Jade Emperor Pagoda

This structure offers some of the most impressive woodcarvings, figurines and art in all of Vietnam.

The Jade Emperor Pagoda is most well-known for its floor-to-ceiling woodcarvings and its tortoise population, giving rise to its alternative name, the Tortoise Pagoda. It was built around the turn of the 20th century for Cantonese migrants. It is still a functioning temple today and a site for both Taoist and Buddhist worshippers.

The entrance to the pagoda is usually very busy, with monks and worshippers wandering all around the courtyard. Step inside to be greeted by an intricate carving of the Jade Emperor, the Taoist ruler of Heaven. Above him, you’ll find the roof is designed with just as much attention to detail. The temple is split into a number of rooms, which you can view in any order. You might also like to head to the roof terrace that overlooks the surrounding area and the pagoda itself.

The Hall of Ten Hells is one of the most popular areas within the temple. Here, massive woodcarvings depict the suffering that awaits those in hell. Other halls in the temple are devoted to the goddesses of fertility and health.

Like many of Ho Chi Minh’s temples, the Jade Emperor Pagoda is always buzzing with activity. Tourists and worshippers make the temple crowded most days of the week, so come early in the morning to beat the tourists and mix with the locals. Outside the temple, you can choose to buy a small tortoise to release into the pond as a symbol of hope.

The Jade Emperor Pagoda is open daily and is located in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City. It is isolated from other attractions in the city; however, it’s easily accessible by taxi and some buses. The imagery may be frightening for some young children, and the level of incense may be overwhelming for others.