I’ve recently covered a few of Saigon’s many pagodas — here and here — and you may have noticed a common theme emerging: they are small and are being chocked out by surrounding buildings. But there is a pagoda that staked its claim early enough, and far enough out of downtown, that it has still actually got some land to spare. I’m talking about Saigon’s oldest place of worship: Giac Lam Pagoda.
Main gate of Giac Lam Pagoda
Multi-tiered tower to store the sarira
Big Buddha statue at Giac Lam Pagoda
Tombs of Buddhists in the area of Giac Lam Pagoda
Pagoda & vegetarian food tour by Scooter tour is the perfect way to see a huge amount of the city in just a few hours.
Giac Lam Pagoda is widely recognized as an important and historic pagoda, the oldest temple in the city. Built in 1744 on an undeveloped area of jungle, it has since been consumed into the west of the city.
Originally thatched, the buildings have undergone significant remodeling at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Historically significant, it is now protected as an official cultural heritage site.
In the main garden stands a famous bodhi tree donated by Sri Lanka to the temple in 1953, in its shade stands a statue of bodhisattva Aralokiteshvara. In the grounds also stands a 32 meter (100 foot) high seven story hexagonal stupa; in total there are over 100 statues to admire.
The main, and original, temple is in the rear of the area. Leaving the stupa you pass by a couple of large Buddha statues and the garden/graveyard where the old tombs of monks and caretakers of the pagoda rest under a bodhi tree. The temple is pretty interesting inside. The first of two main rooms is “the Altars of Patriarchs”, with walls lined with metres and metres of pictures of people who have passed on. It’s dark, there are lots of old pictures, and it’s definitely a mood setter.
There is also an eerie and worth seeing funerary chamber with photos and shrines dedicated to former monks of the temple. At the main altar, Buddhists pray for peace and good health. By writing their names and their relatives’ names on paper and sticking it into the grand bell they believe their wishes will be carried when the bell is struck and echoes into heaven.
Typical architecture of southern pagodas
“The Third” structure of Giac Lam Pagoda is also typical of southern pagodas. It means the pagoda consists of 3 main buildings: the main ceremonial hall, the dharma preaching hall and the meal hall. The first one is big with many huge pillars engraved with meaningful sentences. It worships many Buddhas such as Buddha Amitabha, Buddha Shakyamuni and some Bodhisattva like Maitreya Bodhisattva, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva and Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva. Giac Lam Pagoda has 118 statues made of wood, bronze and cement. Most of them are very ancient and valuable, which demonstrate the development of Vietnamese art of sculpture in 18th century. Not only is Giac Lam a place to observe traditional southern structure of pagodas, but it’s also where tourists can discover the specific cultural characteristics of Vietnam, like the 4-season fruit pattern.
You can reach Giac Lam Pagoda in many ways: by taxi, by scooter or by bus (see guide to Ho Chi Minh City Bus). If you travel by bus, all you need to do is catching bus No.27 at Ben Thanh Bus Station and then get off at the crossroad Lac Long Quan – Au Co. Then you can find the way to Giac Lam Pagoda.
If you would like to discover Giac Lam Pagoda please go with us: Pagoda & vegetarian food tour by Scooter tour is trying to making lantern by yourself and you will have unforgettable memories. Don’t miss it!
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