Xa Loi Pagoda is a landmark in Ho Chi Minh City with a combination of modern architecture and national culture. This pagoda is known not only for its typical architecture of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) but also as a mark of the Buddhist struggle against the dictatorship of Ngo Dinh Diem, which discriminated and repressed the religion. Besides, this place marked a historical milestone in the process of unification of Buddhism in Vietnam.
Address: 89B Ba Huyen Thanh Quan, Ward 7, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening Hours: 7 AM – 5 PM
How to get there: Located in District 3, the pagoda is more than 6 km from the Tan Son Nhat International Airport. It would take you about 20 minutes to get there by taxi.
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History of Xa Loi Pagoda
Xa Loi Pagoda was built on August 5th, 1956 by the Buddhist Association of Vietnam with the contribution of 21 southern provinces and first inaugurated on May 2nd, 1958. The name “Xa Loi” is the Vietnamese translation of sarira, which is a term referring to relics of Buddhists.
The pagoda associated with a historic event in which Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist Monk Thich Quang Duc burned himself to death in order to protest the persecution of Buddhists of the Ngo Dinh Diem government in the Vietnam War. His body was kept in Xa Loi Pagoda for a week before the cremation, and his immortal heart was worshiped at the pagoda until the struggle came to an end. After this incident, Xa Loi Pagoda was raided by the Diem Government in the attack at dawn on a morning in August 1963 with about 250 monks arrested, and the pagoda was destroyed entirely.
Structure of Xa Loi Pagoda
Xa Loi pagoda was built on an area of about 2,500 square meters. The land is located at the corner of Su Thien Chieu Street and Ba Huyen Thanh Quan Street. It is the first pagoda designed in modern architecture in which the lecture hall of Xa Loi Pagoda is on the ground level, and the main hall is on the upper level. The reason for the existence of the lecture hall is that Xa Loi pagoda is not only a worship site but also a Buddhist school.
Outside of the Xa Loi Pagoda
You will find a big lecture hall in the middle of the pagoda’s yard when coming through the gate on Ba Huyen Thanh Quan Street. The main ceremonial hall is on top of this lecture hall with two staircases leading to the place. At the main entrance, you will also find on your left a 7-story bell tower, a hall behind this tower with a library, an administration office, and rooms for the monks.
The main ceremonial hall and the bell tower are features of Xa Loi’s architecture. The bell tower is the second-highest bell tower in Vietnam at 32 meters of height. In the top story of the tower, there is a two-ton bell, which is cast in the model of Thien Mu Pagoda’s bell. Also, on the right of the main hall, there is a small path leading to a Bodhi tree brought from Colombo. Next to the tree is a statue of Bodhisattva holding a vial of elixir.
From Ba Huyen Thanh Quan Street, you can easily recognize the pagoda by another statue of Bodhisattva that is 6 meters tall and located on the right of the main gate. This statue has only been recently completed as one of the renovation works Xa Loi Pagoda has been making.
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Inside of the Xa Loi Pagoda
The lecture hall is decorated with several Buddha pictures and some statues of well-known monks such as Thich Quang Duc. This is the place for Buddhists to come and learn more about Buddhism. On some occasions, events such as book fairs often take place here, in which you find many useful Buddhist books and CDs.
The main hall is 15 square meters in width and 31 square meters in length. In this main hall, there is a large statue of Gautama depicting the Buddha sitting in meditation pose on a lotus blossom with a sun disk behind his head. It was crafted by sculptors from Bien Hoa Art School.
In front of the Gautama Buddha statue, there is a multi-armed Bodhisattva Cundi also sitting in the meditation pose on a lotus blossom. There is also a jade tower in a bodhi leaf shape holding a relic of Gautama Buddha. This tower is placed high above the statue of Buddha.
The main hall of the pagoda is decorated with 14 pictures depicting the life of Gautama Buddha, from his birth to his attainment of nirvana. These pictures tell the story from when Queen Maya (who is the mother of the historical Buddha) dreamt about a six-tusk elephant coming into her through her right side up to when Buddha entered nirvana.
Opening hours of the hall:
Morning: 7 AM – 11 AM
Afternoon: 2 PM – 5 PM
Evening: 6 PM – 7 PM
(on special occasions, open from 7 AM to 9 PM)
Activities in Xa Loi Pagoda
Buddhasasana and Buddhist doctrine is taught every Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon from 2 PM to 5 PM respectively in Xa Loi Pagoda. There are also calligraphy classes being held every Monday, Tuesday, and Sunday for all those who love art.
There are over 3,000 books in the library of the pagoda, including two of the most valuable Chinese kanji. The library is opened throughout the week, Monday to Thursday for Vietnamese readers and Friday to Sunday for Chinese readers. The opening time of the library is from 8 AM to 11 AM and 2 PM to 4 PM every day except Sunday afternoon and Monday.
Xa Loi Pagoda on Special Occasions
Like other pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City, Xa Loi Pagoda celebrates Buddhism holidays including Buddha’s birthday, Ghost Festival, Lantern Festival, and Vietnamese New Year. There are also two other main holidays of Xa Loi pagoda, which are the anniversary of the death of Minister Chanh Tri Mai Tho Truyen on March 15th of the Lunar Calendar and the celebration of the Buddha of Medicine in January of the Lunar Calendar.
The pagoda on those occasions is quite crowded with a great number of people coming to enjoy the holidays as well as pray for themselves and their families. Xa Loi Pagoda is also the place where many couples come to have a Buddhist wedding.
Notice when Visiting Pagodas
If you are planning to visit religious sites including temples and pagodas in Vietnam, it is advisable for you to put on unrevealing clothes such as trousers and long skirts. You should also make sure that your shoulders are covered. Besides, when entering the main ceremonial hall, you are advised to go up the stairs. Men should go on the left side and women on the right side.
Summary of Xa Loi Pagoda
Xa Loi Pagoda is not only a historical site contributing to the beauty of Ho Chi Minh City but also the traditional pride of Vietnam Buddhist history. It is an ideal place to visit for anyone who enjoys learning about culture and religions, especially Buddhism.
Read more on the Best Temples and Pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City.
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