The name of the pagoda comes from a legend: a long ago, an old woman 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".
Several kings of the Nguyen Dynasty such as Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri and Thanh Thai, all had the pagoda restored. Phuoc Duyen Tower (at first called Tu Nhan Tower) was erected in 1884 by King Thieu Tri. This octagonal tower has seven storeys (21m high). Dai Hung shrine, the main-hall, presents a magnificent architecture. As well as bronze cast statues, it shelters some precious antiques: the bronze gong cast in 1677, the wooden gilded board with Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu's inscriptions (1714). On both sides of the pagoda are a room for the bonzes and a guest-room for visitors.
The pagoda is surrounded by flowers and ornamental plants. At the far end of the garden stretches a calm and romantic pine-tree forest. The pagoda was heavily damaged in 1943. Bonze Thich Don Hau hence organized a great renovation of the pagoda that lasted for more than 30 years.
Built on a hillock overlooking the Perfume River, 4km southwest of the Citadel, this pagoda (admission free) is an icon of Vietnam. The existing 21m-high octagonal tower, the seven-storey Thap Phuoc Duyen, was constructed under the reign of Emperor Thieu Tri in 1844 and has become the unofficial symbol of the city of Hue.
To the right of the tower is a pavilion containing a stele dating from 1715. It is 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, Dai Hong Chung, which was cast in 1710 and weighs 2052kg; it is said to be audible 10km away. In the main sanctuary, in a case behind the bronze laughing Buddha, are three statues: A Di Da, the Buddha of the Past; Thich Ca, the historical Buddha (Sakyamuni); and Di Lac Buddha, the Buddha of the Future.
For a nice bicycle ride, head southwest (parallel to the Perfume River) on riverside Tran Hung Dao street, which turns into Le Duan street after passing Phu Xuan Bridge. Cross the railway tracks and keep going on Kim Long street. Thien Mu Pagoda can also be reached by dragon boat and a visit is included in most city tours.
Nowadays the pagoda is very well-maintained and very welcoming to all visitors.