Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Incense and smokey prayers

During our Hotpot tour we also went to the Emperor Jade Pagoda (Chua Ngoc Hoang or Phuoc Hai Tu) also known as the tortoise pagoda because of the little terapins that are sold outside its gate for the faithful to 'set free' in the temple fish pool which on the day of our visit was being slowly refilled after being cleaned.

The pagoda was such a treat for the camera I thought it deserved its own post.

Built in 1909 by the Cantonese it features fearsome deities, phantasmagorical wood carvings and an incredible aged patina of foot worn floors and finger weathered doorways.

The atmosphere is heavy with incense and prayer and soft filtered light that plays down in just the right spots.

Although the majority of Vietnamese people classify themselves as non-religious 85% identify with Buddhist ideology and a synthesis of philosophies from Confucianism, Daoism and Mahayana Buddhism which co-exist with centuries old traditions of ancestor worship and the worship of national heros.

Here, in the Jade Pagoda, amongst the smoky joss sticks, the dark, reinforced papier mache statues depict the Taoist Jade Emperor Ngoc Hoang and some of the deities associated with him. Ngoc Hoang, the gate keeper of heaven, the one who makes the decision who to let into the immortal world presides over the main sanctuary but first you must pass the fiersome face of the 4 meter tall statue of a black bearded General, Phuc Ho, who defeated the Green Dragon which is still under his feet. On the other side is the General, Thanh Long, who defeated the White Tiger also shown submissively underfoot.

The Supreme Emperor Jade, Ngoc Hoang, whose court is in the highest of heavens is drapped in elaborate robes and flanked by a bodhisattva, a buddha and a heavily laden altar table. The Jade Emperor made mortal men out of clay and presided over a court balanced by Yin and Yang where good was rewarded and evil punished. The omnipotent and omnipresent Emperor sees and hears everything, even the softest whisper.

Through the left of the main room lies a smaller chamber presided over by Thanh Hoang, the Chief of Hell, his red steed and henchmen.

The carved wooden panels darkened by years of smokey incense tell of the varied torments that await those who slip into the Ten Regions of Hell.


Connie said...

Absolutely beautiful! I LOVE the blue/green tile on the roof, behind the dragon on the corner. I also think the Hot Spot tour guide idea is a very good one. How interesting :) We went to the Citadel in Cairo this past weekend (no photos yet, I'm swamped as we are packing out tomorrow) but we were blessed with a great tour guide. She'd definitely knew her history... and not just of the Citadel as she was able to answer all of our rambling questions.

Tanya said...

Unfortunately we never made it to the Citadel when we were in Cairo actually there were a few places we didnt get to so maybe we'll have to come back one day:) Looking forward to your photos when you get a chance...meanwhile hope the packing went ok!