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The much venerated Thien Hau Temple in Ho Chi Minh City attracts its share of devotees and is a frequently visited tourist attraction. As its name suggests the shrine is devoted to the deity of the sea, the goddess Thien Hau. Thien Hau is a well-known Chinese deity who figures prominently in Chinese folklore and legend. Although not originally a Buddhist or Taoist deity, Thien Hau has in the course of time become associated with Buddhism and Taoism. She is venerated by seafaring communities as she is believed to possess the ability to move over the seas in a cloud or mat in order to protect fishermen and seafarers as well as rescue them if they are stranded. The pagoda which stands at this temple was constructed by the local Chinese community and much of the materials that were employed in its construction were transported from the Chinese mainland.
The temple’s interior takes the form of a partially enclosed courtyard, at the extremity of which you will see the altar to the goddess, which features three figures of Thien Hau. The faces of these statues show a bronze colour whilst their crowns and clothes are of many different colours. Another intriguing feature of this place of worship is the elaborate porcelain dioramas which decorate its roofs. These remarkable dioramas depict scenes from a Chinese town of the 19th century with figures such as actors, animals, demons, traders and sailors. Over the principal area of worship you will see a multitude of coils of incense that are believed to transmit the devotees’ prayers to the deity.
Uditha Dharmawardhane is a travel writer who writes under the pen name Roland Lefevre. He specializes in creating features on leisure as well as business travel destinations across the globe. Google+