Jade Emperor Pagoda, also known as “Chua Ngoc Hoang or Phuoc Hai Tu”, the pagoda is covering an area of 2.300m2. It was named by a man called Luu Ming because where people worships God of Heaven. The temple was built in 1892. Architecture completely follows Chinese style such as exquisite woodcarvings decorated with guild Chinese characters, the Yin and Yang roof tiles with colorful colors. Built in 1892 and spent 16 years for construction, finally it was inaugurated in 1908 and called Jade Emperor palace. As local said, Mr Luu Minh (Cantonese) built the pagoda with a good wish for his business doing well. In 1982 the temple was taken over by Buddhism Association and Thich Vinh Khuong was the first monk since it has belonged to the Buddhist of Vietnam, in the minds of the Vietnamese the temple was impressively for diverse worship of sacred deities, God of Heaven, Buddha, God of money, God of hell, 12 holy Mother s of birth and children…etc
Jade Emperor Pagoda has a total of over 300 statues which are placed among the three worshiping halls and each hall is the best master piece of architecture reflecting the connection of earth and heaven world. The front hall is also a largest space from the main gate, the middle hall is smaller from the main door, and both sides are positioning of Earth God on the left and Door God on the right (Mon Quan). In the middle hall, there is very important and exclusive statue of The Buddha of healing and Medicine in Mahayana Buddhism. Connecting with the main hall is many huge states of Natural Ministers of four directions (North, East, South and West). Most of huge statues are made of reinforced paper and no wonder of its age of more than 200 years! Jade Emperor Pagoda is second to none of Taoist worships and strongly believes in natural power.
In the middle of the main hall is positioning of the Jade Emperor or God of Heaven which is rarely seen in any other temple in Vietnam. Visitor can also him sitting high and supreme position surrounding by warriors of heaven, hand is holding the supreme order and looking down with powerful eyes but in dept of benevolence and understanding for human world.
On the right side is worshiping Buddha of Mercy and on the left side is dedicating to Tran Vo Bac (King defending the North), describes him in sitting position and one leg stepping on snake and other leg putting on turtle. In Taoism, Northern King controls devils and natural disaster.
Moving into the left hand corridor, visitor will be surprised by Government of the Hell where God of Hell is sitting and he is very impressive who shows supremely as God of Heaven. In hand of Hell God is a book of death, it describes another world after life by vivid, impressive way but very normal cycle of life, not aim to scare anyone looking at it. God of Hell is also surrounding by his administrative ministers. Remarkably you can see solders in horse and buffalo head who taking and guiding a death soil into Hell for justice.
A small alter underneath you can see a small guy in white cloth. He’s God of money and appears popularly in any Chinese temple in China town. Why he dresses in white? It is said that he used to be a very smart and great student in his time. However, He wasn’t a good son at all and treated his mother mercilessly. After his mother death, he felt really guilty and try to study harder and became a very good and useful person. Finally, he promoted to a God of Money and looking after Heaven Treasury. Every year, Chinese and Vietnamese borrow lucky money from him in small red envelope and returns a lot as contribution if their business running well! Maybe the old people wants to remind you that, if you are running after money too much, one day, you will be losing your most beloved person such as Mother, relative or friend!
Moving further out visitor can see a beautiful exquisite wood carvings describe 12 gates of hell where sin committed people are punished accordingly as what mistake they made in their living time. These 12 gates are very popular mentioned in Buddhism doctrine and describing in Buddhist temple on painting but is solely seen in wood carving in Jade Emperor Pagoda. The end of the room is another beautiful wood carving of Buddha of Mercy. Apparently, aside from Taoism, Buddhism is another very important belief of worshiper.
Through the narrow door, visitor will be caught by the colorful statues of 12 Mothers of birth and children. A bit different to Vietnamese custom, Chinese doesn’t made first month ceremony (Day Thang) for a new born baby but they comes and spray to 12 holy mothers represent 12 months after birth. When the child up to 1 year, a very big ceremony will be made and great offerings to 12 mothers who are looking after each month since the baby is born. Many young couple also comes here to pray for child if they are difficult to become father and mother.
In conclusion, Jade emperor pagoda is not similar to any Buddhist or Taoist pagoda in the city because it is great combination of both Taoism and Buddhism. It’s not very old pagoda in comparison to Giac Lam Pagoda but everything have been in well maintenance in nearly 120 years. There are many valuable objects inside of Pagoda such as paper made statues, fragrant wood made Buddha of medicine and wood carving displays in hell section. Today, Pagoda has a main festival on 9th of January (lunar calendar), dedicated to God of heaven, a lot of locals come and worship in this day.
Ben Tre, 14th Aug 2012