Vĩnh Nghiêm Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh city is the first pagoda in Vietnam to be built in Vietnamese traditional architecture style but with concrete. The pagoda attracts thousands of followers of Buddhism and visitors each year. Also it gets pretty busy on the first and fifteenth days of lunar months.
From the North, two monks, Thích Tâm Giác and Thích Thanh Kiểm, went to the South to spread Buddhism, and then built Vĩnh Nghiêm pagoda. They took the design prototype from a wooden pagoda which has the same name in Đức La Village, Trí Yên Commune, Tạng Giang County, Bắc Giang Province; which dates the reign of Lý Thái Tổ during the Lý Dynasty.
The designer for the project was architect Nguyễn Bá Lăng, with the collaboration Lê Tấn Chuyên và Cổ Văn Hậu.
Vĩnh Nghiem Pagoda was started to build in 1964 and completed in 1971. At first, the constructions was include Buddha Hall (Phật điện), Guanyin Tower (Bảo tháp Quán Thế Âm) and society activity rooms. In 1982, Public Relic Tower Bảo (tháp Xá Lợi Cộng Đồng) was finished. After that, they built Abbot Hall (Phương Trượng Đường) and Reception hall (Khách Đường). In 2003, Stone Tower (Tháp Đá) was built.
This 6.000-square-metre is divided into three main sections: the three-arched-entrances gate, the central building, and the surrounding towers. The architecture of the pagoda follows the ancient style of Northern Vietnam, but with modern techniques and construction materials. This is one of the typical works of Vietnamese Buddhist architecture in the 20th century.
The three-arched-entrances gate
It was built according to the traditional style with red tiles and an upward curving roof. The gate was supported by four square pillars. At the roof, there is statue of two dragons flanking a moon.
The central building is a solid structure with a large ground floor. The ground floor is divided into two areas: the 3.2 m area opposite the stone tower and the 4.2 m area under the Buddha Hall. Three wide and large stairs of 23 steps leading up a spacious rooftop and the Buddha Hall. The Buddha Hall consists of three halls inside: Bái Điện (Bow Hall), Bửu Điện (Middle Hall), and Ksitigarbha Hall (Back Hall).
- In Bow Hall, there is a statue of Cundi with 9 heads, 18 arms, and 18 eyes is worshiped.
- In Middle Hall, the Buddha altar is set up in harmonic arrangement, in the middle of the Buddha worship. The left is Manjushri worship, and the right is adjacent to worship Samantabhadra Bodhisattva.
- In Ksitigarbha Hall, on the altars are worshipped Bodhisattva Thích Quảng Đức, Hùng King, the former President of Vietnam Trần Đại Quang, Nguyễn Cao Kỳ – Vice President Public of Vietnam.
The ground floor also has an ancestral house, office, monk room, classroom, lecture hall, restaurant. Futhermore, there is a steeple with the giant bell, presented by Entsu-in Pagoda in Japan.
- Guanyin Tower: located right on the left of the main gate when you enter the pagoda. The tower consists of 7 floors and a height of nearly 40 m. This is one of the most massive towers in Vietnamese pagodas. At the top of the tower are nine round-wheels and spheres which are called “Long Xa” (Dragon wheel) and “Quy Châu” (Turtle pearl). Each floor is decorated with red tiles, phoenix ornaments at curved eaves, Buddha sitting on lotus flower ornaments on the walls.
- Public Relic Tower has 4 floors, 25 meters high. It is located behind the Buddha Hall. The tower was designed in very unique architectural style with stairs from the courtyard leading up. This is the place to store the remains of the deceased Buddhists for relatives to visit.
- Stone Tower, also know as Vĩnh Nghiêm Tower, was built in 2003 to worship the monk Thích Thanh Kiểm, one of the two monks who founded the pagoda. This 14-m seven-story was made from black blue stones which were mined in the famous Nhồi mountain, Thanh Hóa Province. This tower has 7 floors, each floor is carved from a whole stone, elaborately pattern, and sculpture in Lý – Trần dynasty style. The total weight of the tower is nearly 200 tons. Vĩnh Nghiêm stone tower is considered the first stone tower in the South and is the largest stone tower, in Vietnam ever.
- Location: 339 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh city.
- Best for: Family, couple, solo
- Entrance: Free
- Opening hours: 8:00AM – 5:00PM