Ho Chi Minh City, with its history of more than 300 years where many residents from different locations around the globe gather to earn a living, boasts a rich diversity of cultures, religions, customs, and culinary arts.
Therefore, when taking a pilgrimage tour to sacred destinations in the city, foreign tourists should not miss a chance to explore the hidden charms of renowned pagodas where worshippers can learn more about colorful religious beliefs as well as stories attached to the spiritual life of locals.
Thien Hau Pagoda
Thien Hau Pagoda, Jade Emperor Pagoda and Mariamman Temple are three outstanding venues worthwhile for a visit.
Built in the mid-18th century by a group of Chinese immigrants, Thien Hau Pagoda in HCMC’s District 5 might be recommended as the first stop for tourists on their pilgrimage journey in the city.
Located at 710 Nguyen Trai Street in Cholon area where many Vietnamese of Chinese descent reside, the Lady Thien Hau Temple is regarded as one of the oldest and most famous Chinese-style pagodas in the city.
The temple is dedicated to Thien Hau, a traditional Chinese goddess who is believed to have miraculous ability to rescue fishermen and seafarers who are stranded at the sea.
Upon arrival at the temple for the first time, visitors may be captivated by the typical Chinese architectural style and the tranquil ambiance.
Earlier, during the migration of Chinese from mainland China to Vietnam in the 17th century, the Chinese prayed to Thien Hau for her magic power to guide them, and upon safe landing they collected money to build the temple as an expression of gratitude by Chinese immigrants for her protection during their initial trip to Saigon by sea.
Despite the ups and downs of history, the sacred site has remained a common home for the Chinese community living away from their homeland to practice religious beliefs and share difficulties in life.
The annual Lady Thien Hau Temple festival falls on the 23rd day of the third lunar month on the occasion of the Lady’s birthday anniversary.
The 257-year-old pagoda recognized as a National Architectural Heritage site in 1993 plays an indispensable part in cultural life of the Chinese community in Cholon area, where worshippers pay their tribute to the Lady and pray for a happy life, good luck and good health.
Jade Emperor Pagoda
Meanwhile, the Jade Emperor Pagoda on Mai Thi Luu Street in HCMC’s District 1 is a worthwhile venue for tourists thanks to its ancient architectural features.
According to the website of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (vietnamtourism.com), the 2,300-square-meter pagoda where the Jade Emperor is worshipped was built in 1892 by a Chinese man identified as Luu Minh to pray for luck in his business.
The 125-year-old pagoda houses a number of intricate sculptures and woodcarvings. The pagoda was renamed Phuoc Hai in 1984 but local residents always call it the Jade Emperor pagoda.
After more than one century in existence, the holy place on July 18 attracts a large number of pilgrims from many parts of the country flocking to the pagoda to burn incense and pray for blessings, especially on the 9th day of the first lunar month every year in commemoration of the birth anniversary of the Jade Emperor.
Especially, the pagoda has become increasingly appealing to local and international tourists as former U.S. President Barack Obama paid a visit to the site on the occassion of his official visit to the country last year.
More interestingly, foreign travelers can feel a bit regretful without dropping at the Indian goddess temple called Mariamman Temple at 45 Truong Dinh Street in HCMC’s District 3.
The main goddess of this temple is the Hindu goddess Mariamman, originally known as an ancient village goddess giving blessings on fertility and rain.
Built in the late 19th century by a group of Indian traders who moved to HCMC to do business, the temple now serves as a holy worshipping place for the Hindu religion, but attracting more and more Saigonese non-Hindus who believe in the magic power of Mariamman.
Also in District 1, there are two other Hindu temples, namely Sri Thendayutthapani Temple and Sunbramaniar Temple, enriching the city’s cultural diversity. The temples are open to visitors from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and every Friday holds a ritual from morning to late evening.
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