The Quan Am Pagoda when directly translated means the Chinese Goddess of Mercy Temple. Found in Ho Chi Minh City, the pagoda is dedicated to the deity known as Quan Am to the Vietnamese, Quan Yin to the Chinese and Avalokiteshvara in Sanskrit. It is believed to be oldest pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City and is undoubtedly one of the most popular.
Along with many other temples found in the busy Cholon district of the city, the Quan Am Pagoda was built by Chinese traders and the Vietnam’s merchant community in 1816. It was also founded by the Fujian Congregation during the 19th Century. Today, the temple is considered one of the Cholon district’s most active pagodas with apparent displays of Chinese influences. It is frequented by many Vietnamese and Chinese Buddhists that drop by to pay their respects to Quan Am.
The complex of the pagoda consists of a small front courtyard, an antechamber adorned with an altar dedicated to the Jade Emperor, a main chamber also with an altar dedicated to Thien Hau, and a huge rear courtyard dominated by the majestic statue of Quan Am. The most interesting part of the temple is that the temple is split into two parts by a street that runs through it. A red metal gate welcomes visitors to the temple while gold and lacquer panels line the entrance door. The walls of the porch of the temple are adorned with murals of scenes during the time of Quan Cong while an artificial pond and a fountain can be seen at the pagoda’s garden. Stunning ceramic scenes of fantastic tales taken from traditional Chinese folklore decorate the roof of the prominent pagoda. Finally, its walls are covered with lacquer paintings of many spirits and deities.
While the figure of Quan Am in the temple lies hidden behind a remarkably ornate exterior, the temple is also home to many other deities such as the Laughing Buddha that represents the Buddha of the Future, Di Da that is the Buddha of the Past and Thinh Ca that is also known as Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Historical Buddha.
Most of the inscriptions found inside the pagoda are in Chinese characters but many of the labels have added Vietnamese descriptions. Travelers from other countries might have a hard time determining which is which or what to do so it might be best to bring a local guide with you. As with any sacred structure in the city, make sure to dress decently and appropriately when visiting the pagoda. Avoid wearing shorts, sleeveless tops or anything that bares too much skin. Visitors should always present the utmost respect to such sanctuaries in order for the locals to stay comfortable around them. The Quan Am Pagoda is located along Lao Tu Street in the Cholon District of Ho Chi Minh City.
Contrary to popular belief, the best time to visit the pagoda is when a lot of worshippers are present. By seeing such genuine devotion from the people that dedicate themselves to the Quan Am Pagoda, one then truly creates a memorable and moving experience for the visit to the temple.