Jade Emperor Pagoda
We regard the Jade Emperor as the
best example of a Taoist pagoda in Vietnam from a tourism
point of view, not just for its religious value but also
for its sheer exuberance.
the temple courtyard, visitors will encounter a small pool
on the right full of large terrapins and, on the left, a
series of enclosures containing dozens of tortoises that
give it its local name of the ‘Tortoise Pagoda’. Usually,
there will be women selling birds to be released by the
purchaser to curry favour with the gods.
interior is dominated by an effigy of the Jade Emperor,
correctly addressed as 'Most Venerable Highest Jade Emperor
of All-Embracing Sublime Spontaneous Existence of the Heavenly
Golden Palace’. He is the head of the heavenly bureaucracy,
governing spirits assigned to oversee the workings of the
natural world and the administration of moral justice.
gods in heaven behaved, and were treated, much the same
as officials in the human world - worshipping them was a
kind of rehearsal for dealing with the secular authorities.
Demons and the ghosts of hell acted like bullies and outlaws
threatening strangers in the real world and were treated
accordingly. To avoid their attentions, people bribed them
or invoked the martial forces of the spirit world’s officials
to arrest them.
these elements can be seen in the Pagoda. The mighty Emperor
monitoring entry through the gates of heaven is flanked
by his senior officers, one bearing a light to illuminate
the path, the other wielding an axe to administer justice,
and his other officials and lesser deities.
King of Hell and his red horse are on the right of the chamber
surrounded by the two gods of yin and yang, and four more
gods who mete out punishment for evil and reward goodness.
He looks towards the ‘Hall of the Ten Hells’, a room containing
ten magnificently carved panes that vie with Hieronymus
Bosch for depictions of the horrors awaiting the ungodly.
door, there is another room with twelve ceramic figures
of women with many babies presided over by Kim Hoa, the
protector of all mothers and children. Each figurine represents
a particular human characteristic, good or bad, and one
year of the 12 year Chinese calendar. Childless couples
often visit this small chapel to pray to be granted a child.
the left of the Jade Emperor in an enclosure containing
Thien Loi, the god of lightning and other deities, is a
life-sized effigy of a horse. This is also popular with
women who seek fertility – they rub its flanks and neck
and whisper their prayers in its ears.
around the walls are more effigies of figures from other
religions, mainly Buddhism.
an Occidental, making sense of the rich symbolism, decoration
and ritual is almost impossible. A good guide can help to
shed a little light into the complexity of Taoism, It takes
many years to acquire a reasonable understanding of the