The large and busy pagoda often filled with both worshippers and travelers undoubtedly is the Thien Hau Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City. Also known as Chua Ba or the Lady’s Pagoda, the Thien Hau Pagoda is indeed one of the most popular and richly embellished pagodas found in the area.
Thien Hau represents virtues of filial piety and altruism while her most prominent attribute is her ability to go through the clouds over oceans. This unique gift then allows her to rescue many sailors in danger, which has granted her the reputation of being the protector of voyagers of the sea.
Built during 1760, the pagoda was a product of the Cantonese Congregation as a sign of gratitude for their many safe travels from their native land to Vietnam. The Chinese people gathered their money and established the pagoda with many continuous restoration works through the decades. The pagoda is truly a great example of the classic Chinese architectural style. Its detailed carvings, decorations and statues were all intricately made to represent Taoist literature and ancient Chinese history. The temple was made entirely from materials imported from China.
The front yard of the pagoda is surrounded by high walls and topped by intricate friezes and carved tableaus. Visitors walking in the pagoda will immediately notice the thick scent and smoke of incense of the extremely active pagoda. Upon looking up to the source of the incense, you’ll find rows and rows of spiraled cones of burning incense hanging from the delicately carved ceiling of the pagoda. Visitors light incense in order to wish for luck and protection from Thien Hau. For a small fee, travelers can purchase a curl of incense that will burn for at least a month. Make sure to hang your lit incense along with the rest. Aside from being a treat for the nose, the sight of hanging coils remains uniquely engaging and exciting for the eyes, as may be attested to by the thousands of people who devote their belief to the deity.
There are three statues of Thien Hau found in the entre pagoda. The walls of the spacious central room are covered with prayer flags of red strips of paper on which devotees of the pagoda write their prayers. The belief is that when the breeze rustles the paper of the prayer, the prayers drift to Thien Hau herself.
The Thien Hau Festival is also celebrated yearly to honor the Goddess on the 23rd day of the 3rd lunar month. Hundreds of devotees from far places head to the pagoda to pray for happiness, prosperity and fulfillment from the Goddess of the Sea. Believed to be Thien Hau’s Birthday, the festival is celebrated with lion dances performed in the yard of the pagoda while many devotees bring in gifts to donate to the house devoted to Thien Hau.
From up its ceiling and down to its floor, there is so much to discover at the Thien Hau Pagoda. The pagoda and festival of Then Hau is believed to have immense importance to the Chinese and Vietnamese communities so make sure to have plenty of time to explore.