Ông Temple is one of the ancient pagodas in Cần Thơ famous for its unique architecture. The temple also plays an important role in the spiritual lives of the Hoa community (Chinese people living in Vietnam) in the Southwest region. During the war, the Ông Temple was a place to support the revolutionary forces fighting against the American troops, which contributed to the success of the unification of the country. With those heritage values, visiting the temple is a thing to do in Cần Thơ that you should not forget.  

How Ông Temple is unique?

According to existing woodcarving documents, Ông Temple started construction in 1894 and was completed in 1896, on an area of ​​532m2. Most of the materials to build the pagoda were brought from Guangdong, China. The temple was founded by a group of Chinese people from Guangzhou and Zhaoqing, so it is named “Guang – Zhao Assembly Hall (廣肇會館)”. It became an area to worship, exchange, meet fellow countrymen, help each other do business & settle down in the region’s new land, and organize their own cultural activities.

The Ông Temple has an architectural layout in the shape of the Chinese character for 國 (meaning Nation), with a roof of yin and yang tiles. The joining materials are blue ceramic edges, creating an ancient look. The middle of the roof is decorated with ” two dragons flanking a pearl”. This is a fairly common decoration style at the Chinese temples in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Other motifs decorated with colour pottery such as fish transforming into a dragon, phoenix, palaces, and human figures… showing scenes of festivities of the Chinese people. These decorations were brought from Guangdong, clearly showing the art of handmade ceramics of Chinese artisans of the Qing Dynasty.

The temple represents the architecture of the temples and shrines of the Chinese, with a pair of unicorns flanking the main door, suggesting peace and prosperity. Besides the dragon and phoenix symbols, there are also statues of Yue Lao who hold the Sun and the Moon, which symbolize yin and yang.

Chinese temples are usually not surrounded by gardens like Vietnamese and Khmer temples. Instead, it is surrounded by brick walls. The centre of the building is an empty space on the roof called the sky well. From the courtyard to the main hall, there is a row of three incense tables made of grinding stone. This is a place where pilgrims prepare offerings, burn incense, and pray. 

Worshipping at Ông Temple

Entering the worship temple, it’s divided into three parts, the front worship area is dedicated to the God of Fortune, General Mã Tiền who have great merits to help the Chinese gather to live and work. Deep inside is the main temple worshipping Guan Yu, a Chinese military general serving under the warlord Liu Bei during the late Eastern Han Dynasty of China. His virtues are honoured by the Chinese people.

On the right is his altar of Mazu. The altar of Bodhisattva Guanyin, Honor Graduate Đồng Vĩnh, and the God of Finance are placed on the left side. The statues in the pagoda are made of different materials: wood, plaster, and porcelain, made in the shape of a circle.

The Ông Temple attracts many domestic and international visitors who come here to visit, admire, and pray on the 15th of each lunar month and Tết (Lunar New Year). However, there are 02 special festivals, in a year, operated by the Hoa community. That is Guan Yu’s festival (on June 24th of the lunar month) and God of Fortune (on March 15th of the lunar month). During this period, there are many events take place such as the unicorn dance, lion dance, dragon dance, and especially lantern auction for humanitarian purposes. The money from the auction is used for building Chinese schools, cemeteries, supporting handicapped children, and orphanages in studying and maintaining this temple.

With such historical and artistic values, on June 21, 1993, Ông Temple was recognized as a “National Monument”.

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