Vietnam. Mr. To and Mrs. Nguyet worshiped in Jade Emperor Pagoda Ho Chi Minh City are gods in charge of love, which is why people often come here to pray to find a soulmate or successful relationship with ones they like. Meanwhile, Kim Hoa Thanh Mau is the goddess who governs childbirth according to folk beliefs, with the help of 12 midwives and 13 gurus. Each midwife takes care of a task such as shaping a child's head, hands, legs, eyes... to “build” a child, as well as teach them to speak and walk; the gurus take care of teaching them to grow up well and guiding career paths. 

The right compartment of the Jade Emperor Pagoda

In addition to the guest house, this area also has a shrine to worship the Buddha and the tablets of those who have passed away, in which there is a wooden staircase leading to Quan Am Palace. In addition to Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, this place also worships Dat Ma To Su, Quan Thanh De Quan, Protector God and Luu Minh. Above the main altar worshiping Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, there is a mural of “Fairy Buddhism Confucianism” (created in 1905), showing the fusion of the Three Religions.

2 - Deep inside the Jade Emperor Pagoda Saigon

This area is no longer open to visitors, but there is a shrine to worship Ong Da (Mr. Rock), which is said to be an ancient stone worshiping temple of the Khmer. After the construction of Ngoc Hoang Pagoda, this ancient temple was renovated into the current Ong Da Shrine. The stone worshiping custom comes from the Chinese legend of “Gods of Honour”, but still in accordance with the folk beliefs of the local Vietnamese and Khmer residents.

In the temple, there is an upright rectangular stone, which was taken from Taishan mountain, Shandong Province (China) to replace the old stone. In front of it is an incense burner, with an Azure Dragon stone on the right and a White Tiger stone on the left.

III - Essential information when visiting the Jade Emperor Pagoda

1 - Nearby attractions

Because of the location in the city center, from Ngoc Hoang Pagoda you can easily reach other interesting attractions of Ho Chi Minh City. Especially the works bearing typical features of French Colonial architecture in Vietnam such as:

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

 

jade emperor pagoda in ho chi minh

Source: thanhnien.vn

As a symbol of Saigon tourism, Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica is a place that possesses ancient European beauty combining Roman and Gothic styles, where you can take beautiful check-in photos.

- Address: No.1 Cong xa Paris, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1

Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theater

Also known as Saigon Opera House, this place is only about 3km from the Jade Emperor Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, specializing in organizing artistic performances and a number of major events.

- Address: No.07 Lam Son Square, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1

- Opening hours: 9am - 4:30pm (weekdays) & 9am - 12pm (weekends)

Independence Palace

Not only is this a typical example of French Colonial architecture in Vietnam, it is also a historical building, classified as a special national monument by the Vietnamese Government.

- Address: No.135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1

- Opening hours: 8am - 1pm

- Ticket price:

+ Adults: 40,000 VND / ticket ($1.76)

+ Children: 10,000 VND / ticket ($0.44)

War Remnants Museum

The War Remnants Museum located 2.5km from the Jade Emperor Pagoda Saigon is a building bearing historical evidence of the wars to protect and gain the independence of the Vietnamese people.

- Address: No.28 Vo Van Tan Street, Ward 6, District 3

- Opening hours: 7:30am - 4:30pm

- Ticket price: 40,000 VND / ticket ($1.76)

Nguyen Hue Walking Street

Although it is a bit farther from the Ngoc Hoang Pagoda than the attractions above, this is a famous entertainment place in Ho Chi Minh City, with various interesting activities and delicious food.

- Address: Nguyen Hue Street, Ben Nghe Ward, center of District 1

- Opening hours: all day

2 - Where to eat & drink near the Jade Emperor Pagoda

Felix Coffee

Located on the same street, this restaurant is a place you can stop by after visiting the Pagoda. Said to be one of the places with the best drinks in Saigon, Felix Coffee also serves delicious dishes such as rolls, hu tieu, banh mi …

- Address: No.74A Mai Thi Luu Street, Da Kao Ward, District 1

- Opening hours: 7am - 8pm

- Price: 5,000 - 40,000 VND / serving ($0.22 - 1.76)

- Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/uedfvietnam/

Gyumaru Restaurant

About 10 minutes by car from the Jade Emperor Pagoda Ho Chi Minh City, this is a restaurant with Japanese architecture and cuisine, offering hot and delicious dishes of steak, curry, etc.

- Address: No.3 Le Thanh Ton Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1

- Opening hours: 11am - 10pm

- Price: 99,000 - 1,100,000 VND / serving ($4.36 - 48.47)

- Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/gyumaruvn/

Indika Saigon

Possessing an airy space with great music, this restaurant serves nice drinks and delicious dishes made in the wood oven such as pizza, burgers,... with affordable prices.

- Address: No.43 Nguyen Van Giai Street, Da Kao Ward, District 1 - 400m from Jade Emperor Pagoda

- Opening hours: 11am - 10pm

- Price: 30,000 - 200,000 VND / serving ($1.32 - 8.8)

- Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/IndikaSaigon

Tib Vegetarian Restaurant

Tib brings you a clean and airy space with delicious dishes, featuring taro porridge and mixed vegetarian rolls.

- Address: No.187 Hai Ba Trung Street, Ward 6, District 3

- Price: 22,000 - 240,000 VND / serving ($0.97 - 10.58)

- Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/tibrestaurant/

As a place of peace and quiet in the midst of the bustling city, Jade Emperor Pagoda Saigon is also a famous tourist destination where Vietnamese people often come to wish for love and fertility. In particular, this Pagoda was also visited by former US President - Barack Obama - during his visit to Vietnam in May 2016.

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Being born and living here in Vietnam, I got a chance to see lots of beautiful places, try countless great dishes, & experience many interesting things in places I visited. And It's so great to share all things I know about Vietnam to you.

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