Situated on the north bank of the Perfume River in the village of Huong Long, five kilometers from the city of Hue, Thien Mu Pagoda is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved religious sites in Vietnam.
The name of the pagoda comes from a legend. Long ago an old woman known as Thien Mu (literally “Heavenly Lady”) appeared on the hill where the pagoda now stands. She told the local people that one day a King would come and build a Buddhist temple for the country’s prosperity. In 1601, on hearing this legend, King Nguyen Hoang began construction of the pagoda. Further constructions and renovations were done during the succeeding centuries and the Phuoc Duyen Tower at the entrance to the complex was built in 1864 (some sources say 1844) by Emperor Thieu Tri. The tower has seven levels, is 21 meters tall, and is the tallest such structure in Vietnam.
To the west of the tower is a pavilion housing a giant bronze bell, known as Dai Hong Chung. The bell was cast in 1710 by Nguyen Phuc Chu, weighs 3285 kilograms (7242 pounds), and is audible from 10 kilometers away. The main sanctuary, known as Dai Hung Shrine, is divided into two separate segments – the front hall is separated from the main sanctuary by many folding wooden doors. The sanctuary hall enshrines three statues of the Buddha (which symbolize past, present, and future lives), as well as several other important relics. The Thien Mu Pagoda’s residents – the Buddhist monks who worship in the shrine and maintain it, also occupy the Dai Hung Shrine.