Thien Mu Pagoda is a popular tourist destination in Hue, Vietnam, known for its ancient architecture, rich history, and scenic views of Perfume River. It is often included in city tours and day trips from nearby cities such as Da Nang or Hoi An. The pagoda offers great views of the river, especially during sunset, and can be easily reached by dragon boat from the city center. The pagoda is a part of the UNESCO-listed Complex of Hue Monuments and is often combined with visits to the Citadel, Dong Ba Market, and emperor tombs for a full day of sightseeing.

The Legend Of Thien Mu Pagoda
According to local legend, before the 10th century Vietnam was occupied by the Chinese. During this time, a geomancer named Gao Pian traveled the country in search of locations that would bring blessings and potentially produce a leader who could overthrow the foreign rulers. Thien Mu Pagoda’s hill was believed to be one of these blessed locations, symbolizing the head of a dragon drinking water from the Perfume River.

To disrupt the power of this location, Gao Pian requested that a pond be dug behind the pagoda to separate the head from the body. However, this plan was thwarted when a turtle was placed in the pond, symbolizing its continued power.

According to legend, a celestial lady appeared every night in Ha Kha Hill and told of a great leader who would build a pagoda there and bring happiness and richness to the people. Nguyen Hoang the first Nguyen ruler believed himself to be the leader in the legend and built the Thien Mu Pagoda in that location in 1601. From 1862 to 1869, the name of Thien Mu Pagoda was changed to Linh Mu Pagoda by the 4th king, Tu Duc.

For local tourists, the pagoda is associated with a love curse that says couples will break up after visiting it. Despite this belief, the pagoda remains a popular attraction due to its rich history and architectural beauty.

Thien Mu Pagoda is part of the Complex of Hue Monuments, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its 7-storey tower is considered one of the unofficial symbols of Hue.

It is accessible by both road and waterway, with the most popular option being a dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River.

Buildings in Thien Mu Pagoda
The pagoda consists of 17 buildings arranged along an axis, surrounded by lush gardens and pine trees. The most recognizable building at the pagoda is the Phuoc Duyen Tower, which is featured in many works of art about Hue.

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Phuoc Duyen Tower
Phuoc Duyen Tower is a 21-meter tall octagonal brick tower built in Hue, Vietnam between 1844 and 1846 on the orders of King Thieu Thi, based on a design by his father King Minh Mang. The tower was built to celebrate the 80th birthday of King Thieu Thi’s grandmother. The tower is located on a hill and is visible from the Perfume River, making it a popular postcard image of the city. The tower has 7 storeys, with the five lower ones housing bronze Buddhas, and the top two housing silver and gold Buddhas. Due to loss during wartime, the main door is now closed to visitors, only opening during chanting times. The tower is decorated with daisies, Buddhist swastikas, and ceramic tiles. Behind the tower, there is a memorial stele written about the feelings of Khai Dinh after his visit in 1919.

Stele Pavilions and the Great Bell
Phuoc Duyen Tower in Vietnam has four stele pavilions and one bell pavilion surrounding it. The bell pavilion to the northwest houses Dai Hong Chung, the largest bell in Vietnam cast in 1710 weighing nearly 2 tonnes and decorated with symbols from three religions and ancient Chinese. The bell is no longer in use. On the opposite side to the northeast is the Stele of Nguyen Phuc Chu Lord, carved in 1715 with 1,250 Chinese letters that provide information on the reconstruction of the pagoda and Buddha teachings. It has a unique stone turtle base like the Temple of Literature. Another nearby stele records the construction of Phuoc Duyen Tower in 1846. The last stele pavilion near a scenic outlook lists 20 of the most beautiful landscapes in Hue and includes a poem by Thieu Tri King.

Triple Arched Gate
The entrance gate of the worshipping zone at the Buddhist temple has three arches and doors. The middle door is for the monks, while the right and left doors are for entering and exiting respectively. Two guardian statues, one gentle and one strong, made of straw and mortar are placed at each door and symbolize the hospitality of the temple for everyone. The upper section worships the God of Heaven but faces the Buddha Hall instead of the outside. The wall also has a drum and bell pavilion on the left and right respectively. The bell, cast in 1815 during the first king’s reign, replaces the role of the Great Bell. In the two corners between the walls, there are 6 Defenders of Justice to advise people towards good. Wild animals such as snakes, rats, tigers, and turtles symbolize primal human instincts.

