Published/Last edited or updated: 26th August, 2017
Dating back to 1760, Tue Thanh Assembly Hall, popularly known as Thien Hau Pagoda, is one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most atmospheric, photogenic temples.
Located on busy Nguyen Trai St in Cholon (Chinatown), Thien Hau Pagoda is dedicated to Thien Hau Thanh Mau, goddess of the sea, protector of fishermen and sailors. But as you will discover, all temples contain shrines to other deities such as Quan Cong, identifiable by the red face and long moustache. A Chinese general during the Three Kingdoms period, he now represents brotherhood, integrity and trustworthiness in business. Find him inside on the right side.
The first thing to notice before entering the temple is the exquisite roof decorated with ceramic, a craft the Chinese community in Cholon became known for. Here is where a good zoom on a camera or even binoculars come in handy. The roof is adorned with intricate ceramic friezes, ornaments and a stunning pair of dragons fighting over a blue pearl. This motif on a roof is often used to signifying that a temple is devoted to a female god.
Also notice the temple is guarded by a pair of mythical creatures flanking the entrance, something you will find at all temples. One is male, the other is female, usually depicted with her baby.
Step inside and be greeted by the smoke and heady scent of burning incense with sticks in the urns and coils smouldering above. Everything is fascinating, from the names of donors written on pink paper in Chinese script to the large old-timey donation safes.
Every temple has an important festival; Thien Hau’s is held on the 23rd day of the third lunar month.
Thien Hau Pagoda is a must on any visit to Cholon, be it on your own or as part of a guided tour. No entry fee. There’s a small charge for motorbike parking.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you’ll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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