The name of the pagoda comes from a legend: a long ago, an old woman known as Thien Mu (literally “Heavenly Lady”) appeared on the hill where the pagoda stands today. She told local people that a Lord would come and build a Buddhist pagoda for the country’s prosperity. Lord Nguyen Hoang, on hearing that, ordered the construction of the pagoda of the “Heavenly Lady”.
The pagoda sits on the Ha Khe hill, in the ward of Huong Long in Hue. It is around 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) from the Citadel of Hue constructed in 1601 by the Nguyen Dynasty and sits on the northern bank of the Perfume River.
Over the centuries its buildings have been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Since the 1960s it has been a flashpoint of political demonstrations. In 1710, Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu had a great bell cast (2.5m high, 3.285kg) and in 1715, he had a stele (2.58 m high) erected on the back of a marble tortoise.
To the right of the tower is a pavilion containing a stele dating from 1715. It’s set on the back of a massive marble turtle, a symbol of longevity. To the left of the tower is another six-sided pavilion, this one sheltering an enormous bell (1710), weighing 2052kg and audible from 10km away.