Thien Hau Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City

Thien Hau pagoda is a popular spiritual destination of Saigon people. The temple attracts not only domestic visitors but also national tourists to explore this tranquil place. 

The pagoda has a strong influence on the cultural life of the Chinese people living in HCMC. This one is considered the oldest Buddhist temples of the Chinese group in Saigon.

thien hau pagoda hcmc
Thien Hau Pagoda | @ys_trung

Thien Hau pagoda was built in 1760 and has been recognized as a national level architectural monument in 1993. After hundreds of years of existence, the Thien Hau temple still retains its unique features despite getting many times of restoration.

If you are looking for a temple with a typical Chinese style, Thien Hau temple is the first choice. When visiting this site, you will have interesting feelings.

Thien Hau Temple Saigon

  • Address: 710 Nguyen Trai Street, Ward 11, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Opening hours: 6:00 am – 11:30 am and 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm
  • Entrance fee: Free
  • Dress code: Elegant and polite clothes
  • Thien Hau festival: 23rd of the third lunar month every year.

1. The story about Thien Hau Mother

During the past hundreds of years, since the first Chinese people crossed the sea to migrate from their homeland to Vietnam to establish a career and create a new life, they have brought their cultural characteristics. This contributes to enrich the culture of South Vietnam. In which, the spiritual worshipping beliefs are sophisticated, tinged with legendary colours, but unique.

In the seventeenth century, Thien Hau pagoda was built and become a site to worship Thien Hau Thanh Mau (Thien Hau Mother). So who is Thien Hau? Why do Chinese people worship her and adore her?

It is told that Thien Hau has the name Lam Mac Nuong who was born on March 23, 1044, in Mi Chau Island, Fujian, China. Her mother was pregnant until 14 months before she was born. This was considered a very strange thing on the island. More uncommon is that when being still young, Lam Mac Nuong revealed his special ability in the field of astronomy when he regularly watched the stars predict the weather, helping fishermen on the island.

One time, while going with her father and two brothers on a boat to sell salt in Jiangxi province (China), her family boat had an accident in the middle of the night. The father and two brothers of Lam Mac Nuong were swept away by the waves.

But realizing the danger, she immediately went out to save her father and brothers. Unfortunately, she only saved two brothers, and her father was swept away. Since then, the story of the miraculous ability of Mac Nuong had spread. She unknowingly became a goddess revered by many fishermen. They often pray to her when boats are in danger.

Thus, Lam Mac Nuong has become Thien Hau Mother (means a kind mother from heaven), supporting the people travelling in the sea, especially traders and fishermen.

thien hau temple hcmc
A corner in Thien Hau Temple | @kubihuy0712

2. The architecture of Thien Hau pagoda in Saigon

From the end of the seventeenth century, when leaving China to move to the area of Cho Lon in District 5, HCMC, Vietnam, the Chinese have turned this region into a Chinese community to nowadays. Therefore, the typical Chinese architecture contributed to the cultural identity of Gia Dinh (another old name of HCMC). And, Thien Hau Pagoda is famous in the area of Cho Lon Market.

In 1760, Thien Hau pagoda was raised to show gratitude for the Chinese in Saigon to Thien Hau Thanh Mau. She has been instrumental in protecting their peace and safety when they came to the new land.

The pagoda has the typical Chinese temple architecture, combining Asian style. It has a three-door style of beautiful gate, stylized with the entrance in the middle and two side corridors.

You can easily recognize the serene look of the temple when arriving at the gate. Everything seems to be covered by the time to make the pagoda holier. Your steps will get lost in a mysterious area.

Thien Hau pagoda includes three buildings: Tien Dien (First temple), Trung Dien (Middle temple), and Hau Dien (Last temple).

  • Tien Dien (First temple) has the altar of Phuc Duc Chanh God and Mon Quan Vuong Ta. Also, there are stelae containing the legend of Thien Hau Thanh, and large paintings depicting her miraculously on the waves.
  • Trung Dien (Middle temple) has a valuable censer cast in 1886. The two sides are an ancient palanquin, and an old boat painted in gold.
  • Finally, Hau Dien (Last temple) consists of 3 parts: the centre area is to worship Thien Hau Thanh Mau, Kim Hoa Nuong Nuong, and Long Mau Nuong Nuong. The two subordinates have statues of Quan Thanh, Hell God, and Luck God.

In the major area, there is a sky well where the light comes, and the incense smoke comes up heaven. 

In particular, the roof of Thien Hau pagoda has many statues of different sizes. All are harmonious and beautiful.

Typically, there are a lot of spiral curled bunches of incense hanging on the ceiling with eye-catching pink and red boards. This impressive feature creates holy feelings for the spiritual beliefs of the local people in Saigon.

Thien Hau Temple
Burning incenses in Thien Hau Temple | @marion_ffm

3. What can you pray at the Thien Hau Pagoda?

Ba Thien Hau pagoda has become one of the tourist destinations in Saigon for domestic and foreign tourists. 

The temple is very busy on the first and middle days of the lunar month, Tet Holidays, and the 23rd of the third lunar month (Via Ba Festival).

People come here to wish and pray for their own thoughts. In general, most the visitors ask for having new children (as the Jade Emperor Pagoda), peace in life, and good luck for family and relatives.

Tourists coming to Chinatown in HCMC can both visit the pagoda and have the opportunity to study the history, culture, and unique architecture of the old temple in Saigon. You can find balance and serenity every time you visit Thien Hau pagoda.