Thien Hau Temple or Ba Temple is located at 710 Nguyen Trai Street, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City. The temple was built by some Chinese Vietnamese in 1760. It has attracted tourists because of having the Chinese ancient architecture style, many antiques and worshiping Thien Hau Thanh Mau, a sea goddess has an interesting legend.
In the 17th century, the Qing Dynasty defeated the Ming Dynasty and began to dominate China. Some Chinese did not accept the Qing Dynasty rule, left their home to Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, to earn their living. Most of the Chinese had to cross the big sea coming in Vietnam and they prayed Thien Hau Thanh Mau for safety. Reaching Vietnam safely, the overseas Chinese believe that Lady Thien Hau helped them. Therefore, they set up temples to worship her. Thien Hau Thanh Mau Temple in District 5 is the temple built most early in Saigon (HCMC now).
The main god worshiped in the temple is Thien Hau Thanh Mau, whose first name is Mi Chau. She was born in Phuoc Kien, China in 1044, during Tong Nhan Tong Dynasty. When she was eight years old, she could read. She became a Taoist nun when she was eleven years old. At the age of thirteen, she was given ancient books by gods. Since then, she had trained herself until she got the result in Taoism.
One day, her father named Lam Tich Khanh was on a boat with her two older brothers to transfer salt to Giang Tay for sale. On the way, the boat was sunk by a big storm. At that time, she was sitting to weave fabric beside her mother, but she knew her father and brothers meeting the accident. Her soul went to the place to save them. She used her teeth to keep father’s coat and used her two hands to keep the brothers. Unfortunately, her mother called her, which made her answer. She just opened her lips to answer, her father was swept away in the water and she saved only the two brothers. Since then, people have called her to be saved when their boats have been in danger. In 1110, she was named Thien Hau Thanh Mau by Tong Dynasty in China. In China, many temples have been built to worship her. they were called after her name, Thien Hau Thanh Mau (shortly Thien Hau).
The Temple is a group of four houses forming the word “khau” (口) which means mouth in English. The three house rows in the middle are called the front hall, the middle hall and the back hall (also known as the main hall. Between the halls is a space called “thien tinh” (heaven well) which makes the pagoda well airy and bright. The temple is decorated with the carvings of flowers, leaves, birds and animals, horizontal lacquered boards and parallel sentences. All of them have red and yellow colors which make the atmosphere of the temple warm and solemn. The temple also has carved pictures of the four supernatural creatures. In addition, it has pottery sculpture attached on rooftops, roof corners, walls and altars which were produced in China in 1908.
The front hall has two altars on which Phuc Duc Chanh Than (right) and Mon Quan Vuong (left) are worshiped. There is the stone stele on which the legend of Thien Hau Thanh Mau written, and the big pictures describing her who is on wave and water. The middle hall is put an incense burner between two crane statues and lamps, all made of bronze, all of which make the place of worship more solemn. The objects were produced in 1886. On the back hall, Thien Hau Thanh Mau, Kim Hoa Nuong (right) and Long Mau Nuong Nuong (left) are worshiped. Thien Hau Thanh Mau statue was carved of a precious wood kind. its height is about 1 m. That statue had existed here before the temple was built. All statues are covered with splendid embroidered clothes.
The temple has lots of other antiques made in the late 18th century and 19th century. The main hall of the temple has two bells of the 60th Qianlong year (1796) and the 10th Dao Quang year (1830). The middle hall has a big incense burner set of the 12th Quang Tu year (1886). In the large glass cabinet at the main hall, there are Bat Tien statue and the words of D’Ariès’ commander in 1860 banning French and Italian soldiers not to damage the temple. The two sides of the incense burner are a palanquin made of good wood and painted with yellow and a dragon boat all of which are used to welcome the Grandmother in the celebration. In addition, the temple has about other 400 antiques