Teo Chew Temple: Located in Houston’s Chinatown

Updated on April 1, 2020
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include art, traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

The Teo Chew Temple in Houston
The Teo Chew Temple in Houston | Source

Teo Chew Temple

The Teo Chew Temple is a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple located in southwest Houston. My husband and I spotted the ornate rooftops when we were walking through the nearby Arthur Storey Park one day. We made a mental note to find out more about the structure at a later date. The address is 10599 Turtlewood Ct., Houston, Texas 77072.

This last week we had a list of several things in this same part of the Houston Metro Area to check out since they were relatively near one another. After wandering through Evelyn’s Park in Bellaire, we next visited the Vietnam War Memorial. A short distance from the war memorial is where this beautiful temple is located.

Modest dress is appropriate if wishing to visit this beautiful temple. Donations are welcomed.

Teo Chew Temple Exterior
Teo Chew Temple Exterior | Source

Exterior of the Temple

The Teo Chew Temple is in a residential neighborhood. A large free parking lot is in front of the temple, past entrance gates. There is so much to attract one’s eyes when visiting for the first time! A beautiful circular fountain with carved marble zodiac animals representing the 12 months of the year is noteworthy.

The splashing waters of the fountain are below the central figure of Quan Am. Other names also know her. Quan Am is considered to be a divine being (a bodhisattva) who helps people through hardships and suffering. People pray to her, much like some Christians pray to the Virgin Mary.

Before ever entering the Teo Chew Temple, there is much to view outside. Bright red picnic tables are in a tree-shaded grassy area where stone lions buffer both sides of an elaborately carved wall.

On the ground in front of the stone wall is a patterned image. The symbolism has meaning to those who are familiar.

Stone benches, as well as a covered open-air gazebo, also adorn the grounds outside of the temple.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Fountain in front of the templeDetails in the fountainFountain with Quan Am statue & zodiac figuresRed picnic tables on temple groundsCarved stone wall outside of the templeCloseup of carved stone wallExterior details outside of the templeDetails outside of the temple
Fountain in front of the temple
Fountain in front of the temple | Source
Details in the fountain
Details in the fountain | Source
Fountain with Quan Am statue & zodiac figures
Fountain with Quan Am statue & zodiac figures | Source
Red picnic tables on temple grounds
Red picnic tables on temple grounds | Source
Carved stone wall outside of the temple
Carved stone wall outside of the temple | Source
Closeup of carved stone wall
Closeup of carved stone wall | Source
Exterior details outside of the temple
Exterior details outside of the temple | Source
Details outside of the temple
Details outside of the temple | Source

Lions

Stone lions guard the exterior of the Teo Chew Temple. Male and female lions are always placed with the male on the right and female on the left as one looks at entrances of buildings exteriors. They symbolically take on a protective role and have been found in religious art several hundred years before the birth of Christ.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Male lion in front entrance Female lion in front entrance to the temple Stone lions protecting the front of the temple
Male lion in front entrance
Male lion in front entrance | Source
Female lion in front entrance to the temple
Female lion in front entrance to the temple | Source
Stone lions protecting the front of the temple
Stone lions protecting the front of the temple | Source

Sanctuary

This temple, while described as a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple, also has influences from China. The Teochew people who came here from Vietnam operate this sanctuary of worship and reflection.

Ancestral worship is important to Buddhists. They also revere their many different Gods. Fourteen major Gods are represented in this temple. There are Gods representing wealth, nobility, virtues, and even a God of war, among others.

A pervasive scent of the incense is in the air. People place burning incense sticks in front of the gods to whom they kneel and pray. Gifts of food are also at tables in front of each deity figure.

One person inside of the temple spoke English. I did ask permission to take photographs, and she said that it was okay to do so. She also handed a sheet of paper to us describing some of the statues of the Gods which we were viewing.

While we were visiting the temple, there was a steady flow of individuals as well as couples paying homage to their Gods and ancestors. Other than the ringing of a gong on occasion, which seemed to coincide with visitors entering the temple, people were quiet, meditative, and respectful.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Entrance doors to the temple Teo Chew Temple interior
Entrance doors to the temple
Entrance doors to the temple | Source
Teo Chew Temple interior
Teo Chew Temple interior | Source

Gifts of Food

Regarding the donations of food, we were told that some people bring them and those who need the food can take from the offerings. Before leaving, the lady interpreting some of what we were viewing told us to wait. She presented us with a large Gala apple, held her hands together in a prayerful pose, bowed, and wished us luck. There is such a friendly and welcoming atmosphere inside the temple.

