Discover Jade Emperor Pagoda - Ho Chi Minh
Even if you aren't a Taoist or Buddhist devotee, a visit to the Jade Emperor Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh city should still be at the top of the list of any culture-seeking traveler with an inclination towards ancient history, architecture, or those just seeking the experience of being one step closer to the hallowed and the divine.
Also known as Tortoise Pagoda, it was built in 1909 in honor of the Jade Emperor (known locally as Ngoc Hoang, the King of Heaven), the supreme Taoist god, a few blocks northwest of the Botanical Gardens. Visitors will note the pungent scent and haze of incense (huong) upon entry into the main temple; the air is heavy with it, obscuring the view of the beautiful wood carvings and statues of various heroes and divine entities. Devotees and worshipers arrive here by the hundreds per day in order to seek guidance or favor from the Jade Emperor himself, resplendent in the main sanctuary, or from their chosen deity: couples seeking children may look to Kim Hua, the goddess of fertility, for blessings, while those seeking fortune may attend to the City God instead, who wears an inscribed hat that reads 'At one glance, money is given'.
Visitors are free to explore the many passages and rooms within the temple. The statues in each small room depict a different aspect of the Chinese faith, from the philosophical to the ethical to the religious. They may also choose to feed the tortoises living in the pond outside, where the pagoda earned its alternative name. Feeding the animals there is considered a vital part of the temple-going ritual, and will earn you favor from the heavens. However, tourists are encouraged to be mindful: buying a tortoise as an offering is not necessary to have the best experience.
The Jade Emperor Pagoda is located at 743 Mai Thi Luu Street, slightly removed from the touristy areas of Pham Ngu Lao or Duong Dong Khoi. Visitors may opt to take a taxi cab to the temple, or go with the option that locals use: riding on the back of a motorcycle, a far cheaper and speedier method.