Jade Emperor Pagoda
Saigon's most atmospheric pagoda
What we say:
Set to the north of the botanical gardens on Nguyen Binh Khiem, the Jade Emperor Pagoda is easily Saigon's most atmospheric. If you've got time for just one pagoda, this should be the one. Constructed by the city's Cantonese community at the turn of the century,the Jade Emperor guards the entrance to heaven -- deciding who gets in and who has to shuffle off to that less pleasant, far warmer place. His two companions, one with a lamp and the other with a gruesome axe, are there to help guide you in the right direction. These aren't the only deities here: you'll also find a fertility goddess, the Lord of Hell and even the Buddha of the future. The entire collection is somewhat of a fusion of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian mythologies.
To the left of the main sanctuary is the highlight: the Hall of the 10 Hells. Lined with wooden panels that depict the 10 layers of hell, these carvings lay out exactly what is waiting for all you sinners. Each panel is topped with a representation of a King of Hell perusing a book that details the very evil acts perpetuated by the dead -- they seemed to stare at us in a rather knowing fashion.
Statuary aside, the pagoda is overflowing with incense and is often quite crowded, both with tourists and worshippers. The latter are amazingly tolerant of the former -- perhaps they're trying to accumulate some credit for sins past.
More details73 Mai Thi Lu St, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
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