Dieu De Pagoda (Vietnamese: Chùa Diệu Đế) is a Buddhist temple in the central city of Huế in Vietnam. It is named for the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, which are called Tứ Diệu Đế in Vietnamese
During the period of the Nguyễn Dynasty in the 19th century, Emperor Thiệu Trị declared it to be one of the national pagodas of Vietnam. Outside of Vietnam, the temple is best known for being the site of religious activism in the 1960s, as well as against the Vietnam War. On the night of August 21, 1963, it was the site of a bloody battle between the government forces of President Ngo Dinh Diem and rioting pro-Buddhist civilians who were attempting to stop the troops from raiding the pagoda to arrest dissident monks who were calling for religious equality during the Buddhist crisis.
The pagoda entrance is on the banks of the Dong Ba canal. The temple gates face southwest; directly on the other side of the canal is the Dong Ba gate of the eastern side of the Citadel of Huế, which was the imperial headquarters of the Nguyễn Dynasty, ereceted by Gia Long at the start of the 19th century.
Dieu De Pagoda was one of the three pagodas in Huế to be declared as a "national pagoda" by Emperor Thiệu Trị and was under the direct patronage of the Nguyễn Dynasty. The pagoda was built under the reign of Thiệu Trị and is famous for its four low towers, one to either side of the main gate, while the other two flank the sanctuary. Two of the towers contain bells, while the other two towers contain a bell and stele respectively.
The main ceremonial hall contains a statue of Gautama Buddha, flanked by Bồ Tát Phổ Hiền and Bồ Tát Văn Thù Sư Lợi.
Buddhist crisis and pagoda raids
South Vietnam's Buddhist majority had long been discontented with the rule of President Ngo Dinh Diem since his rise to power in 1955. Diem had shown strong favouritism towards Catholics and discrimination against Buddhists in the army, public service and distribution of government aid. In the countryside, Catholics were de facto exempt from performing corvée labour and in some rural areas, Catholic priests led private armies against Buddhist villages. Discontent with Diem exploded into mass protest in Huế during the summer of 1963 when nine Buddhists died at the hand of Diem's army and police on Vesak, the birthday of Gautama Buddha. In May 1963, a law against the flying of religious flags was selectively invoked; the Buddhist flag was banned from display on Vesak while the Vatican flag was displayed to celebrate the anniversary of the consecration of Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc, Diem's brother. The Buddhists defied the ban and a protest that began with a march starting from Tu Dam to the government broadcasting station was ended when government forces opened fire. As a result, Buddhist protests were held across the country and steadily grew in size, asking for the signing of a Joint Communique to end religious inequality. Tu Dam Pagoda was a major organising point for the Buddhist movement and was often the location of hunger strikes, barricades and protests.
As the tension increased and opposition to Diem increased, the key turning point came shortly after midnight on August 21, when Ngo Dinh Nhu's Special Forces raided and vandalised Buddhist pagodas across the country, rounding up thousands of monks and leaving hundreds dead.
The most determined resistance to the Diem regime occurred outside the Dieu De Pagoda. As troops attempted to stretch a barbed wire barricade across the bridge leading to the pagoda, a large crowd of pro-Buddhist laypeople and anti-government protestors tore it down with their bare hands. The crowd then fought the heavily armed military personnel with rocks, sticks and their bare fists, throwing back the tear gas grenades that were aimed at them. After a five hour battle, the military finally won control of the bridge at dawn by driving armored cars through the angry crowd. The defense of the bridge and Dieu De had left an estimated 30 dead and 200 wounded. Ten truckloads of bridge defenders were taken to jail and an estimated 500 people were arrested in the city. The total number of dead and disappearances was never confirmed, but estimates range up to several hundred.
After the deposal of Diem, the temple later became the centre of anti-American and anti-war protests by Buddhists and students against the Vietnam War. During a period of chaos and protest in 1966, the temple was stormed by police and the army under General Ton That Dinh, who had been sent in by Prime Minister Nguyễn Cao Kỳ to quell the anti-government protests. Many monks were arrested, along with their supporters and student protestors. The equipment that the protestors used, such as radio, were confiscated.