The Jade Emperor Pagoda (the common Vietnamese name: Chùa Ngọc Hoàng, the official Vietnamese name: Chùa Phước Hải, original Vietnamese name: Ngọc Hoàng Điện ( 殿 皇玉)) is the pagoda worshiping Jade Emperor and some Buddhas and gods, all of them belong to Eastern Asia folk belief. The Jade Emperor Pagoda has been thought to have the most supernatural power of all pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City. Every day, there are lots of Visitors come to visit and pray including foreign Visitors. Especially, In the afternoon of May 24, 2016, right after landing the plane down Tan Son Nhat Airport, the first destination of President Barack Obama was the Jade Emperor Pagoda.
Who is Jade Emperor?
Most people believed that there is the Creator, who gives birth to all species and controls every activity in the universe. Each nation or religion calls the Creator with an individual name. For example, Catholicism calls the Creator Jehovah, Islam calls him Allah, British and Amaria call him God, the nations of Eastern Asia call him Jade Emperor. Eastern Asian traditional beliefs believe that there are 3 realms: heaven, human beings and hell in the universe. The Jade Emperor lives and works in the Heavenly Court in heaven. In Vietnam, the Jade Emperor is called Ngọc Hoàng. Ngọc Hoàng is worshiped in the Jade Emperor Pagoda and pagodas of religions like Minh Sư, Dừa, Cao Đài…
How was the pagoda formed?
The Jade Emperor Pagoda was formed by a man named Lưu Minh, who is from Guangdong, China at the beginning of the 20th century. Lưu Minh follows Minh Sư Religion and has a religious name as Lưu Đạo Nguyên. In 1982, Venerable Thích Vĩnh Khương came to take over the temple. Since then this temple has belonged to the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha. In 1984, the Jade Emperor was renamed Phước Hải Tự.
What Characteristics does the Minh Sư Religion have?
The Minh Sư Religion is formed in Jiangxi, China by Master Hoàng Đức Huy in the late Ming Dynasty (the1660s). The Minh Sư Religion explains how to create the universe according to the Dịch Lý (a philosophy of Taoism): Thái Cực gives birth to Lưỡng Nghi, Lưỡng Nghi gives birth to Tứ tượng, Tứ tượng gives birth to Bát Quái, Bát Quái gives birth to all species. About the time, the Minh Sư believes that there 3 periods: Thượng Ngươn, Trung Ngươn, Hạ Ngươn (Nowadays, human beings are at the end of Hạ Ngươn). The Minh Sư Region’s doctrine bases 3 religions: Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism. Minh Sư region worships Jade Emperor, Buddhas, fairies, Saints, gods. Minh Sư religion has an influence on the worship of the Jade Emperor Pagoda.
How are the architecture and worship of the pagoda?
The gate of the pagoda
The campus of the Jade Emperor Pagoda has an area of about 2,300 m and is encompassed by the fence built of bricks and cement, and painted dark pink. The pagoda gate looks majestic with 2 pillars built of reinforced concrete. The roofs are covered with jade green enamel tiles. On the top of the roofs has 2 winding dragon statues looking at a pearl very lively. Under the roofs has big words: Chùa Phước Hải. This is the name which is given by the Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam. However, Local people usually call Chùa Ngọc Hoàng (Calling according to English languages as the Jade Emperor Pagoda) and its Vietnamese original name is Ngọc Hoàng Điện (殿 皇玉).
The garden of the pagoda
The garden of the pagoda is rather large and is cover with big and old pagoda trees. There are pigeons picking rice up in the tree roots. The sight looks simple and peaceful. Inside the gate, to the left is the motorbike parking lot (parking fee is 5,000 VND), to the right is the car parking lot (parking fee is 20,000 VND). On the left aisle to the main hall is a row of stone benches for visitors. Passing the row of the stone benches, Visitors see a small shrine that worships Hộ Pháp (Dharmapala, who has the mission of protecting the pagoda). Next, Visitors see a small aquarium and a narrow yard.
The main hall of the pagoda
Passing the yard is the main hall. In front of the main hall, there is a pair of small Hẩu statues (A Hẩu looks like a lion, which the mission of keeping the door). The main hall is built according to the style of a Chinese temple. The wall is built of bricks and is painted dark pink. The roofs are roofed of red yin and yang tiles. The top and the corners of the roofs are decorated with many colored ceramic statues. The above the door has the pagoda’s name written in Chinese words (Reading according to Vietnamese pronunciation is Ngọc Hoàng Điện)
Inside the door, to the left is the statue of Thổ Địa Thần (the god keeping the land in an area), to the right is the statue of Môn Quan Thần (the god keeping a gate of a country or a territory). Next, to the left and to the right is the stalls selling offerings. Next, to the left is the statue of Bạch Hổ Thần (the god keeping the west), to the right is Thanh Long Thần (the god keeping the east). Next, in the middle is the statue of Dược Sư Buddha (the Buddha cures beings).
At the back of the main hall, at the center is the statue of Ngọc Hoàng (the Jade Emperor, who lives in the heaven controlling all species), to the left is Bắc Đế king (the king controlling the north), to the right is the statue of Chuẫn Đề Buddha (the Buddha having lots of hands to help the beings). All people arrive here to pray, each of them has their own wish. They hope to achieve their wishes.
The Kim Hoa Shrine
Especially, On the left of the hall has 2 small rooms, if visitors did not pay attention to, visitors would not see. The front room has the statues of Kim Hoa Thánh Mẫu, Twelve Mụ Bà, Ông Tơ and Bà Nguyệt. Kim Hoa Thánh Mẫu and 12 Mụ Bà are responsible for helping women give birth and raise children. Ông Tơ and Bà Nguyệt are responsible for helping girls and boys become husband and wife. Pairs of husband and wife do not have children usually come here to pray, boys and girls usually come here to pray to get to become husband and wife.
The backroom has the relieves describing Thập Điện Diêm Vương (10 Places keeping prisons in the hell), the statues of Thành Hoàng Bổn Cảnh Chi Thần (the god being responsible for controlling a village), Thái TuếThần, Lỗ Ban Thần (the god having lots of magics that can help people solve conflicts in society), 2 statues of horses (People coming here are advised to touch them to get the health).
All statues in the Jade Emperor are made of cardboard. Over 100 years but they still exist, which is a strange thing. The statues are black or dark-red colored, which makes the pagoda more mysterious. The relieves are carved skilfully, which make the pagoda have the value about the art side.
Coming to the Jade Emperor Pagoda, Visitors get to enjoy a peaceful atmosphere, get to admire a pagoda having architecture characteristics of Chinese people and understand the worship way and the folk belief of Eastern Asia nations. Visitors would witness the sight that everybody prays in devotion.
Address: 73 Mai Thi Luu, Dakao ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening hour: 5 AM – 7 PM