Xa Loi Pagoda: The Spiritual Oasis of Ho Chi Minh City

by Huy Huỳnh Ngọc

Amidst the vibrant hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City, amidst the chaos and liveliness, there is a place of spiritual serenity. In this article, Palm Vietnam Travel will take you on a journey to explore Xa Loi Pagoda, the largest pagoda in the city. Xa Loi Pagoda holds a significant place in the hearts of the local people, serving as the headquarters of Buddhism in South Vietnam. Its rich history, magnificent architecture, and tranquil surroundings make it an unmissable destination for travelers seeking deeper insights into Vietnamese culture and spirituality.

A Glimpse into the Past

The construction of Xa Loi Pagoda began on August 5, 1956, under the guidance of architects Trần Văn Đường and Đỗ Bá Vinh. The pagoda was meticulously designed to reflect the essence of Buddhist architecture while incorporating modern elements.

After almost two years of dedicated work, Xa Loi Pagoda was inaugurated on May 2, 1958, by the Most Venerable Thich Khanh Anh. Its name, Xa Loi, translates to “śarīra,” representing relics of Buddhists.

Xa Loi Pagoda
Xa Loi Pagoda

Architectural Marvels

Walking through the gates of Xa Loi Pagoda, visitors are greeted by an awe-inspiring sight. The pagoda’s architecture is a harmonious blend of traditional Vietnamese design and modern influences. The main hall, known as the Grand Buddha Hall, features a striking seven-story tower that reaches towards the sky. The meticulously crafted details, vibrant colors, and intricate carvings on the exterior walls leave visitors mesmerized.

Inside the main hall, the centerpiece is a magnificent golden statue of Gautama Buddha. The statue exudes a sense of peace and serenity, inviting visitors to reflect and find solace in the teachings of Buddhism. The hall itself is adorned with delicate artworks, intricate woodwork, and captivating murals that depict various Buddhist stories and teachings.

The seven-story tower in Xa Loi Pagoda.
The seven-story tower in Xa Loi Pagoda.

Historical Significance

Xa Loi Pagoda holds a significant place in Vietnam’s history, particularly during the turbulent times of the 1960s. On August 21, 1963, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam Special Forces, loyal to Ngô Đình Nhu, launched raids on Buddhist monasteries and pagodas, including Xa Loi.

These acts of vandalism and violence were met with widespread condemnation and sparked protests throughout the country, ultimately leading to political changes and the fall of the Ngô Đình Diệm regime.

Cultural and Spiritual Significance

Xa Loi Pagoda serves as a center for Buddhist practice and philosophy in Ho Chi Minh City. It is a place of worship, meditation, and learning, attracting both locals and tourists seeking spiritual enlightenment.

The pagoda hosts various religious ceremonies and events throughout the year, providing visitors with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the vibrant Buddhist culture of Vietnam.

A treasure trove of Buddhist learning amidst the heart of bustling Saigon.
A treasure trove of Buddhist learning amidst the heart of bustling Saigon.

Exploring the Grounds

The sprawling grounds of Xa Loi Pagoda offer much more than just the main hall. As visitors wander through the complex, they will discover hidden treasures and peaceful corners. The pagoda is surrounded by lush gardens, adorned with colorful flowers and towering trees, creating an atmosphere of tranquility and serenity.

In addition to the main hall, there are several smaller shrines and meditation halls within the pagoda grounds. These spaces offer a retreat for monks and visitors alike, providing a quiet place for reflection and contemplation. The gentle sound of chanting and the aroma of incense permeate the air, further enhancing the spiritual experience.

A place of worship, meditation, and learning, attracting both locals and foreign tourists.
A place of worship, meditation, and learning, attracting both locals and foreign tourists.

Cultural Insights and Etiquette


Visiting Xa Loi Pagoda is not just an opportunity to admire its architectural beauty but also a chance to embrace Vietnamese culture and customs. As with any religious site, it is important to show respect and observe certain etiquette. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Dress modestly: Visitors should dress modestly, covering their shoulders and knees. Avoid wearing revealing or provocative clothing as a sign of respect.
  • Remove footwear: Before entering any of the halls or shrines, it is customary to remove your shoes. There are designated areas where visitors can place their footwear.
  • Maintain silence: Xa Loi Pagoda is a place of tranquility and meditation. It is important to speak softly and maintain a peaceful atmosphere.
  • Observe photography restrictions: While photography is generally allowed on the pagoda grounds, be mindful of any signs or announcements restricting photography in certain areas. Respect the privacy of monks and fellow visitors.
Xa Loi Pagoda in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City.
Xa Loi Pagoda in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City.

Getting There

Xa Loi Pagoda is conveniently located in District 3 of Ho Chi Minh City, making it easily accessible for visitors. There are several transportation options available:

  • Taxi: Taxi are a popular mode of transportation in the city and can easily take you to Xa Loi Pagoda. Ensure that the taxi driver is aware of the destination and uses the meter.
  • Motorbike: For those seeking a more adventurous experience, renting a motorbike is a great option. Ho Chi Minh City has a well-developed network of roads, allowing visitors to navigate their way to the pagoda with ease.
  • Public Transportation: Ho Chi Minh City also has an efficient public transportation system, including buses and trains. Visitors can use these options to reach the pagoda while enjoying the local commute experience.


Xa Loi Pagoda stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of Buddhism in Vietnam and offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling city streets of Ho Chi Minh City. Its architectural marvels, rich history, and cultural significance make it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of Vietnamese spirituality and culture. Whether you are a devout Buddhist or simply a curious traveler, Xa Loi Pagoda promises an unforgettable experience that will leave you with a sense of peace and serenity.

Plan your visit to Xa Loi Pagoda and embark on a spiritual journey that will leave a lasting impression on your heart and soul.

“In the tranquility of Xa Loi Pagoda, find solace and embrace the wisdom of Buddhism.”

Huy Huỳnh Ngọc

Written by Huy Huỳnh Ngọc