Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Vinh Nghiêm Pagoda and Jade Emperor Pagoda

I visit two contrasting pagodas, a Vietnamese Buddhist pagoda and a Chinese Taoist pagoda, to experience the differences and to get a glimpse of old and new in Saigon.

The Vinh Nghiêm Pagoda is the largest pagoda in Saigon and is itself rather young.  The pagoda was built between 1964 and 1971 by two monks who came from North Vietnam to the South to spread Buddhism.  The compound is built in a traditional Vietnamese style, but of concrete, representing the combination of ancient and modern elements.

Pagoda entrance

The pagoda is spacious and modern inside, with one Buddha and two Bodhisattvas, true followers of the faith.

 Inside the pagoda

 Outside the pagoda, the grounds and gardens are beautiful.

 Pagoda grounds

By way of contrast, the Jade Emperor Pagoda, approximately a 1/2 hour walk away is a Taoist pagoda built by the Chinese community between 1892 and 1909.  The pagoda is dedicated to various gods, in particular the Jade Emperor, one of the most important Chinese Taoist gods, Ruler of All Heavens, Earth, and the Underworld and Creator of the Universe.

The building is small, with a main hall where one can make offerings to the Jade Emperor and lots of small chambers off the main hall.  The small structure on the left of the entrance is an incinerator for burning offerings of paper so the smoke can reach ancestors and the deceased in heaven.

Pagoda entrance

Inside the pagoda

And outside the pagoda is a turtle pond, with an additional shelter for turtles to the right of the entrance.  Turtles represent longevity in Vietnam and are a symbol of fortune and good luck.

Turtle pond and turtle shelter

The two pagodas provide an interesting contrast of cultures and time frames.  Both are beautiful and spiritual and a great combination and contrast.

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