Inside the pagoda Obama plans to visit

By Phong Vinh   May 21, 2016 | 12:44 pm GMT+7

In his visit to Vietnam, the U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled drop by the 100-year-old Ngoc Hoang (Jade Emperor) Pagoda at the heart of Saigon on the afternoon of May 24.

“When he arrives in Ho Chi Minh City, we will be visiting the Jade Pagoda to be able to pay tribute to and admire the cultural traditions of Vietnam,” the White House said yesterday.

The Pagoda was built between 1892 and 1900 in honor of the supreme Taoist God (The Jade Emperor or King of Heaven (in Vietnamese: Ngoc Hoang).

It is one of the most spectacular and important shrines in the city, covering an area of 2,000 meters in Mai Thi Luu Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.

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It was recognized as National Cultural Heritage in 1994. Its alternative name is Phuoc Hai Pagoda.

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Its roof is encrusted with elaborate tile work.

The pagoda is filled with statues of phantasmal divinities and grotesque heroes depicting characters from both Buddhist and Taoist lores. An interesting fact about the statues is that they are made from reinforced papier mâché and wood.

The focal point inside is the one and only Jade Emperor, who sits surrounded by worshipping figures. The Jade Emperor is the one who decides who is allowed entry into the heavens and who is refused entry.

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In the main hall, the Emperor Jade reigns supreme.

The ceramic figures of 12 women sit in two rows. Each woman exemplifies a human characteristic, either good or bad. Each figure represents a year in the 12-year Chinese calendar. 

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Presiding over the room is Kim Hoa Thanh Mau, the Chief of All Women.

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The God of Prosperity

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Visitors would pour a little oil into the candle to pray for health and happiness.

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It is said that these little turtles have been living here for centuries, so long that no one remembers exactly when it first started. 

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The Jade Emperor Pagoda offers a calming sanctuary from the bustle of the busy streets.

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Visitors usually come here to pray or make votive offerings of flowers, light candles and joss sticks.