Lady Thien Hau pagoda or Thien Hau pagoda was built by the Vietnamese people of Chinese origin in Binh Duong in the mid-19th century to worship Thien Hau, the Empress of the Heaven, who protects people at sea. On the first full moon of the year, people in Binh Duong celebrate the Lady Thien Hau Pagoda Festival. This is a large festival recreating the culture of the Chinese community in Vietnam, with many new elements harmonizing with the local culture.
Lady Thien Hau Pagoda Festival in Binh Duong province (photo: daibieunhandan.vn)
In the past the Lady Thien Hau Pagoda Festival was held within the local Chinese community. Since then it has been embraced by the Vietnamese in Binh Duong and adjacent localities.
At the beginning of the year, Lady Thien Hau pagoda is a popular venue for local people, and the festival is becoming one of the biggest events in the southern region. On the day of the first full moon of the year, tens of thousands of people from all over the country attend the festival.
Among the festival activities, the most exciting is the procession of Lady Thien Hau’s palanquin along the main streets of Thu Dau Mot city.
Local people who are knowledgeable about the Lady Thien Hau Pagoda Festival told us that traditionally people place offerings in front of their house to honor Lady Thien Hau as her palanquin is carried past the house.
In recent years, the festival has been called "the free festival", because all visitors get free food and drinks as well as offerings such as incense, lamps, and candles. Free bottles of mineral water are lined up along the streets near the pagoda. Many families in Thu Dau Mot city hand out bread and serve free vegetarian meals. Some families offer cold ginseng water.
"We want to make pilgrims who coming from afar can feel the affection of Binh Duong’s people. We give away a lot of fresh water and food to visitors," a local woman said.
"Pilgrims come in droves. We help the pagoda’s Executive Board prepare 10,000 cold towels and bottles of mineral water for the pilgrims,” a volunteer at the pagoda said.
The procession of Lady Thien Hau (photo: daibieudannhan.vn)
Thu Dau Mot has organized teams of volunteers to guide people to free parking areas and teams to administer first aid in case of accidents. All these support activities leave a beautiful impression in the hearts of visitors and make the Lady Thien Hau Pagoda Festival a festival of kindness, love, and humanity.
Most of the tourists said that they feel love and solidarity. Everyone wishes for a peaceful country, peaceful homes, and all good things. Everyone is very excited. The festival is a cultural connection.
"The volunteers have been doing a good job. Everything is free…free parking and free water for everybody," said a tourist.
"I’m surprised by the grandeur of the Lady Thien Hau pagoda ceremony. There is no jostling or pushing. One special thing is that everything is free. It’s unlike any place I've been to".
Thanks to the new way of organizing the festival, the Lady Thien Hau pagoda festival has become a major festival of the province and Vietnam’s southeastern region.
According to the Binh Duong tourism sector, the festival welcomes about 1 million visitors each year. Binh Duong province considers this festival a strong advantage for local tourism development.
Le Van Thai, Deputy Director of the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Binh Duong province, said the province will continue to promote the festival.
"The tourism sector has worked with localities on plans to preserve and promote local cultural values. We will advise the provincial authority on developing a master cultural promotion and preservation program, and will encourage people to protect their local culture.”