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Dai Hung Hall
The entrance gate of the worshipping zone at the Buddhist temple has three arches and doors. The middle door is for the monks, while the right and left doors are for entering and exiting respectively. Two guardian statues, one gentle and one strong, made of straw and mortar are placed at each door and symbolize the hospitality of the temple for everyone. The upper section worships the God of Heaven but faces the Buddha Hall instead of the outside. The wall also has a drum and bell pavilion on the left and right respectively. The bell, cast in 1815 during the first king’s reign, replaces the role of the Great Bell. In the two corners between the walls, there are 6 Defenders of Justice to advise people towards good. Wild animals such as snakes, rats, tigers, and turtles symbolize primal human instincts.

The two smaller halls behind Dai Hung Palace were rebuilt after being destroyed in a 1904 typhoon. The remains of the Huong Nguyen Pavilion in front of the tower were reused in the construction. The first hall was originally used for worship of Quan Cong, a legendary Chinese military general. The second hall is the home of ash pots that hold the ashes of deceased Buddhist followers. On the anniversary of their death, their family members come to the hall to pray and participate in ceremonies.

Tomb of Thich Don Hau Monk
Thich Don Hau was a prominent monk in Vietnam and is buried at Thien Mu Pagoda. He was born in 1905 and passed away in 1992. He made significant contributions to the country and Buddhist associations, and was the only monk to be buried at the Thien Mu Pagoda due to his accomplishments. He became the leader of the pagoda at the age of 40, but was jailed by the French. However, he was saved by the mother of Vietnam’s last king, Bao Dai. He later joined the Communist Party and held important positions in the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha and the National Assembly.

Bonze Thich Quang Duc’s Austin
Next to the gardens, visitors will find a reminder of one of the most significant events of the Vietnam War – the self-immolation of Thich Quang Duc, a monk who drove his car to a busy intersection in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) before setting himself on fire. This act was a protest against the oppressive policies of the South Vietnamese government towards Buddhists. Remarkably, his heart remained intact and unscathed, and was later referred to as the “heart of the Bodhisattva.” The event shocked and inspired people around the world and resulted in some iconic photographs, including winning international journalism awards. US President Kennedy reportedly said, “No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as this one.”

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Information Of Thien Mu Pagoda
Location Of Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda is located 4 km east of the Hue city center and the Imperial City, on Ha Khe Hill by the Perfume River. To reach the pagoda, visitors can take the riverside road named Nguyen Phuc Nguyen or opt for a boat ride. Another option is to take Kim Phung Road from the Tomb of Minh Mang and then Van Thanh Road.

Dragon Boat to Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda can be reached by either driving along Nguyen Phuc Nguyen Road or taking a boat ride along the Perfume River. A 30-minute boat ride is a popular tourist activity, with cost starting from 130,000 VND one way. Travelers can visit the pier near the symbolic Truong Tien Bridge or behind the Ho Chi Minh Museum, or book through a tour operator nearby. The pagoda is one of the many places in the Complex of Hue Monuments listed by UNESCO and can be visited as part of a Perfume River Cruise.

A visit to Thien Mu Pagoda doesn’t require an entrance ticket, because it’s a Buddhist place. All pagodas in Hue are without admission fee too.

Proper Dress At Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda is a religious site, and visitors are expected to follow a dress code when visiting the pagoda and its sacred spaces. It is recommended that visitors cover their armpits, navel, and knees to show respect to the monks. The clothing should be made of appropriate fabric and should not be see-through. Before entering the praying areas, visitors should remove their shoes, hats, sunglasses, rain ponchos, or umbrellas. It is also important for visitors to maintain silence, walk gently, and take photos without using flash. These guidelines help to create a respectful and peaceful environment for visitors and for those who worship at the pagoda.