Vinh Nghiem Pagoda is one of the best known attractions in the city and is the most important religious building here. It is the largest Mahayana pagoda in Saigon and a centre for Buddhism practices. Whilst built using modern technologies, the pagoda maintains the style and charm of an ancient temple. The name means “Ever Solemn.”
The temple site took seven years to complete and was finally finished in 1971. In keeping with Vietnam temples styles it is in fact a complex of several buildings housed inside a perimeter wall. Covering an area of 6000 square metres there is a 40 metre tower towards the rear, called the Avalokitesvara Tower it was added in 1982. There is also a 14 metre stupa dedicated to Thich Thanh Kiem one of the to monks that founded the temple.
An ornamental 3 door gate forms the main entrance to the temple site. The main pagoda is a two storey building of which the ground floor is open to the public and the upper level houses a sanctuary for adherents. An additional building has study spaces for the monks and nuns. It has striking red tiled roofs that are built in a Northern style. There is a veranda, three wide staircases and it is surrounded by a terrace with a bell tower to the right.
There is a strong Japanese influence here as the temple was constructed with assistance from the Japan-Vietnam Friendship Association. It is styled with more than a passing nod to the design of its namesake, the 11th Century Vinh Nghiem Pagoda, which is in Bac Giang Province. A large Japanese style statue of the Buddha has a goddess on each side. The four sacred creatures of Buddhism, a Unicorn, dragon, phoenix and turtle are also depicted.
The pagoda site is open to the general public. If you wish to visit at the quieter times, then mornings are best. Check out national holidays and big festival as these can be closely linked to Buddhist holy celebrations. If you prefer to see the temple at a busy time, then the 15th of each lunar month is best, as is the time during the annual Tet celebrations.