1. Overall of Thien Hau pagoda 

Thien Hau pagoda (Empress of Heaven Pagoda) is the oldest Chinese pagoda in Ho Chi Minh city. The ancient building preserves many values of architectural artworks and artifacts, established by the Cantonese community. The beauty of Thien Hau pagoda attracts many visitors to admire and pray for health and peace for their families. 

Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
The pagoda has a Chinese ancient architectural style

2. Where is Thien Hau pagoda

The ancient Chinese pagoda’s location is at 710 Nguyen Trai Street in the Cholon (Chinatown), District 5, Ho Chi Minh City. Chinatown is where Cantonese people gather to live when they move to Vietnam. It’s about 7 km from Nguyen Hue walking street with many entertaining activities. Thien Hau pagoda usually opens from 6:30 am to 4:30 pm. 

Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
Its location is near many other Chinese Assembly Halls

3. How can visitors get to the pagoda?

Because of its popularity, tourists can take a taxi or motorbike to get there. First-time visitors should go straight along Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street and turn left at Luong Nhu Hoc street to arrive.

Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
The area to honor philanthropists in Thien Hau pagoda

4. The legend of Thien Hau (Mazu)

Her childhood and adulthood

According to Vuong Hong Son, a scholar, Mazu – the Chinese Goddess of the Sea had the original name “Linh Moniang”. She is from Mi Chau Island, in Bo Duong (Phuoc Kien). She was born on March 23, 1044, and was a genius. Thien Hau Lady could read when she was 8 and started to
practice Taoism at the age of 11. At the age of 13, she received heavenly poetry: the god Vo Y came down to give a set of “The Secret of Origin” and found another stack of ancient books under the well, practiced, and attained enlightenment.

Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
Mazu was born intelligent and wise

She saved her father and brothers

Once, her father was on a boat with her two brothers, carrying the salt to Jiangxi province to trade. Suddenly, a big storm came and wanted to swallow the boat. Meanwhile, Wazu was weaving cloth next to her mother, but she used her spiritual power to save her father and two brothers. She used her teeth to bite the cross of her father’s shirt, holding two brothers with both hands. However, her mother saw Mazu sitting still for a while, called her, and forced her to reply. While Mazu was replying to her mother, the waves washed her father away. Finally, only her two brothers were alive.

Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
Fishermen worship her as the Goddess of the Sea

The god of the sea

At first, Chinese people in coastal areas, such as Qiaodou, Jiangkou, and Baihu worshipped her. From the 17th to 20th century, a lot of Chinese emigrated to Vietnam and other countries, so Mazu became a powerful god of the sea.  In 1110, the Song Dynasty ordained her as the Empress of Heaven.  Apart from supporting fishermen, she also helped farmers, gave rain, and killed monsters to protect human safety.

Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
She is worshipped in many temples and pagodas in Asia

As a result, many people worship her as a mighty god to express gratitude for her protection when they face dangers. They believe that her power can help them overcome difficulties and live happy lives. Fishermen worship Wazu as a protector of fishermen and venerate her in Buddhism and Taoism in many Asian countries.

4. The history of Thien Hau pagoda

Thien Hau pagoda was built around 1760 in the 18th century by a group of Cantonese people. They immigrated to coastal regions of Vietnam to live and do their business. In the 1760s, they sailed on the sea to trade. These traders would worship a God of the sea on their ship and wish for her protection during their voyage. However, they had to stay in Vietnam during the rainy seasons due to storms. Therefore, a group of Chinese donated money to buy an assembly hall to shelter and worship their God.

Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
An old picture of the pagoda in the past

Although the 261-year-old pagoda underwent many renovations, people still keep its ancient and unique beauty. On January 7, 1993, the pagoda was recognized as a national architectural and artistic relic.

