If you want to find a peaceful place with fresh air when traveling to Ho Chi Minh City, let’s head to Giac Lam Pagoda. Being one of the oldest pagodas here, this pagoda is worth a visit.
Situated in Binh Than District, the pagoda is surrounded by spacious, walled garden and fronted by statues of mythical dragons, the protective guardians to many temples here.
Location and history
Giac Lam is one of the oldest pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City. Originally, it was built by Ly Thuy Long – a native Minh Huong, in 1744, as a gathering place during Lunar New Year. The new-built temple was like a scenic lookout overlooking Gia Dinh Market while the area was still undeveloped and quite like a jungle. The name Giac Lam was given to the pagoda after the arrival of Monk Thich Lam Quang of the Lam Te Zen lineage, in 1772. After many times of renovation and reconstruction, it’s now located at 118 Lac Long Quan Street, Tan Binh District. Local people also call it Cam Son or Cam Dien Pagoda.
As at many Vietnamese Buddhist temples, aspects of both Taoism and Confucianism can be found here. For the sick and elderly, the pagoda is a minor pilgrimage sight, as it contains a bronze bell that, when rung, is believed to answer the prayers posted by petitioners.
Typical architecture of southern pagodas
“The Third” structure of Giac Lam Pagoda is also typical of southern pagodas. It means the pagoda consists of 3 main buildings: the main ceremonial hall, the dharma preaching hall and the meal hall. The first one is big with many huge pillars engraved with meaningful sentences. It worships many Buddhas such as Buddha Amitabha, Buddha Shakyamuni and some Bodhisattva like Maitreya Bodhisattva, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva and Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva. Giac Lam Pagoda has 118 statues made of wood, bronze and cement. Most of them are very ancient and valuable, which demonstrate the development of Vietnamese art of sculpture in 18th century. Not only is Giac Lam a place to observe traditional southern structure of pagodas, but it’s also where tourists can discover the specific cultural characteristics of Vietnam, like the 4-season fruit pattern.
The garden and seven-storied stupa
In front of the pagoda is a big bodhi tree, a gift from Sri Lankan great monk Narada in 1953, accompanied by the arrival of a sample of the relics of Gautama Buddha. With the purpose to store these relics, a seven-storey high stupa was started building in 1970 under the architectural plans of Vinh Hoang. Due to wars, the construction was put off and could only finish in 1993. Today, the east-facing, hexagonal-shaped stupa is considered as a landmark, being the tallest Buddhist tower in the city.
How to get there
You can reach Giac Lam Pagoda in many ways: by taxi, by motorbike or by bus (see guide to Ho Chi Minh City Bus). If you travel by bus, all you need to do is catching bus No.27 at Ben Thanh Bus Station and then get off at the crossroad Lac Long Quan – Au Co. Then you can find the way to Giac Lam Pagoda.
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