Tucked away in a side street deep within Saigon's District 1, paying a visit to the Jade Emperor Pagoda (Chùa Ngọc Hoàng) is one of Saigon's best free cultural experiences. This hundred year-old Taoist temple was constructed by Saigon's Chinese-Vietnamese community in 1909, and today is a vibrant, colorful, and beautiful spot to visit in the city. Escape the traffic and commercialism of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) to see the lesser-known spiritual side of Vietnam's largest city.
Visiting the Jade Emperor Pagoda
The Jade Emperor Pagoda is open to all visitors, regardless of nationality or religious beliefs. Visitors must be dressed appropriately to enter a temple, though. That means no sleeveless shirts (men or women) and no shorts for women.
As soon as you step inside the quiet, dark wooden temple, with its flickering candles and spirals of fragrant incense smoke, you leave the bustling world of Saigon far behind. The main shrine in the center of the temple is dedicated to the Jade Emperor, the chief god of heaven in Taoism, who is seen as the judge of all of humankind.
Although the Jade Emperor Pagoda is a Taoist temple, there are a number of Buddhist shrines as well. Vietnamese religion tends to follow the "triple teaching" of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, and there tends to be not much distinction between the three paths. Rather, they are seen to compliment one another.
As you walk through the temple, don't miss the narrow wooden stairs leading up on the right side of the main hall. The stairs lead up to a landing with access to a balcony, from where you can look down over the temple grounds and see the city all around you.
A door on the left side of the man hall leads down a hallway to the shrine of the city god. There is a special ritual that one can perform here. A temple volunteer hands visitors a small square of folded red paper. Say a prayer and make a wish, and circle the red paper around the burning flame from the lantern next to the city god. It is said that luck and prosperity will come to those who do this.
A lot of visitors complain that Saigon lacks the cultural experiences of Hanoi or Hue. While it's true that the city can feel much more commercial, modern, and busy, there is still plenty of amazing history and culture to be found if you know where to look. Step back from the night life and the shopping malls, and you'll find a Saigon with a rich history befitting the grand old city.
Location of the Jade Emperor Pagoda, Saigon
- The Jade Emperor Pagoda is located in Saigon District 1
- 73 Đường Mai Thị Lựu VN, 73 Đường Mai Thị Lựu, Đa Kao, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Opening hours and entrance fee at the Jade Emperor Pagoda
- The Jade Emperor Pagoda is open from 7:00 am - 6:00 pm
- There is no entrance fee or admission ticket. Entrance to the temple is completely FREE to all visitors