Khanh Van Nam Vien Taoist Temple in Ho Chi Minh City is one of the biggest Taoist temples in South Vietnam. It hosts Three teachings (three religions including Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism). This mysterious temple has played an important part in the religious life of the Chinese and Vietnamese communities in Saigon for nearly 100 years.
General information about Khanh Van Nam Vien Taoist Temple in Ho Chi Minh City
Location: 269 Nguyen Thi Nho Street, Ward 16, District 11, Ho Chi Minh City. CLICK HERE to see the location of the temple.
Total area: 2,000 m2
Year of establishment: 1936
Name of Khanh Van Nam Vien
The full name of this temple is Trà Sơn Khánh Vân Nam Viện (Tra Son Khanh Van Nam Vien). Vietnamese people usually call it Chùa Khánh Vân or Chùa Khánh Vân Nam Viện. In English, it is usually called Khanh Van Pagoda, Khanh Van Nam Vien Pagoda, Khanh Van Nam Vien Temple, Khanh Van Nam Vien Taoist Temple. “Khánh Vân” refers to five-color clouds which deities in Taoism ride and enjoy outings.
Some people may have been confused. In Vietnam, pagodas refer to religious sites organized by Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam (Giáo Hội Phật Giáo Việt Nam), recognized by the Vietnamese government. Pagodas more specifically refer to Hindu and Buddhist worshipping places. Khanh Van Nam Vien was originally a Taoist Temple. In recent, the religion at the temple is a mix of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism and it is under the management of Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam. So that it is known as a pagoda.
The temple is the place of worship for Lü Dongbin (Lu Dong Tan, Lu To, Ancestor Lu) – one of the eight deities in Chinese and Vietnamese folk religion. So that local people usually call it Chùa Lữ Tổ (Lu To Pagoda) or Chùa Ông Tiên (Male Deity Pagoda).
Origin and History
In 1934, twelve Taoist monks of Nam Hai Tra Son Khanh Van Dong in Nanhai District, Guangdong Province, China went to Hongkong. In 1936, three of them arrived in Vietnam and introduced Taoism to the Chinese community in Saigon Cholon (Saigon China Town).
The first Taoist temple named Toan Khanh Duong was located in a house on Tran Hung Dao Street. The house was too small when the number of Taoist monks increased.
In the 1930s, Khanh Van Nam Vien Taoist Temple in Ho Chi Minh City was built after Nam Hai Tra Son Khanh Van Dong in Nanhai District, Guangdong Province, China.
Until 2020, the temple has more than 2,000 believers (followers). The priests include Tran Khai Minh (1936-1943), Au Dieu Duyen (1944-1968), Chau Viem (1968-2013), Chau Hue Bang (2013-now).
Before 1950, all Taoist monks were from Nanhai, Guangdong, China. Later, Teochew, Fujianese and Vietnamese people living in Saigon have become Taoists.
Design, Architecture and Worship
The design of Khanh Van Nam Vien Taoist is similar to Nam Hai Tra Son Khanh Van Dong in China. The temple is designed to have gates, a yard, two floors.
There are three gates: the thee-entrance main gate, left side gate and right side gate.
In the main hall on the ground floor, Three kings (Tam đế) referring to Guanyin (Quan âm), Wenchang Wang (Văn Xương Đế Quân), Guan Yu (Quan Thánh Đế Quân), Lü Dongbin (Lu Dong Tan, Lữ Đồng Tân) are worshiped on the main altar in the middle. On the left altar, Hua Tuo (Hoa đà) is worshiped, the right altar is for worshipping Wong Tai Sin (Hoàng đại tiên).
On the second floor, Laozi (Lão tử), Gautama Buddha (Phật tổ), Kṣitigarbha (Địa tạng), are worshiped.
Nam Hai Tra Son Khanh Van Dong in China has the second floor where to worship Jade Emperor. The second floor does not exist in Khanh Van Nam Vien Taoist Temple in Ho Chi Minh City.
Gautama Buddha (Phật tổ) altar.
Materials and decorations
Three teachings (Tam giáo đồng nguyên) at Khanh Van Nam Vien
Three teachings (Tam giáo đồng nguyên) refer to Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism harmonious as one. This concept is very popular in Asian countries including Vietnam.
In the pagoda are worshipped Guanyin (Quan Âm) in Buddhism, Taoist Three Kings including Lü Dongbin (Lu Dong Tan, Lữ Đồng Tân), Quan Yu (Quan Vũ), Wenchang Wang (Văn Xương Đế Quân).
All horizontal and vertical wooden carved panels (hoành phi, liễn) and parallel sentences (câu đối) at Khanh Van Nam Vien were made and written by famous artists and calligraphy masters. On the gate of the main hall, there is a pair of vertical wooden carved panels since 1924. “Khánh Vân Biệt Thự Toàn Khánh Đường – Nam Hải Trà Sơn Khánh Vân Động” was carved on the horizontal wooden carved panel since May 1940.
Library and antique books
Rare ancient Taoist books in Chinese have been stored in the library for nearly 100 years. Daoshis have kept traditional characteristics of the religion. Taoist books have been sent from China and Taoist monks at the temple practice according to the books.
Activities at Khanh Van Nam Vien Taoist Temple
Lü Dongbin, Guan Yu and Jade Emperor’s birthday celebrations
Many other celebrations and festivals have been held in Taoist style. Celebrating the birthday of Lu Dong Tan – one of the eight deities in Vietnamese folk religion on 14th April of the lunar calendar is an annual activity at Khanh Van Nam Vien Taoist Temple. In addition, the two big celebrations at this temple include Guan Yu’s birthday celebration on 24th June of the lunar calendar and Jade Emperor’s birthday celebration on 9th January in the lunar calendar.
Doing charity work is one of the highlights of the pagoda and it is also one of the pagoda’s original purposes. The pagoda has built nursing homes for elderly homeless individuals, opened clinics for examining and treating poor patients, built houses for poor people, distributed free rice.
Ceremonial musical band
Ceremonial musical band with members who are able to play trumpets, drums, gongs, flutes, (đàn cò), plucked zither (đàn tranh), Vietnamese hammered dulcimer (tam thập lục), moon lute (đàn nguyệt), phèn la, etc. They are specialists in Taoist music. Each member practices every day, they meet and play together once a month.
On 23rd May 2013, the temple introduced the book “Khanh Van Nam Vien Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam” about history and donation list.