The Unique Beauty of Xiem Can Pagoda

The Unique Beauty of Xiem Can Pagoda

Bac Lieu has a unique system of heritages, culture, religious architecture, and traditional festivals of the three ethnic groups, Kinh, Hoa, and Khmer. Xiem Can pagoda is one of the largest and most beautiful Khmer temples in the South. The majesty and beautiful architecture of Xiem Can pagoda leaves an unforgettable impression on visitors.

The garden tower area of Xiem Can pagoda. Photo: Nguyen Thang/VNP


Xiem Can is located in Vinh Trach Dong commune, Bac Lieu. It was built in 1887 on an area of about five hectares. In the early days, the pagoda had a Khmer name, Komphisako. The name means the erudition and depth of Buddhist wisdom. After that, the pagoda was renamed Xiem Can – meaning "bordered by the water" in Chinese.

The people who contributed to the construction of the pagoda were Mr. Nen and his wife, Mrs. Nget, a wealthy family in the area. There are 30 other households that offered trees and land to build the pagoda.

After completion, the locals met and invited Dharma Master Thach Mau (1829-1909) to be the head of the temple.

The highlight of Xiem Can pagoda is the sophistication and meticulousness of each pattern. The pagoda has up to 115 statues, a stone stele, and a bell dating from 1887. These works are separated by hundreds of meters, interspersed with courtyards and rows of green trees.



The architectural complex of Xiem Can pagoda consists of many items facing the East. The most prominent is the main hall of the temple, which is built in the form of a rectangle with a width of 18m, and a length of 36m. The entrance to the main hall has 18 steps, and above is the statue of Shakyamuni Buddha.

The walls, ceiling, and columns of the main hall are decorated with elaborate, colorful frescoes. Large-sized frescoes tell the life of the Buddha from birth to adulthood. The roof corners are carved with long, curved snake tails.

Seeing it from afar, the pagoda appears to have striking yellow color. Surrounding the pagoda is a solidly built fence, with many impressive patterns.


The gate of Xiem Can pagoda is carved with  many Khmer bas relief patterns. The nameplate of the gate is designed in the typical pointed tower style of Angkor architecture, with an additional image of a majestic Buddha sitting in the middle. Below the gate's nameplate, there are two Krut birds and two winding five-headed snakes.

The roof system outside the main hall consists of many overlapping layers in harmony with the spires in the typical architectural style of Angkor temples.

Opposite the main hall and tomb tower is a complex of towers - statues, including three main towers and Buddha statues in different postures. Some statues are built according to the legends of the Buddha. The architecture has the main yellow color combined with a system of colorful patterns highlighting the traditional Khmer architectural style.

Xiem Can pagoda is also known as a place to preserve and form many cultural beauties in the spiritual life of the Khmer. The pagoda also has a collection of ancient Khmer books written on leaves and an ancient lecture hall with old folk tales from the past.

Xiem Can pagoda is an outstanding architectural work, bearing the beauty symbolizing the spiritual culture of the Khmer community and a popular destination in the Mekong Delta.


The garden tower area of Xiem Can pagoda. Photo: Nguyen Thang/VNP

Story: Thong Hai/VNP Photos: Nguyen Thang, Hoang Ha & Le Minh  Translated by Hong Hanh