Xa Loi Pagoda is the largest pagoda in Hồ Chí Minh City, Vietnam. It was built in 1956 and was the headquarters of Buddhism in South Vietnam. The pagoda is located in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City and lies on a plot of 2500 m2. The name Xa Loi is the Vietnamese reading style for śarīra, a term used for relics of Buddhists.
The pagoda was built on August 5, 1956, the First Republic of Vietnam time, according to the drawing of architects Tran Van Duong and Do Ba Vinh. The constructing is controlled by engineers Du Ngoc Anh and Ho To Thuan. The pagoda was completed on May 2, 1958.
The pagoda was built to worship Sakyamuni Buddha’s Xa Loi, so it was originally called the Xa Loi Worshiping Pagoda. People used to call Xa Loi Pagoda, so when it was inaugurated, it was named Xa Loi to match people’s hearts. In 1961 the pagoda built a bell tower.
The pagoda is the headquarters of Nam Viet Buddhist Association from 1951 until 1981. From 1964 to 1966, the pagoda was also the teaching place of Van Hanh University. From 1981 to May 1993 the pagoda was the headquarters of the Vietnam Buddhist Association (Office II).
In 1963, the Movement asking for Freedom, democracy, equality of Vietnamese Buddhism became stronger than ever. In Saigon, 2 pagodas of An Quang and Xa Loi are the two centers of the struggle movement. Following is some events related to struggle movement at Xa Loi Pagoda.
– On May 30, 1963, police forces surrounded the Xa Loi Pagoda in Saigon, Tu Dam, Bao Quoc and Linh Quang pagodas in Hue.
– In the afternoon of June 11, 1963, the government ordered the blockade of Xa Loi Pagoda in Saigon, the place keeping Buddhist Monk Thich Quang Duc’s heart. In spite of the police force, about 15,000 people were present at Xa Loi Pagoda.
– From July 15, 1963, the monks, nuns, and Buddhists began a hunger strike. Also on July 17, 1963, about 400 monks, nuns, and Buddhists marched from Xa Loi Pagoda to Ben Thanh Market to ask the government to implement the communiqué which was agreed before.
Xa Loi Pagoda is the first pagoda of the city built according to the new architecture, above is the main hall, and below is the lecture hall. The structure of the pagoda consists of the main hall to worship the Buddha, the lecture hall, the bell tower, the library, the monk house, dining house, the office, the room for the publication of the scriptures, the living room, and the rebirth house.
The main hall worships Sakyamuni Buddha statue created by Bien Hoa Fine Arts School. In 1969 the statue was glued to the whole body with gold like a figure today. In front of the Buddha statue is a place to worship Buddha’s Xa Loi which is placed in a small tower. The main hall is decorated with a large set of 15 paintings drawn by Professor Nguyen Van Long of Gia Dinh Fine Arts School, describing the history of Sakyamuni Buddha from being born until entering into the nirvana.
Xa Loi Pagoda Bell Tower was inaugurated in 1961. The bell tower has a height of 32 m, consists of 7 floors. The highest floor has a large bell weighing 2 tons. The bell is cast in the form of Thien Mu pagoda’s bell (Hue).