Thien Hau pagoda – the oldest pagoda in Saigon

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Thien Hau pagoda, Vietnam
Thien Hau pagoda, Vietnam

Origin of Thien Hau pagoda

Thiên Hậu (Mazu) is worshipped in this temple; therefore, people often call this ancient temple the pagoda of the Lady Thien Hau. Some others call it Cholon pagoda because this pagoda is located in Cholon.

Thien Hau pagoda
Thien Hau pagoda

A stone stele of Thiên Hậu pagoda shows that Thiên Hậu goddess was from Phuoc Kien, China and considered to be the Lady of the Sea by the Chinese people. She was born in the reign of Tong Kien Long, who was on the throne from 960 to 976. It is extraordinary that when brought into the world, her body sent out halo and fragrance. When grown up, she can ride on a mat to the ocean and ride clouds to go everywhere. After she passed away, mariners occasionally saw her flying around the sea to rescue victims.

Thien Hau Thanh Mau
Thien Hau Thanh Mau

Since then, local people have prayed to her when their offshore boats have to deal with challenging problems. In 1110, she was given the honourable name of Thiên Hậu Thánh Mẫu under the Tống dynasty. In addition, she was called A Phò by locals in Guangdong, (A Phò means Notre Dame). That’s reason why Thien Hau pagoda has another name of Pho pagoda.

Thien Hau pagoda, Vietnam was built in 1760 by a group of immigrants from Guangzhou, China. These people worshiped Thien Hau in the hope that the Goddess would help them overcome challenges and troubles in the new land. Since then, the pagoda has become the meeting place of the Chinese people having the origin of Guangzhou. For this reason, Thien Hau pagoda is also named Tue Thanh Hoi Quan.

Architecture of Thien Hau pagoda

Thien Hau pagoda is one of the most ancient pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City and brings many Chinese-style features; from lines, architecture to construction materials. Some researchers assumed that almost all everything including brick, tiled roof and pottery were taken from China.

Thien Hau pagoda has hundreds of antiques dated from the late 18th century to the early 20th century. These antiques comprised wooden statue, stone statue, stele, brass censer, couplet and relief; which were all created meticulously and delicately. Moreover, if going to the pagoda, tourists will see the name of the reign Qianlong Emperor in the 60th year (1796); that of Daoguang Emperor in the 10th year (1830) and a large burner containing the name of the reign of Guangxu Emperor in the 12th year (1886).

Festival at Thien Hau pagoda
Festival at Thien Hau pagoda

Thien Hau pagoda consists of 3 main places of worship. Main sanctuary is the altar to Thien Hau Thanh Mau. The two other sanctuaries worship the goddess of Kim Hue and Long Mau.

On the first day and the full moon day of every month, the Lunar New Year, Lantern festival and especially Vía Bà festival (March 23 of lunar calendar), A large number of Buddhist pilgrims visiting the pagoda and Buddhists coming for worship stood stand both inside and outside the temple. If possible, you should spend time visiting this pagoda on normal days when not too many people go to visit the pagoda so that you can easily admire historical vestiges of the ancient pagoda.

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