Built in 1815, the pagoda showcases traditional Khmer architecture and decorations. The walls and towers are adorned with cups, bowls, and dishes, creating a mesmerizing work of art.
The first thing that catches visitors’ attention is the three-entrance gate with three towers, each intricately carved with colorful patterns in the traditional Cambodian style. The center tower stands out with a glass box housing a solemn seated Buddha statue.
Surrounding the pagoda is a fence adorned with images of Apsara dancing goddesses, symbolizing peace and prosperity.
On both sides of the path leading to the pagoda, there are statues of the Kerno goddess. These statues have the face of the Apsara goddess, symbolizing eternal beauty, and the body of the Garuda mythological bird, symbolizing power.
The campus of Chen Kieu pagoda is surrounded by lush green trees, creating a serene atmosphere.
Nguyen Thi Nhung, a tourist from Hanoi, said, “The ancient pagoda is spacious and has a quiet and fresh atmosphere. What impressed me the most are the walls and stairs made from ceramic bowls and cups. The carved patterns are stunning, vivid, and intricate. If I have another opportunity, I will definitely come back here.”
The main hall of the pagoda features columns adorned with statues of the goddess Kerno with spread wings and raised hands supporting the roof. The pillars also have carvings depicting images from Khmer mythology.
Both walls of the main hall have paintings depicting the story of Shakyamuni Buddha, from his birth to enlightenment. The walls and paintings are adorned with fragments of cups, plates, and bowls. The altar displays 20 statues of Buddha in different postures such as standing, lying, and sitting.
In the middle of the pagoda’s yard, there is a flagpole featuring the Naga god snake with five heads, symbolizing the legend of the snake multiplying its heads to protect the meditating Buddha. Behind the pagoda, there is a garden that tells the entire life story of Shakyamuni Buddha, from his birth to enlightenment.
Venerable Kim Hoang Hung, the abbot of Chen Kieu Pagoda, explained, “Khmer Theravada Buddhism only worships Shakyamuni Buddha. Due to budget constraints during the construction of the pagoda, our predecessors proposed using cups and bowls as building materials.”
“The pagoda’s architecture is similar to other Khmer Theravada pagodas in Soc Trang province. It includes a sala house, a monastery, a school, a room for displaying antiques, a main hall, and various Buddha statues. The neighborhood has a significant Chinese influence, hence the pagoda’s architecture reflects Chinese characteristics,” he added.
Chen Kieu pagoda, also known as the ‘cup pagoda’ among locals, is modeled after a cup and is constructed using numerous cups and plates. The pagoda is further adorned with broken ceramic pieces.
An interesting feature at Chen Kieu pagoda is the preservation of some assets of Tran Trinh Huy, popularly known as Cong Tu Bac Lieu or Bac Lieu Prince.
Born in 1900 and passing away in 1973, Bac Lieu Prince was a famous wealthy man in the southern region of Vietnam in the early 20th century. The most remarkable assets preserved at the pagoda include a set of wooden couches and a table, a marble summer bed, and a sandalwood winter bed.
Ngo Huu Loi, a tourist from Binh Duong province, shared, “The assets of Bac Lieu Prince are truly impressive. The hot bed for summer and the cold bed for winter are fascinating. This is my third visit to Chen Kieu Pagoda, and each time, I have a different experience.”
Visitors to Chen Kieu Pagoda can admire its unique architecture, learn about Khmer culture, take photos in the beautiful sunflower garden, and indulge in the local specialties of Soc Trang province.