Symbolism of Colors

Colors carry much symbolism in many cultures. The abundant use of the color red in Vietnam, as well as China, has the meaning of joy, vitality, celebration, luck, good fortune, and happiness. Gold symbolizes wealth and riches.

Teo Chew Temple
Teo Chew Temple | Source

Building Honoring the Deceased

The building to the left of the one with the 14 major Gods is one honoring ancestors who have passed on to the next life. Names, dates, and in many instances, images of the dead are in the room to the front. In the second room and third are urns with ashes of the deceased.

This second building housing urns and memorials seemed beautiful and alive. There were food offerings here in addition to some flowers and the burning of incense. The people paying homage to their ancestors all appeared to be serene.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Teo Chew Temple building honoring the deceasedInterior of building honoring ancestorsTemple room holding urns of the deceased
Teo Chew Temple building honoring the deceased
Teo Chew Temple building honoring the deceased | Source
Interior of building honoring ancestors
Interior of building honoring ancestors | Source
Temple room holding urns of the deceased
Temple room holding urns of the deceased | Source

Sources for Further Reading:

Buddhism

Buddhist Symbolism

Quan Am

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Peggy Woods

Comments

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    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Dora,

      I am always curious about things like this and am happy to share them with others.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      The building is quite an interesting view, and I would have missed the symbolisms if you did not explain them. Thanks for the presentation.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Liz,

      It is not only a beautiful temple but was an equally beautiful experience for us. I am glad you enjoyed this post.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      4 months ago from UK

      This is a well-researched and interesting article. Your impressive photos do this temple justice.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Manatita,

      I hope that you will be able to make it here. Let's pray for all of the people on earth. We are losing so many to this pandemic. Stay safe and may God bless you always.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      4 months ago from london

      God's willing.

      I have a feeling that life could be very different next year, but yes, I'll like to come again.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi again Lorna,

      I am sure there would be many people who would like to hear about your experiences in Hong Kong. That may be the only way we get to "travel" for quite some time.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Manatita,

      I had no idea that your sister lives near that temple. If you come back to Houston, perhaps you will have time to stop in and see it next time. It is a beauty.

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      4 months ago

      I haven't as yet Peggy, but I will at some stage as it was such an exciting trip.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Bill,

      We have two areas of Chinatown in our city. One of them is in the downtown area and the other out in Bellaire where this temple is located.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Bill,

      I am sure that they do not let the food go to waste. Much of it would last for several days, so it would not have to be donated daily in any case. I am pleased that you learned about the meaning of colors and such.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Lorna,

      Getting to visit Hong Kong must have been an experience of a lifetime. Have you written about it?

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      4 months ago from london

      Right up my Street!

      You know, I think I may have walked past it once and my sister most certainly mentioned it. I figure we were just busy that day. I believe she might have been heading to John Anderson or perhaps another chain store. I don't think she lives far from Teo Chew Temple.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You know you live in a big city if you have a Chinatown. :) Lovely architecture!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      4 months ago from Massachusetts

      How interesting. Houston certainly has a number of diverse sites to visit. There is nothing like this in our area that I am aware of. Do you know if they donate the food that is left over at the end of the day? Love the pictures, very colorful. I was not aware of the symbolism of the colors. Thanks for sharing with us, Peggy.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi FlourishAnyway,

      We found all of that information fascinating to know. There was a real sense of peace and serenity in that temple. The same was the case where the ashes of the deceased were housed.

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      4 months ago

      I was lucky enough to visit Hong Kong many years ago and your article brought back fond memories of visits to their many temples. There is a real sense of peace within the temples with their wonderful stone lions and history. An enjoyable and informative read Peggy.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      4 months ago from USA

      I have always wondered what happened to the offered food and whether it was eaten, discarded or just what. Thanks for clearing that up. I’d like to visit a Buddhist temple. I know someone who got divorced and decided to become a Buddhist nun. It certainly surprised everyone.

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