Caodaism and their unique temple in Tay Ninh

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Stephan @steef-05August 2018 · 4 min read

Just 90 km away from the busy city center of Ho Chi Minh City, there is a beautiful temple waiting for you. It's called the Cao Dai Temple and it is one of the most colorful and coolest temples I've ever seen.

So let me show you why you should pay a visit as well.

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Caodaism in short:
A monotheistic religion, founded just recently (1926) in the Tay Ninh province in South-Vietnam. Cao Dai, meaning 'highest lord/power' is the supreme deity and creator of the universe. The religion strives for the unification of all religions.

In the past, different populations were not aware of each other existence and did not have the opportunity to travel far. So four different branches of religion were founded: Confucianism, Buddhism, the belief in geniï, Christianity and Taoism. Nowadays every part of the earth is known, so there is decided to unite the religions to just one. Based on this and other 'messages', Ngo Van Chieu then founded Caodaism to help followers from the world religions to understand that all religions are branches of one and the same tree.

Estimates of the number of followers in Vietnam vary from 4.4 million (Tây Ninh church) to around 6 million if other branches are added as well (government figures). There are six officially recognized branches.

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Tay Ninh temple

It was a hot day in June when we visited the temple. Our bus dropped us near the entrance and from there it was just a small walk to the temple. We arrived just before noon which was just in time to attend one of the 4 daily ceremonies. First, we walked around the outside of the temple to admire it a bit. The temple is like the religion, a fusion of world influences and other religions. It looks like a gothic cathedral with high pillars and two towers on both sides of the front facade. The walls are covered with symbols and paintings from different religions. Yin and Yang influences are strongly present in Caodaism. Watching the front facade more closely, a big eye surrounded by rays of light catches your attention. The Eye of God or the Divine Eye, always looking south. On the roof of the temple, there is a giant globe with on top a creature which is a cross-breeding of a horse and a dragon. A symbol of human fraternization. On the top of the towers, statues of Shiva en Krishna. Both Gods in Hindoeïsm.

After dropping our shoes we went inside and via stairs, we were led to the first floor, just next to the 'music band'. From here we could watch the ceremony. Inside the church is just what you expect after observing the exterior. Many different colors. The high pillars are decorated with Chinese dragons, symbolizing wisdom and strength. Again a portrait of the Divine Eye watching south. This time surrounded by figures of Confucius, Jezus, Laozi, Guanyin, and Buddha.

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At the beginning of the ceremony

It’s nice to watch the ceremony/prayers for a bit, seeing all the different ranks in the hierarchy and listening to the music. Apparently, there are nine ranks and they can be recognized by the color of the robe they are wearing. The colors also represent different religions. Red for Confucianism, yellow for Buddhism, and blue for Taoism. Men sit on the right side of the temple, woman on the left. The ceremony consisted mostly of praying and listening to the music. Worshipping the Divine Eye. It's allowed to take photos as long as you are dressed properly and do it quietly.

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Higher ranked and followers in white

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The dragon pillars

During the ceremony, you should be aware that you cannot walk past the front of the building. That way you will be in the sight of the Divine Eye. “Security” officers will block off the road in front of the temple, but some people were unaware. They were corrected by the “security” officers and their whistle ;D. Quite fun to see.

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They provided the music for the ceremony

Have you ever visited the Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh? Would love to hear how you experienced it.


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Comments

What an interesting story, and an honor to be part of such a ceremony. You take beautiful photo's!


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Thanks @hetty-rowan. It was indeed interesting. Never heard of this religion before I got to Vietnam. And thanks for the compliment.


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We went there when they had 40 or so mechanical stages set up - with scenes of their religion. Visiting here was def. a highlight.


10

Sounds interesting! It was just another day when I was there, nothing special.


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