In Mekong Delta, Fujian people is one of the three major communities: Vietnamese (or Kinh) people, Chinese people and Khmer people. They still keep the unique culture, religion and life style of the Hoa. Kien An Cung Pagoda (Ong Quach Pagoda) with ancient Chinese architecture has played an important part in the Chinese community in Dong Thap for nearly a hundred years.
Location: at the crossroads of Phan Boi Chau Street and Tran Hung Dao Street, Ward 1, Sa Dec City, Dong Thap Province. CLICK HERE to see the location of the area. Xeo Quyt is 140 km from Ho Chi Minh City. The pagoda is located on the bank of Cai Son Canal, it faces Cai Son Canal. In addition, it is only 100 m from Lap Vo River. This is known as a good location to build a pagoda according to Chinese and Vietnamese people.
Opening hours: 7:30 – 11:00; 13:30 – 5:00.
Year of construction: 1924 – 1927
Kien An Cung Pagoda was built from 1924 to 1927 by Chinese people from Fujian Province with the purpose of worshiping ancestors, teaching children, building strong community relations, organizing meetings, discussing trading, exchanging information.
For 3 years, Fujian workers and Sa Dec workers had worked hard in order to build a colorful but majestic religious site and architectural work in Chinese style.
In 1990, the pagoda was recognized as a National Historic Site.
Names of the pagoda in Vietnamese: Kiến An Cung, Chùa Kiến An Cung, Chùa Ông Quách; in English: Kien An Cung, Ong Quach Pagoda; in Chinese: 建 安 宮.
建 安 宮 or Kiến An Cung literally means Fujian peaceful palace. Ông Quách (Ong Quach) refers to Guang Ze Zun Wang Quang (Quảng Trạch Tôn Vương, Quang Trach Ton Vuong) who is known as the God of Fortune and worshiped on the main altar in the back hall (main hall) of this pagoda.
Main gate, fence and garden
The main gate and fence of Kien An Cung are simple. They are not three-entrance gate with curved roofs and delicate fence which are popular in temples and pagodas in Vietnam and China. The concrete gate is painted yellow, blue and white. Small concrete pillars of the fence look like real bamboo fragments.
On the left yellow pillars is the signboard read the names of the pagoda in Vietnamese and Chinese (Kiến An Cung, Chùa Ông Quách 建 安 宮)
Overview of the architecture
The pagoda has a 工 (Công) shape like many pagodas in Vietnamese and Chinese styles. There are only purlins (đòn tay) but not rafters (kèo). The wooden purlins are supported by round wooden pillars. The building include the main hall, left hall and right hall. The main hall has the most beautiful architectural work and the biggest. The main hall can be divided into main entrance, front hall and back hall so that it is easy for readers to learn about it.
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Main hall of Kien An Cung Pagoda
The facade is colorful, with metal red and white fence, two red and light blue windows. Most of the pillars which can be seen from the front yard are square. A large number of red lacquer gold gilt carved wood ornaments, the most impressive ones include six carved wood flower pots, birds, flowers, dragons, dears.
The roof is one of the most gorgeous parts of Kien An Cung. It looks like six waves which are topped with six magnificent and splendid palaces. They represent the spirit of overcoming difficulty and success. Besides, ornaments in the shape of a mixed animal that has a dragon head, bird wings and a fish tail and ornaments in the shape of a dragon with four bird legs. Their scales are made of white, red and green ceramic pieces. The roof is tiled with red yin yang tiles, the edges are decorated with green glazed tiles. They are all characterized features of Chinese temples and pagodas.
Six front doors and two side doors are made of wood and painted with ten Menshen door gods (threshold guardians) who are divine guardians of doors and gates in Chinese folk religions, responsible for protecting the pagoda from evils. In some Chinese pagodas there are usually two guardians and two doors. Kien An Cung has three entrances, ten doors and ten dood gods. The six front doors are closed at closing time. The two side doors are usually closed during the year.
On the two middle pillars, there are two golden wood panels with black Chinese characters. In front of two pillars are place two big statues of Qilins lifting up their heads. They are considered as guards of the pagoda.
Above the middle entrance is a vertical red and golden wood panel read the name of the pagoda in Chinese. Above the doors are wall paintings telling stories, depicting flowers and beautiful landscapes. Qilin (lân) and elephant are above the wall paintings.
There are totally six flower pots, the two back ones have two red lanterns at their bottom and deers on their top. Dragon and people carvings are next to the flower pots. There are also ceramic figurines behind glass, mounted to the wall.
Passing the one of the entrances, visitors are in the front hall which can be divided into three parts: middle, left and right. The front hall impresses visitors by wall paintings, panels, red round wood and golden curved panels with black characters, delicate golden “bao lam” depicting dozens of peacocks an other birds, flowers and leaves, vines and grape fruits, etc.
On the walls are small black and white paintings telling the story of Fengshen Yanyi (Investiture of the Gods, Phong Thần) and the story of Water Margin (Tale of the Marsh, Thủy hử). There are also two big black and white paintings depicting dragons and tiger, other small colorful paintings under the ceiling. A bell and a drum are put in the left and right of the hall.
The lightwell can be seen in lots of Chinese pagodas and temples in Vietnam and many other countries. The lightwell brings fresh air, lights and wind to the halls of the pagoda. A big incense burner is placed in the middle of the courtyard.
Back hall is the most important area in Kien An Cung Pagoda. This hall is furnished and decorated colorfully with wooden panels, wood carvings including “bao lam”, embroidered curtains with dragon and lotus patterns, wooden altars, weapons, palanquins, wall paintings, lanterns, etc. “Bao lam” wood carvings are abundant in this hall, they impress most of the visitors. All the altars are decorated sophisticatedly. Many burning incense coils hung on metal strings make the hall mysterious.
On the middle altar, Guang Ze Zun Wang Quang (Quảng Trạch Tôn Vương) is worship. He has red face, sit on a shrine, put his right leg on the left one, hold the green belt in his right hand, put the left hand on his left leg. He wears a colorful hat and a golden coffin. He is planked by two assistants (or servants) and two majestic Gods holding seals and swords.
In front of the middle altar is the Guan Yu (Quan Thánh Đế Quân) altar which has dragon, cloud, Qilin and flower patterns. Statue of Guan Yu, a incense burner and a pair of candle holders are placed on the altar. On two sides of this altar, there are two lines of weapons.
Thanh Thuỷ Tổ Sư who is worshiped as God of Medicine on the left altar in the Back hall. On the left wall are wall paintings depicting Goddesses and some famous characters in Chinese stories. A line of weapons is against the wall.
Bảo Sanh Đại Đế who was born in Fujian and is worshiped as a God in China. He is on the right altar in the Back hall. Similar to the left hall, the right hall has wall paintings, weapons, delicate red and black lacquer golden gilt palanquin, altars, “bao lam” and wood arts.
On the left of the main hall is a simpler hall, with hip roof and one entrance. A few glass boxes containing ceramic figurine and depicting Chinese stories or local lives and ceramic ornaments are used to decorate the front wall. Inside the hall, there are some beautiful “bao lam” and a nice round entrance.
On altars in the left hall, they worship Guanyin, Buddhas, Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, and dead people who may play important rolls in the Chinese community in Dong Thap or in the pagoda.
There were a living room, kichen, bed rooms in the right hall, it was restored when I visited the pagoda. I will update if there is any change.
Every year, Kien An Cung Pagoda organizes two celebrations: Guang Ze Zun Wang Quang’s Birthday Anniversary on 22nd February and the day when he was enlightened on 22nd August in the lunar calendar. The solemn celebrations attract a large number of attendants.