Ba Den

Ba Den

The Black Lady; Holy Mother of the Sacred Mountain


Linh Son Thanh Mau


Cambodian (Khmer) or Vietnamese depending on version of her myth

Ba Den, literally the “Black Lady,” is a small, dark-faced porcelain image venerated by Vietnamese and Cambodians. Both ethnic groups claim her. Since the nineteenth century, her shrine at Ba Den Mountain has been among the most popular pilgrimages in the region.

There are different legends of how Ba Den became a goddess. All end sadly. She may have committed suicide to avoid an arranged marriage or died resisting rape. She may have fallen to her death from a cliff or been attacked by a tiger on the mountain. Regardless of cause, after she died, people saw her walking on the mountain, chanting Buddhist mantras and prayers.

Black Lady Mountain was a guerilla base during the second Indo-Chinese war. There was so much fighting in the region during the American-Vietnam war that pilgrimage routes were blocked. Many devotees visited Ba Chua Xu’s shrine in the Mekong Delta instead. Ba Chua Xu is now enshrined with Ba Den on the main altar at Black Lady Mountain.

Renowned for healing illness, protecting from danger, and bestowing good fortune and success, she has a similar generous but volatile nature as her sister goddess, Ba Chua Xu. Make sure to fulfill all vows made to Ba Den. Ba Denis sometimes identified with Hindu goddess Mariamman.


Ba Den has two primary shrines:

• A mountain shrine in Tay Ninh province near the Vietnamese-Cambodian border northwest of Ho Chi Minh City (Ba Den Mountain)

• A Khmer monastery called the Bat Pagoda in Soc Trang Province (named for its huge colonies of bats); this manifestation of Ba Den (who may or may not be the same spirit as the one enshrined on the mountain) is famed for providing traffic safety and preventing accidents. The monks bless vehicles with Holy Water from Ba Den’s altar.


Pilgrimages are traditionally made on the 15th day (full moon) of the 1st, 9th, and 10th lunar months.


Wealthy devotees have been known to offer bars of silver or gold at her shrine; the less wealthy offer the fruits of their labor, often literally.


Arang; Ba Chua Kho; Ba Chua Xu; Black Madonna; Ma Zu; Mariamman


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.