5. The architecture of the pagoda

The exterior

Thien Hau pagoda lies on a busy street with a solemn and elegant atmosphere. Before entering the pagoda, visitors need to pass an iron gate and a small yard. Although its total area is not very large, every detail is sophisticated and well-designed.
Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
Many people come here to pray because they believe in Mazu’s power
The roof of the Thien Hau pagoda has various delicate porcelain figurines reflecting Chinese religions and legends. One of the outstanding detail is the statues of dragons fighting for a pearl; The middle layer of the roof has idols of Xuanzang and his students. In addition, the last contains a tableau from the Eight Immortals in Chinese mythology. Two famous pottery kilns: Buu Nguyen and Dong Hoa were responsible for making all porcelain figurines in 1908.
Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
Details on the roof are very elegant and perfect
One side of the pagoda yard contains bas-reliefs made by the brick-touch technique. The artisan would use a chisel and a wooden hammer to carve images in bricks. Moreover, the entrance has many decorative lanterns and wooden models usually appearing in Chinese theaters.
Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
The bas-reliefs made by brick-touch technique attract a lot of attention from visitors
The whole structure is a combination of different halls to create a shape of some certain Chinese characters. The pagoda follows a three-door architectural style with three halls, including the front, middle, and rear halls. These halls connect with a sky well to create an open space inside the solemn and sacred atmosphere. Thus, visitors don’t feel dull when they visit the temple.
Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
The sky well lights up the whole religious work

The interior

The front hall

The facade of the front hall is the facade of the pagoda. The fences were painted green with pillars with red Chinese characters making the facade vivid. The front temple of Thien Hau pagoda has an altar of Phuc Duc Chanh on the right. Meanwhile, the altar of Mon Quan Vuong is on the left side. The section stores many legends of Lady Thien Hau written in stone steles and her paintings on the sea waves.
Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
The front hall looks solemn and tranquil

The central hall

There are an incense burner, two candle holders, and lamps on the altar in the central hall. They are all made from bronze and used to practice the annual ceremony of the pagoda.
Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
The Chinese characteristics on the door are outstanding

The main hall (The back hall)

The statue of Goddess Thien Hau is one meter high. People put the wooden statue in the main hall to worship. Before moving to Thien Hau pagoda, it used to stay in a different pagoda in Bien Hoa Town, Dong Nai Province. Additionally, this hall also worships Kim Hoa Nuong on the left and Long Mau Nuong Nuong on the right. People put on splendid embroidered clothes for these ladies to show their gratitude towards them.
Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
The statue of Mazu is placed in the middle of the main hall
Because many incenses are burning, the smoke spreads inside the atmosphere. Thus, the designer places a sky well to release the smoke and make the pagoda airy and bright. Noticeably, visitors can also admire the beauty of the pendant hanging overhead inside the Thien Hau pagoda.
Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
Young visitors especially love checking under the pendant hanging overhead

The pagoda preserves many valuable artifacts

The Thien Hau pagoda has preserved many precious artifacts, including 400 antiques and paintings of four sacred creatures: dragon – unicorn – turtle, and phoenix. Moreover, the pagoda contains many agarwood peaks, urns, and incense burners. Meanwhile, you will be extremely impressed with ten horizontal paintings, nine stone steles, seven god statues, six stone statues, two small bells, 23 couplets, 41 embossed paintings, etc.
Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
Visitors should not miss the antiques inside the pagoda

Apart from organizing traditional festivals relating to Buddhism, the biggest one is Mazu’s birthday. The ceremony usually occurs from March 22 to March 24 (lunar calendar) with many cultural activities. This attracts many Chinese and Vietnamese people come to worship for peace and happiness for their families. Therefore, this is a great chance for visitors to explore Mazu’s legend and this ceremony.

Thien Hau pagoda - A Chinese ancient architecture
“Via ba” festival is extremely well-known in the community

7. Nearby places of interest

Many other religious works are located near Thien Hau pagoda such as

  • Guandi Temple Chinatown
  • Hakka Assembly Hall
  • Quynh Phu Assembly Hall
  • Tam Son Assembly Hall

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/

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