Cha Tam Church
Cha Tam Church - Cha Tam Church is an impressive destination in Ho Chi Minh city.

In  Ho Chi Minh city, Cha Tam Church is a “peaceful place” of Chinese Catholic community in District 5. With impressive structure and meaningful activities, the church attracts numerous tourists.

Cha Tam Church - The Church attracts thousands of tourists every year.
Cha Tam Church – The Church attracts thousands of tourists every year.

The Saint Francis Xavier Parish Church (widely known as Cha Tam Church) , located at 25 Hoc Lac, Ward 14, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City, has a rich history rooted in its establishment by Priest Pierre d’Assou. Born in Macau and raised in Hong Kong, Priest Pierre d’Assou possessed a deep understanding of Chinese culture and language. At the end of the nineteenth century, during his service at the Saigon Cathedral, he observed a significant decline in the number of local Chinese and Vietnamese Catholics. This community faced a lack of dedicated spaces for worship.

Background information

Recognizing the urgent need for a place of worship for the dwindling Catholic community, Admiral Lagrandière, the Governor of South Vietnam at the time, issued an order to build a church. The objective was to provide a space where the Chinese Catholic community could gather, pray, and revitalize.

The responsibility for constructing the church fell on the shoulders of Priest Pierre d’Assou, who was entrusted with this important task by the delegation of Bishop Jean Pierre from the Archdiocese of Saigon. To fund the construction, Priest Pierre d’Assou organized a donation drive. Remarkably, both Catholic and non-Catholic individuals, as well as local residents and Chinese merchants, came forward willingly to contribute to the building of the church.

This collective effort, encompassing the support of a diverse group of people, highlights the significance of The Saint Francis Xavier Parish Church as a symbol of unity and religious diversity. The church not only serves as a place of worship but also is a destination for foreigners in Ho Chi Minh City tour to learn about religion of Chinese Vietnamese.

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Way to the church:

To reach The Saint Francis Xavier Parish Church in Ho Chi Minh City tour, you have several transportation options. If you are using personal vehicles, head from the center of Ho Chi Minh City towards Au Co and Truong Chinh streets. Follow the route until you reach the church located at 25 Hoc Lac, Ward 14, District 5. Alternatively, if you prefer public transportation, several bus routes can take you to the vicinity of the church. You can take buses 05, 103, 150, 25, 56, 68, or 94, depending on your starting location. These buses will bring you close to the church, allowing for convenient access to The Saint Francis Xavier Parish Church in District 5.

Special structure

The Saint Francis Xavier Parish Church, set on a vast three-hectare plot, boasts unique and purposeful architecture. Construction began on December 3rd, 1900, and the church was inaugurated on January 10th, 1902. Designed by Father John the Baptist Huynh Tinh Huong, the church includes facilities like a kindergarten, boarding house, and rental accommodations. Notable features include a Chinese-style house with a statue of Mary, reliefs depicting martyrs, and a Gothic-style house for Saint Francis Xavier. The complex also houses a charity center providing free meals and medical services. Additional structures include a kindergarten and a multipurpose building named the Francis Meeting House. Beyond a place of worship, the church serves as a community hub for welfare and education.

Outside

Cha Tam Church - The church is glamorous in the evening.
Cha Tam Church – The church is glamorous in the evening.

The atmosphere is a captivating fusion of cultural symbolism and architectural grandeur. The main gate, adorned with a triple arch, pays homage to Chinese aesthetics, featuring dragons and the Sun. In a distinctive twist, traditional motifs are replaced by two carps and a Christian cross. The narrow gate, decked in striking red and dark green hues, supports a tiled roof bearing the church’s name in both Vietnamese and Mandarin. This is uniqueness of Chinese Vietnamese architecture building. In most of other sacred places, people usually put Chinese Vietnamese language not only in Cha Tam Church but also in Grand Pagoda in Mekong Delta tours. As you enter, the Gothic cathedral architecture unfolds with high arches, ventilation windows, and a soaring bell tower—a blend of Western influences and Vietnamese lotus bud motifs. Crafted by Father Huong, the design harmonizes Western aesthetics with ancient Chinese philosophy, evident in the geometric arrangement inspired by Yin and Yang principles. The exterior features ascending corridors, a central tower with directional windows, and an octagonal upper floor, reflecting a profound philosophical depth that sets The Saint Francis Xavier Parish Church apart in Ho Chi Minh City.

