My favourite Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City was the small but quaint Jade Emperor Pagoda. This was my first even Pagoda I got to visit in Asia so it was very exciting for me. It is truly a temple which immediately transported me to a peaceful and tranquil place. It’s courtyards offer a blissful escape from the scorching heat with its large leafy ancient figs trees. It was the most peaceful place I had been to inside Ho Chi Minh city at the time and I enjoyed being away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a while.
The pagoda is also known as the Tortoise Pagoda, and has a big pond next to the pagoda filled with tortoises.Hundreds of turtles bask on wet rocks in their “sacred pool”. You can buy a small turtle upon entering the Pagoda and then release it into this pond. They are soooo cute but I do wonder if the lady goes back in and catches them again to re-sell them as I couldn’t spot any teeny tiny little ones inside the pond. But on the other hand the little fellows are fed and hopefully by the time they get a bit bigger they will be left alone inside this tranquil pond.
Turtles in Asian culture represent longevity and are also considered in Vietnam as a symbol of fortune and good luck. It is said that as long as this turtle is happy and healthy you will be too.
This beautiful Pagoda was built in 1909, and is one of the most colourful pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City filled with statues of phantasmal divinities and grotesque heroes. The roof is covered with elaborate tile work that is green and red and with the red painted Pagoda it stands out among the lush green trees of the beautiful courtyard.
Taoist, Buddhist and other ethnic mythical stories from various cultures are carved in the walls of the pagoda and I would have loved to be able to understand or read these stories. The pagoda is filled with enormous statues that represent characters from both the Buddhist and Taoist traditions or mythology made of reinforced paper-mache.
Entering the ancient halls you notice that most statues are stained in a yellow haze of smoke wafting from offering lamps and swirling incense trails. The incense creates a tranquil atmosphere but after a while it does get a bit much and as my eyes started to water I couldn’t wait to get out in the fresh air again.
The Figure that dominates the main hall is the statue of the Jade Emperor who is believed to the “god of the heavens”. It is the emperor who decides who will be allowed entry in to the heavens and who will be refused. As incense swirls around him it give him a very eerie look, definitely not a creature I would like to meet someday.