Phung Son Pagoda

Ho Chi Minh City

Built between 1802 and 1820 on the site of structures from the Funan period, dating back at least to the early centuries of Christianity, this Buddhist temple is extremely rich in gilded, painted and beautifully fashioned bronze, wood, ceramic and beaten-copper statuary. The main dais, with its many levels, is dominated by a large gilded A Di Da Buddha (the Buddha of Infinite Light; Amitābha). The main entrances are locked most of the time, but the side entrance is open during prayer times.

Once upon a time, it was decided to move Phung Son Pagoda to a different site. The pagoda’s ritual objects – bells, drums, statues – were loaded onto the back of a white elephant that slipped under the great weight, sending all the precious objects tumbling into a nearby pond. This event was interpreted as an omen that the pagoda should remain in its original location. Everything was recovered but the bell, which, until about a century ago, locals insist could be heard ringing whenever there was a full or new moon.

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