VietnamActivities & AttractionsSaigon Pagodas: Jade Emperor Pagoda

Saigon Pagodas: Jade Emperor Pagoda

If you travel to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), we highly suggest you visit the temples and pagodas built many years ago. The Jade Emperor Pagoda is where you will explore the practice of Buddhism in Vietnam and how the locals pay offerings to their deities.

Address: 73 Mai Thi Luu Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

How to get there: Because the Jade Emperor Pagoda is quite far from the city center, we suggest you ride a motorbike or taxi. Starting from the Independence Palace would cost about 10 minutes and about VND 50,000 for taxi fare.

Opening Hours: From Monday to Sunday, 5 AM – 6 PM. 
Jade Emperor Pagoda often opens until 7 PM on special occasions in the lunar calendar so that it would be convenient for the believers to come and pay offerings.

The Legend of the Jade Emperor

The Jade Emperor is believed to be the most powerful God. He controls the sky, the ground, and the ocean, creating humanity and all things on Earth. Besides the Jade Emperor, other gods, goddesses, and fairies support him in protecting and developing everything on Earth. According to Vietnamese belief, the believers worship the Jade Emperor, “Ngoc Hoang” or “Ong Troi,” as the ultimate god in the sky.

History of Jade Emperor Pagoda in Saigon

The pagoda is believed to have been built by a Chinese man emigrating from China in the early 20th century. There are many myths about this man. Some say that he moved to Vietnam because he did not want to live under the Qing Dynasty and was planning the rebuilding of the Ming Dynasty. Others said he was just like other Chinese immigrants at that time, choosing Vietnam as his second hometown and becoming a businessman. This man followed Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Subsequently, he spent his money building a pagoda to worship Buddha and the Jade Emperor.

jade emperor pagoda history

Since the pagoda was handed over to a Vietnamese monk, Thich Quang Tu, in 1982, this pagoda became part of the Vietnam Buddhism Congregation. It was known as the Jade Emperor Pagoda by the locals until 1984, when the name was officially changed to Phuoc Hai Temple. But many still call it the Jade Emperor Pagoda because of the Jade Emperor statue inside the pagoda. In 1994, the government recognized it as a National Art Architectural Heritage. Barack Obama visited here and gave incense like other locals on the last trip before resigning from office in 2016.

Traditions of Jade Emperor Pagoda in Saigon

People from the past chose the ninth of January in the Lunar Calendar as the birth of the Jade Emperor. On this day, they often made offerings on this day to pray for their health, business, and luck. Nowadays, people usually visit the pagoda on special occasions such as Tet and full moon days.

Besides asking for blessings in health, property, and business from the Jade Emperor, some people also pray for fertilization, especially young married couples, by giving offerings like flowers and incense to Lady Kim Hoa and the 12 “Ba mu” (midwives fairies). Moreover, there is a small pond in front of the main hall where a traditional custom usually occurs called “Phong sinh” (set free). If married couples “set free” a couple of turtles with their names written on them into the pond, the wish will come true. People also “set free” other animals, such as birds and fish.

jade-emperor-pagoda-pond

People believe praying at the temple can make their wishes come true. Some even come back to make offerings to thank the gods and goddesses.

Structure of Jade Emperor Pagoda

Outside of the temple

The design of the Jade Emperor Pagoda was similar to that of a Chinese pagoda. The top of the roof was tiled and decorated with ceramic statues. There are also sculptures of two dragons on the gates of the pagoda. In the front garden, about 2,300 square meters, there is a small shrine of the law protector god. In this open space, everyone can sit, find peace in their soul, and escape the hectic world outside.

jade-emperor-pagoda-roof

Inside of the temple

Many old pictures, valuable statues, and tablets have been preserved for many years. Some are made from ceramic, wood, and cardboard, which are high-value materials. This is also the only pagoda in Vietnam that keeps the statues of fairies and Jade Emperor made of cardboard, depicting a meeting in heaven.

jade-emperor-pagoda-sculptures

The landmark’s interior includes three halls: the front hall, the mid-hall, and the main hall. Before you go inside, you can buy incense to donate to the pagoda. In the front hall is an altar of Buddha, and people often share their wishes here before they visit inside. There are also two substantial wood statues on both sides of the main hall. One is the general god who tames tigers, and the other is the available god who tames dragons.

jade-emperor-pagoda-tablets
jade-emperor-pagoda-goddess-of-mercy

The altar of the Jade Emperor is in the center of the pagoda. To the left of the main hall is an altar of the God of Luck. Students before exams and businessmen before opening their stores would make their wish for their success in this section. Another valuable statue in the pagoda is in a glass frame, which is the Buddha of medicine.

jade-emperor-pagoda-buddha

The most crowded place in this pagoda is where people worship Lady Kim Hoa, who takes care of the birth process. According to the legend, these fairies care for the kids before birth. Therefore, many families with kids or pregnant women come here to pray. To the right of this hall is the place of worship for Guanyin Bodhisattva. The altar is one floor up, and people should make offerings there.

Check out more temples and pagodas in Saigon

Summary of Saigon Pagodas: Jade Emperor Pagoda

As one of the most famous pagodas in Saigon, Jade Emperor Pagoda is usually packed with many visitors. We recommend you come and visit on days that are not special occasions to enjoy the peace of walking around the pagoda, with a light sense of incense all around. But visiting events like the birth of Jade Emperor Pagoda could also bring you a different experience, seeing many locals traditionally practicing their beliefs, Buddhism, and folk religions.

Read more about Vietnamese folk religions

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