Khanh Van Nam Vien Pagoda

Taoist Temple in Ho Chi Minh City

Built between 1939 and 1942, this temple is said to be the only pure Taoist temple in Vietnam and is unique for its colourful statues of Taoist disciples. Features to seek out include the unique 150cm-high statue of Laotse – the supreme philosopher of Taoism and author of the Dao De Jing (The Classic of the Way and its Power) – located upstairs.

Laotse's mirror-edged halo is rather surreal, while off to his left are two stone plaques with instructions for Taoist inhalation and exhalation exercises. A schematic drawing represents the human organs as a scene from rural China. The diaphragm, agent of inhalation, is at the bottom; the stomach is represented by a peasant ploughing with a water buffalo. The kidney is marked by four yin and yang symbols, the liver is shown as a grove of trees and the heart is represented by a circle with a peasant standing in it, above which is a constellation. The tall pagoda represents the throat and the broken rainbow is the mouth. At the top are mountains and a seated figure that represent the brain and imagination, respectively.

The temple operates a home for several dozen elderly people. Next door is a free medical clinic also run by the pagoda. Leave a donation with the monks if you wish.