One of the city’s most ornate pagodas, this small house of worship honors the King of all Heavens, Ngoc Hoang or the Jade Emperor – chief deity of the Taoist pantheon. Built by the Cantonese community in 1909, its pink façade is almost simple, but the tile roof is an intricate work of art, as are the large wooden doors, richly carved with images of gods and men. Most remark able, however, are the vibrantly colorful and gilded images of Buddhist divinities and Taoist deities inside the temple. Just about every surface is embellished with tiles and carvings, most of which are dense with religious imagery and symbols.
This fascinating enclosure is filled with two rows of six ceramic female figurines. Draped in colorful robes, each woman represents a lunar year, each juxta posed with a vice or virtue. Kim Hoa, Goddess of Mothers, officiates over the colorful gathering.
Shaded with flowering shrubs and an ancient banyan tree, the outer courtyard is a peaceful spot with park benches and a turtle pond.
Traditional Stacked Roof with Green Ceramic Tiles
A pride of dragons, believed to represent a connection to the divine, rise from the jungle of roof peaks, made of elaborate woodwork and ceramic tiles.
Attended by guardians and resplendent in flowing robes, the Jade Emperor presides over the main sanctuary.
Giant Demon Guards
Made from a resilient kind of papiermâché, the two larger- thanlife demon guards are richly painted and robed in finery. One restrains an evil dragon under his foot, and the other a rampant tiger.
Mother of Five Buddhas
One of the most unusual altars here is that of Phat Mau Chuan De, Mother of Five Buddhas of the Cardinal Directions. Her Hindustyle effigy is flanked by statues of her five sons.
Religious Significance of the Hearth
Ong Tao or the Kitchen God resides in the family hearth and acts as the Jade Emperor’s snitch, as he knows all that trans- pires in the home. He is portrayed as a droll, fat fellow whose trousers burned off as a result of standing too close to the fire. Most kitchens in Vietnam contain an altar to him, and every year, during Tet, Ong Tao reports each family’s conduct to the Jade Emperor. If there is strife, the family is punished, but if there is harmony, it is rewarded. To get a good report, Ong Tao’s altar is never empty of offerings of food, drink, and incense.