Emperor Jade Pagoda or Ngoc Hoang Pagoda, which is also known as Tortoise Pagoda, has become popular as one of the most Ho Chi Minh City’s spectacularly atmospheric temples with statues of phantasmal divinities and grotesque heroes. It was also the first stop-over of U.S President Barack Obama during his landmark Vietnam visit.
Ngoc Hoang Pagoda was built in 1909 by a Cantonese who migrated from Guangzhou province in Southwest China, in honor of the supreme Taoist god (called the Jade Emperor or King of Heaven, Ngoc Hoang). It is a typical representation of Mahayanist branch of Buddhism that is widely practiced throughout Vietnam.
Entering the main hall of the building, tourists can see the two Taoist figures with fierce and menacing faces. The statue on the right is a 4-meter high statue of the General who defeated the Green Dragon; whereas the on
the left is the statue of General defeating the White Tiger. Worshippers to the pagoda all gather in front of the ineffable Jade Emperor who presides over the main sanctuary. He is well draped in luxurious robes and shrouded in a dense fug of incense smoke, as well as assisted by his guardians, named the Four Big Diamonds (Tu Dai Kim Cuong). The Emperor can decide who can enter the higher realm.
Inside Ngoc Hoang Pagoda, the first stop-over of Obama during his visit in Ho Chi Minh City
For those who don't pass this gate, they will meet with the formidable 'God of Hell', on the left, who will be in charge of sending sinners to one of the 10 levels of hell. Life in purgatory is magnificently if somewhat gruesomely represented by the intricate carvings on the temple wall, depicting different kinds of punishments that await transgressors.
In addition, there is a goddess of fertility Kim Hua in a different hall, surrounded by figures of women and small children. This goddess blesses childless couples who come here and pray for an offspring. The room on the top floor is for worshipping the goddess of mercy Kuan Yin, who forms a very important part of any Taoist temple.
Emperor Jade Pagoda welcomes a lot of locals who come here to prayer or make votive offerings of flowers, and light candles and joss sticks. When the pagoda is full of worshippers, it will get busy and feel a little cramped. It seems to be charmer in its dimly lit covering the narrow passageways filled with smoke.
Outside the pagoda, tourists can see an overcrowded tortoise pond in front of the temple grounds. It is supposed that feeding the animals is considered as part of the merit-making, temple-going rituals.
Chua Ngoc Hoang or Jade Emperor Pagoda is a cannot-be-missed stop-over of a full day Ho Chi Minh City tour following footsteps of President Obama. More tours in Ho Chi Minh city can be found at: http://cityinsight.vn/vietnam-city-tours/ho-chi-minh.html