Affectionately known as the “Tortoise Pagoda” by Ho Chi Minh City locals, the Jade Emperor Pagoda (Chùa Ngọc Hoàng) is one of the most prominent ones in town. Constructed in 1909 by Cantonese Mahayanist Buddhists, this temple is still a functioning place of worship that is visited just as much by residents as tourists.
The pagoda is famous for its beautiful ambiance and has many statues of heroes from the Buddhist and Taoist religions and folklore. Even though it is considered a multi-faith temple, it has a clear dominance of Buddhist influence. You’ll find impressive tile work on the roof on the outside, and the smell of incense floats around the premises.
Inside the building, the main feature is the statues of the Jade Emperor and two of his right-hand men, generals who defeated a white tiger and a green dragon. There are also chambers dedicated to Kim Hoa Thanh Mau, the Chief of All Women, and Quan Am, the goddess of mercy.
The room belonging to Thanh Hoang, the “Chief of Hell,” has the famous “Hall of Ten Hells,” wooden panels that showcase the types of torture inflicted upon people who ended up in one of the underworld levels. In front of the temple is a very populated tortoise pond, which gave the pagoda its nickname for the animal.
Visiting the Tortoise Pagoda
There is no admission fee to ender the Tortoise Pagoda; however, they have donation boxes spread out on-site. The temple can get pretty crowded throughout the day, so it’s best to arrive early or allow plenty of time to navigate around the many other visitors. While there isn’t a strict dress code to go inside, people should wear respectful attire and cover at least from the shoulder down to the knees.
Address: 73 Đường Mai Thị Lựu, Đa Kao, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Phone: +84 28 3820 3102
Hours: 7 days a week, 7 am – 5:30 pm