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You are here:      Home News Temples & Treasures
Temples & Treasures

hochiminhHo Chi Minh City’s Chinese quarter, Cho Lon, is home to many historic temples, pagodas and communal houses. These lovingly-preserved buildings take modern-day visitor back in time. Join us on o tour of Cho Lon’s history.

In the 1700s, Chinese people from five main regions migrated to southern Vietnam and settled in Saigon-Cho Lon, of the newcomers hailed from Guangdong, Fujian, Shenzhen, He and Hainan provinces.

In Cho Lon, Chinese immigrants built communal halls, pagodas and temples where they could meet and maintain their traditional cultures. Nearly three centuries later, many of these structures still stand and retain a strong Chinese identity, As well as being beautiful, these architectural relics help us to understand  aspects of life in old Saigon-Cho Lon.

 

The pagodas, temples and communal halls found in Cho Lon were built to resemble those found in China. Buildings were built to resemble the Chinese character “Tam”(Three) or “Khau” (mouth) or with an open middle section that allows more light and air to penetrate. Each society’s communal house has its own specific features, especially in the way that the altar is set up and in terms of décor and building materials.

The first temple built in Cho Lon was Nhi Phu Temple, which stands on the present-day Hai Thuong Lan Ong Road. This temple was built by the Fujian community in 1730. The name Nhi Phu refers to the two communities that built to that built the temple, who came from Guangzhou and Zhengzhou. Later, the Guangzhou group established its own society called Wen Lang. The Zhengzhou group then set up its own society called Hazhang.

Nhi Phu Temple is built in a “Khau” architectural style with an open yard in the center. Its roof is covered with tubular tiles lined with bas-relief mosaics made from broken ceramics. The subjects relate to the four seasons: apricots, orchids chrysanthemums ivory bamboo, the eight immortals of Taoism; and dragons and phoenixes.

If Nhi Phu Temple is the oldest Chinese relic in Cho Lon, the Tue Thanh Society’s communal hall features the most impressive decorations. Also known as Ba Thien Hau Pagodas this hall was built in 1760 by members of the Guangdong community. A number of small statures cover the top of the house, representing characters in historical dramas and ancient Chinese legends such as those about the Three Kingdoms. This type of pottery, known as Cay Mai, was originally produced by artists from the Foshan region of Guangdong.

The small statue on the Tue Thanh communal hall was by group of artisans known as Cong Tu Su who hailed from Foshan. These statues are engraved with the year of production and the name of pottery- kilns where they were fired, such as the Dong Hoa, Buu Nguyen and Mai Son kilns.

In the Tue Thanh Society’s meeting house, there on another precious object: a mammoth incense burner that was produced in 1886. Located in the middle compartment, this incense burner was made by covering a bronze frame with ornamental glaze. Of all the worship objects found in Cho Lon’s temple, pagodas and meeting house, this incense burner is the most valuable.

Each Cho Lon’s communal halls, pagodas and temple have something noteworthy. The Minh Huong community’s communal house. Gia Hanh holds scrolls the feature images showing Minh Huong people in boats crossing the sea towards Vietnam, and new arrivals requesting an audience with King Gia Long to ask for land.

In front of the Hazhang Society’s meeting house stands a pair of beautifully unicorns. The Tam Son Society’s meeting household’s rows of red-painted pillars. People come here to worship Princess Tru Sanh and to pray for male heirs.

Along with still historic pagodas, temple and communal halls, Cho Lon still has some old villas and other buildings that deserve to be protected and maintained. HCM City’s Culture-Sports-Tourism Department has designated Hai Thuong Lan Ong Road as an area to be preserved for the 2006-2020 period. This is one of the oldest roads in Ho Chi Minh City. Many intricately decorated colonial-style shop house still stand on Hai Thuong Lan Ong Road. The house date back to 1864, when the key business on this street was trading medicinal Chinese herbs.

Cho Lon covers an area of around five square kilometers. It is home to three communal house and 22 pagodas. Eight structures in Cho Lon have been classified as “historical and cultural relics”, out of Ho Chi Minh City’s total of 43 relics. Six of the city’s 19 listed “artistic architectural works” are found in Cho Lon.

Cho Lon’s Communal halls, temple, pagodas and old streets have valuable stories to tell. Over several centuries, these treasures have been preserved and maintained withed great care, allowing modern-day visitors to enjoy their beauty and to learn about Cho Lon’s past.

 

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