On Lang Pagoda: Stomp out villains and smoothen your love life

By Tam Linh    February 2, 2020 | 07:50 pm GMT+7

On Lang Pagoda, built 3 centuries ago, is considered by the ethnic Chinese community in Saigon as a sacred destination that offers protection and good luck, courtesy of Goddess Mazu.

The pagoda, located on Lao Tu Street of Saigon’s District 5, was built by businesspeople from Chinas Fujian Province who arrived late 17th century and settled in Cho Lon quarter. Construction of the pagoda now dedicated to Chinese Sea Goddess Mazu began in 1740. Initially intended for community gatherings, the establishment became a formal pagoda engaged in spiritual activities. Locals flock to the pagoda in the last month the lunar year to pray and participate in several rituals. 

The pagoda, located on Lao Tu Street of Saigon’s District 5, was built in 1740 by businesspeople from China's Fujian Province who settled in Cho Lon quarter. 

Initially intended for community gatherings, the establishment, now dedicated to Chinese Sea Goddess Mazu, became a formal pagoda engaged in spiritual activities. 

The shrine principally worships Mazu, as shown by the central position the goddess occupies at the main altar. Tutelary deity of seafarers, it is believed that the goddess casts a protective nest over fishermen, sailors, but also those going away for business. Later on, Guanyin, Chinese goddess of compassion (different variations across Asian cultures) was also worshipped at the site for luck in commerce, serenity, and health. As On Lang gradually grew into a local sanctuary, the local Chinese community called it Quan Am pagoda.The remarkable characteristic of On Lang Pagoda lies in the extensive line up of deities honored at the site. Developed over time by locals, the list currently totals around 16 Chinese Buddhist gods. Aside from sea goddess Mazu and mercy goddess Guanyin, visitors collect around two other altars, one featuring Caishen and the other Jupiter to wish for fortune and destiny, respectively.

The shrine principally worships Mazu, who occupies central position on the main altar. Tutelary deity of seafarers, it is believed that the goddess casts a protective net over fishermen, sailors and those going away to distant shores for business.

Later on, Guanyin, Chinese goddess of compassion, became another deity of the pagoda. She is worshipped for luck in commerce, serenity and good health. As On Lang gradually grew into a local sanctuary, the local Chinese community also called it Quan Am Pagoda.

On Lang Pagoda is remarkable for its extensive line up of deities, currently totaling 16 Chinese Buddhist divinities. 

Other mythological figures in Chinese folk religion like the monkey king Sun Wukong, deified Song Dynasty politician Bao Zheng, God of Culture and Literature Wen Qu, the Eighteen Arhats, and Goddess of the Underworld Dia Mau Nuong Nuong are also paid homage at the pagoda. Many say to venerate Sun Wukong for intelligence and wisdom since this divinity possesses supreme power to cast help and protection for individuals, said a local who had previously visited and prayed.

The deities also include mythological figures in Chinese folk religion like the monkey king Sun Wukong, deified Song Dynasty politician Bao Zheng, God of Culture and Literature Wen Qu, the Eighteen Arhats, and Goddess of the Underworld Dia Mau Nuong Nuong.

"Many venerate Sun Wukong for intelligence and wisdom, and he possesses supreme power to help and protect people," said a local worshipper who did not want to be named.

A group of people participate in the villain hitting ritual, an activity that consists of using footwear to repeatedly whack human-shaped paper pieces on the ground. This folk sorcery is also prevalent in Guangdong and Hong Kong and listed as an intangible cultural heritage by the Hong Kong Home Affairs Bureau. The paper figures represent evil energy and the action of crushing them symbolizes protection from bad happenings in real life.I have visited many Chinese Buddhist religious sites, but I have only seen the practice of evil stomping at On Lang Pagoda, said Ngoc Anh, one of the visitors.This practice typically takes place in front of the Tiger altar on Jingzhe Day, translated as the awakening of hibernating insects, which signifies the weather getting warmer. On the Gregorian calendar, this day usually falls on March 5 or 6.

A group of people participate in the "villain hitting" ritual, an activity that consists of using footwear to repeatedly whack human-shaped paper pieces on the ground. This folk sorcery is also prevalent in Guangdong and Hong Kong and listed as an "intangible cultural heritage" by the Hong Kong Home Affairs Bureau.

The paper figures represent evil energy and the action of crushing them symbolizes protection from bad happenings in real life.

"I have visited many Chinese Buddhist religious sites, but I have only seen the practice of evil stomping at On Lang Pagoda," said Ngoc Anh, one of the visitors.

This practice typically takes place in front of the Tiger altar on Jingzhe Day, translated as the awakening of hibernating insects, which signifies the weather getting warmer. On the Gregorian calendar, this day usually falls on March 5 or 6.

Tangerine and buns with Han terms imprinted in red like blessing, wealth, or fortune are most commonly brought to worship the gods. As part of custom, these items always come in pairs or at an odd number. Exceptionally, at the Tiger altar individuals worship with a raw, weighty chop of pork.

Tangerine and buns with Chinese terms of blessing, wealth or fortune imprinted in red are most commonly offered in worship. Exceptionally, at the Tiger altar, raw, weighty chops of pork are offered.

For luck in romance, an additional red thread roll with its needle already threaded is required on top of the typical fruit-bun offerings. Those hoping for a smoother, fulfilling love life place this arrangement at the Hoa Phan phu nhan altar.

For luck in romance, a roll of red thread with its needle already threaded is placed on top of the typical fruit-bun offerings. This arrangement is placed at the Hoa Phan phu nhan altar by those praying for a smooth, fulfilling love life.

During the last days of the year, thick incense fumes persistently cloud the air from 6.15am when the pagoda opens until 5pm when it closes. On the 30th of Lunar Calendar December, the pagoda closes from 11am to 5pm to tidy and prepare for the crowds of locals bustling the space on January 1st, as part of Tet ritual. Due to its narrow width, visitors are unable to directly park their motor vehicles on Lao Tu Street and instead can park at nearby houses for 5000 VND ($0.22).On Lang pagoda complex encompasses 1800 square meter worth of land on the cozy Lao Tu Street of Chinatown. The architecture of the landmark intentionally replicates ancient Chinese shrines and Fujianese elements with its curved roofs, arched ceilings, and exquisite, colorful patterns in ceramic running along the surface. 

The On Lang Pagoda complex covers 1,800 square meters of land. Its architecture replicates ancient Chinese shrines and carries Fujianese elements with its curved roofs, arched ceilings, and exquisite, coorful patterns in ceramic running along the surface. Fujian Province is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse provinces in China.

The Chinese-style Buddhist landmark is recognized as a national relic for its cultural heritage and sophisticated architecture, attracting many visitors and foreign tourists.

The Chinese-style Buddhist landmark has been recognized as a national relic and it attracts thousands of devout citizens as well as other visitors and foreign tourists.

The Chinese-style Buddhist landmark is recognized as a national relic for its cultural heritage and sophisticated architecture, attracting many visitors and foreign tourists.

"Right off the bat the pagoda caught our interest with its colors and distinctive features. We were in a taxi wandering around but stopped immediately when the site appeared," a married couple from England said as they marvel at the circles of incense smoke above their heads. 

 
 
go to top