Ba Don Cemetery and Pagoda
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Sacred Pilgrimage Destination in Hue
The Ba Đồn Cemetery and Pagoda is a notable historical site that holds significant cultural and religious value. The site is known for its historical importance and its serene atmosphere, providing a place for both reflection and worship. The pagoda serves as a spiritual center, while the cemetery stands as a testament to the region's historical heritage.
Sacred Pilgrimage Destination in Hue


Located at 69 Tam Thai Street, An Tay Ward, Hue City, the historical site of Ba Đồn Cemetery and Pagoda (commonly known as Ba Đồn Pagoda) may not be as grand and magnificent as many other monuments and pagodas in Hue, but it is renowned for its sacredness. This place has become a familiar destination for the people of Thua Thien Hue and visitors from afar, especially during the early spring for pilgrimage.

Situated about 4 km west of Hue's city center, along Tam Thai Street, follow the verdant path beside Nam Giao Esplanade, and continue along the main road for about 400 meters to reach Ba Đồn Pagoda.


Ba Đồn Pagoda is quite unique because it was "established by local guilds (phố) and maintained by individuals who were not full-time monks but had families, unlike other pagodas" (Thua Thien Hue Geographical Records).

In 1803, to construct the Phu Xuan Citadel, Emperor Gia Long ordered the clearance of eight villages on the northern bank of the Perfume River. The unclaimed graves from these villages were relocated and collectively reburied in the area now known as Ba Đồn, referred to as the "Mound of Graves from Eight Villages." Here, Emperor Gia Long erected a stone stele with the inscription "The King permits the collective reburial of those without descendants to worship them." The inscription on the right side reads "Due to the proximity to the citadel, they were reburied here," while the left side states "Inscribed on the 7th day of the 3rd month of the Year of the Pig (Quý Hợi), equivalent to April 27, 1803."

Later, to build the Nam Giao Esplanade and Emperor Gia Long's tomb, additional unclaimed graves from these areas were also moved here, creating two more large burial mounds.

In 1835, Emperor Minh Mang established an altar under the open sky (đàn) at the "Mound of Graves from Eight Villages" for annual state ceremonies to honor the wandering souls of these villages. Subsequently, two more altars were erected to honor the souls of the second and third burial mounds. The locals referred to these three mounds with three altars as "Three Mounds" (Cồn mồ Ba Đàn), which likely evolved into the name "Ba Đồn."

In 1885, following the fall of the capital (on the 23rd day of the 5th lunar month of the Year of the Rooster - Ất Dậu), the remains of thousands of soldiers and civilians who perished in the battle against the French were also brought to Ba Đồn for collective burial, forming additional mounds. According to researcher Nguyen Dac Xuan, this is why Ba Đồn can be considered the first Martyrs' Cemetery in the resistance against French invasion.

During the Nguyen Dynasty, ceremonies at Ba Đồn were highly significant. Besides the state's rituals, local guilds had their own days of worship. In the 5th lunar month, to commemorate the spirits lost during the fall of the capital, the guilds organized the Lễ Cúng Âm Hồn (Soul Worship Ceremony) at Ba Đồn, which lasted an entire week from the 23rd to the end of the month.

On December 21, 2005, the People's Committee of Thua Thien Hue Province issued Decision No. 4296/QĐ-UBND, recognizing the Cemetery and Ba Đồn Pagoda as a provincial-level historical site.


With its simple architecture, the Ba Đồn Pagoda and Cemetery Historical Site exudes a tranquil and solemn atmosphere, extending along the path from the main gate, which has now been paved with concrete.

The pagoda gate consists of two main pillars, with a smaller auxiliary pillar on the left, about two meters high, supporting the name board of Ba Đồn Pagoda. The two main pillars bear a pair of Chinese couplets.

Translated by Nguyễn Quan Hà:
In battles, how many can return? Sacred traces remain for a thousand autumns on this land.  
Near or far, all are known. One heart incense stick, whom do you question?

The Ba Đồn Pagoda and Cemetery Historical Site comprises three large cemeteries and five smaller ones. In the expansive areas of the three large cemeteries, there are tombstones, each inscribed with the phrase “Ân Tứ Hiệp Tán Vô Tư Chi Mộ,” meaning “King bestows collective burial for the ownerless graves.” During the burial process, the king ordered the graves to be built with surrounding walls to prevent the remains from being lost. Therefore, from the main gate to the central hall, one only sees a flat stretch of land, but beneath the green grass lies the largest mass grave in the country.

The inner sanctuary is constructed in the style of five bays with two annexes. The central bay houses the Buddha altar, with a high statue of Shakyamuni Buddha and a horizontal board with four characters: Từ Bi Vô Lượng (Infinite Compassion). Below the Buddha statue is a statue of the Jade Emperor, with Nam Tào on the right and Bắc Đẩu on the left. Behind the Buddha altar is the altar for the Council of Ministers, with the inscription: Hàn Lâm Pháp Hội. The adjoining bays on the right are dedicated to the spirits of heroic martyrs, wandering souls, and the local pagoda spirits. The adjoining bays on the left are dedicated to male and female deceased, stillborn spirits, and the spirits of the local guild associations.

In front of the main hall, there is an altar dedicated to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and Tiêu Diện Đạo Sĩ. The architectural details of these structures feature familiar motifs often seen in temples, pagodas, and shrines throughout Huế, such as cranes standing on turtles, two dragons flanking the moon, lotuses, elephants, and tigers. These elements are crafted in relief using cement combined with ceramic and porcelain art.

Having existed for over 200 years, the Ba Đồn Pagoda and Cemetery Historical Site is the final resting place for tens of thousands of souls, many of whom are unknown, as the site has undergone numerous large-scale consolidations. As a result, Ba Đồn Pagoda is considered the location of the largest mass grave in Vietnam. The pagoda's reputation for being highly sacred stems from the many unclaimed graves it houses. This sacredness is further amplified by the numerous mystical stories surrounding Ba Đồn Pagoda, which, whether true or not, contribute to its aura as a spiritual site. These tales attract locals and visitors alike, who come to seek blessings and good fortune.

When visiting Huế, don't forget to stop by Ba Đồn Pagoda