Old is beautiful: HCMC’s Ba Thien Hau Pagoda

11:12 | 09/04/2018 Culture & Art

(VEN) - With its special Chinese architectural style and variety of 18th century antiques, the Ba Thien Hau Pagoda is a destination for domestic and foreign tourists who want to discover the cultural distinctions of Ho Chi Minh City.

hcmcs ba thien hau pagoda

Catherine Pham, a Vietnamese-French visitor, often comes back to her home country. She said Ba Thien Hau Pagoda is always on her itinerary when she takes friends to Vietnam, along with visiting the city’s Museum of Vietnamese History and the Independence Palace.

Although it is unknown exactly when the pagoda was built, Ba Thien Hau is believed to date back at least 250 years and is one of the oldest pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City. It was dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu, the deified form of Lin Moniang, a medieval Fujianese girl credited with saving family members during a typhoon through her spiritual power.

The pagoda, standing aloof from the noisy bustle of the Cho Lon (Big Market) area in District 5, was built by the city’s Cantonese community. It features wooden frames, gables and tiled roofs. Although not as large as many other pagodas, Ba Thien Hau attracts visitors for its special Chinese architectural style, Pham said.

hcmcs ba thien hau pagoda

The Ba Thien Hau Pagoda has a three-door gate with a stylized main door and corridors on the two sides. It is, in fact, a complex of four houses. Three rows of houses in the middle make up the front sanctuary, central sanctuary and rear sanctuary.

Looking from the outside of the pagoda, visitors can contemplate pottery bas-reliefs on the walls and the roofs. The two bas-reliefs on the roofs were created in 1908.

The central part of the pagoda was designed to serve major rites. There is a skylight in the middle, which was created to let sunlight and air to come into the pagoda, as well as to enable incense-smoke to circulate. The pagoda was designed to create sufficient space and make it easy for visitors to move from one point to another, even when it is crowded on special occasions, such as festivals and holidays.

The Ba Thien Hau Pagoda still preserves a set of ritual tools created in 1886 and about 400 antiques, including seven spiritual statues, six stone statues, nine stone steles, two small bells, four bronze censers, one stone censer, 10 horizontal lacquered boards and 23 pairs of wood panels.

Like many other pagodas, the Ba Thien Hau Pagoda becomes busier on holidays and on the first and 15th days of lunar months. People also often flock to the pagoda in the first lunar month to pray for luck and good fortune.

Despite the passage of time and impact of climate, the Ba Thien Hau Pagoda retains much of its old architectural work with almost intact decorative details. It was recognized by the Ministry of Culture and Information as a national relic of architectural and artistic value in 1993.

Nguyen Phuong & Ut Uyen