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Inside

Cha Tam Church - The atmosphere is sacred inside the tower.
Cha Tam Church – The atmosphere is sacred inside the tower.

The symmetric design typical of Catholic constructions creates a familiar sanctuary ambiance. The Gothic-style nave, with its vaulted ceilings, green and white pillars, and wooden furniture, offers a comforting space for worship. Noteworthy decorations include the Chinese seal character “Phuoc” above the central cross, infusing cultural symbolism into the sacred space. Flanking the cross, vermilion pillars, a rarity in Gothic structures, add a distinctive touch to the visual aesthetics. The center pillars bear inscriptions of parallel Chinese sentences, offering advice on kindness—a thoughtful incorporation of meaningful messages within the architectural elements. In essence, its interior seamlessly blends Catholic symmetry with unique and culturally rich details, making it a special and inviting place of worship.

Interesting activity

Cha Tam Church - There are many activities there.
Cha Tam Church – There are many activities there.

Charity work

Charity work is so popular that voyagers can see in almost religious site in Vietnam tours. One significant initiative is the regular provision of free medical examinations and medications on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The church serves as a healthcare hub, with highly qualified doctors and nurses generously volunteering their time and expertise for the community’s benefit. This effort not only addresses the health needs of the less privileged but also underscores the church’s dedication to social responsibility and the well-being of its parishioners.

The church actively supports the less fortunate through charitable activities, providing free lunches to the impoverished and lonely elderly. Notably, on New Year’s Eve, the church rallies community support to distribute gifts, embodying a spirit of compassion and solidarity, emphasizing the importance of sharing joy during festive occasions.

Photography:

Tourists can capture the unique and solemn architecture, featuring its Gothic-style design and vibrant yellow walls. The tranquil garden surrounding the church, with colorful flowers and green trees, provides a picturesque backdrop for photography. This activity falls under cultural exploration and aesthetic appreciation.

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Exploring Local Cuisine:

Tourists have the opportunity to explore local culinary delights in Chinatown, particularly on the famous street Den Nam Ngon. This activity involves trying a variety of typical Chinese and local dishes, providing a cultural immersion through food. It’s a culinary adventure that adds a flavorful dimension to the tourist experience.

Tips for fully enjoy the journey

Cha Tam Church - Cha Tam Church is an impressive destination in Ho Chi Minh city.
Cha Tam Church – Cha Tam Church is an impressive destination in Ho Chi Minh city.

Pick Special Occasions

Consider visiting the church on special occasions like Christmas or weekends. You might catch some unique ceremonies or events.

Mind the Weather:

Ho Chi Minh City can get pretty hot, so in outdoor activities such as visiting Cu Chi Tunnels tour or especially Cha Tam Church tour,  it’s smart to bring a hat or an umbrella and apply suncreen to stay comfortable.

Watch Out for Rush Hour:

Try to avoid going out during rush hour. It can get really crowded, and you might end up stuck in traffic, which locals find pretty stressful.

Dress Politely:

Wear modest and polite clothing when visiting the church. It shows respect for the local customs and the sacred nature of the place.

Hands Off the Artifacts:

Remember not to touch or climb on any religious objects or artifacts. It’s a sign of respect and helps preserve the historical items.

Quiet Respect:

Keep noise levels down, especially during worship time. It’s good etiquette not to laugh loudly or make unnecessary noise in the church area.

The Saint Francis Xavier Parish Church is a captivating blend of cultural influences and architectural brilliance. Its exterior, marked by a triple-arched gate and Gothic elements, represents a fusion of East and West. Inside, the symmetric design offers a familiar sanctuary, enriched by unique cultural details. Crafted by Father Huong, the church’s design seamlessly blends architectural aesthetics with ancient Chinese philosophy. Beyond its spiritual role, the church actively engages in charitable initiatives, showcasing its commitment to community well-being. The Saint Francis Xavier Parish Church stands as a beacon of cultural richness and compassionate service in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City.

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