Out of Saigon - Cao Dai Temple, Ho Chi Minh City
A "new" religion (quite confined only to the province of Tay Ninh), absorbing an eclectic mix of elements from other worldly religions (Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam to name a few). I am sure you could arrange a day tour out (the agencies usually tying the Cu Chi tunnels with the Cao Dai temples) and have a look at Caodai-ism. Rather amusing. The symbol of the religion is "The Eye" symbolising truth (see attached picture).
Cao Dai is a relatively young religion and a modern fusion incorporating the elements of major religions as well as famous world leaders and their moral principles.
All of tourists were escorted by our tour guide to second floor with our cameras clicking as the ceremony proceeding on the ground floor. As the devotees are praying or meditating, we kept a quiet respectful presence.
It is a unique South Vietnamese religion with its ardent followers The ceremony is slow moving. The decor is eye catching and ornate to say the least. After taking all the pictures, we were more ready to go.
You usually can go to this temple as part of your Cui Chi Tunnel tour. So that makes it a full day tour outside Saigon. Recommend worth seeing.
The Cao Dai Temple was a 3-hour ride away from Ho Chi Minh City Centre. We boarded the bus at 0815h outside Sinh Cafe, arrived at around 11 plus, and watched the praying ritual (held at 12 noon).
The devotees were dressed in robes of different colours, each colour a symbol of different religion -
White: other religion
Visitors had to remove their shoes before entering the temple. The temple itself was colouful, a blend of different styles of architecture. This is one place where you will find paintings of Chinese unicorns, phoenix and turtle, together with Victor Hugo (one of Cao Daism's saints), etc.
To sum it up, it was a weird sight to behold, but very interesting, nevertheless.
You are allowed into the temple during prayer times. Men and women enter through separate doors and you take off your shoes. You go up to the balcony and observe from above, the worshippers chant and bow before the ‘eye’. There is a large sphere with an eye looking at the worshippers.
If you book a tour to Cu chi they usually include this as well.
The temple holds it's service around lunchtime and hundreds of tourists come along to watch from the upstairs balcony.
The worshippers are very colourful and not a bit fazed by the huge audience they have. Photography is allowed inside but some of the areas outside are cordoned off so good pics of the outside are difficult to get.
Cao Dai worship 4 times a day, noon, 6pm, 12 midnight & 6am in the morning.
Male worshipers will dress like some muslim outfit & female worshipers will dress in white Ao Dai.
Please do not mistaken Vietnamese female students as Cao Dai devotees as their school uniform is actually white Ao Dai too. Cao Dai religion is mostly popular at Tay Ninh districts only.
The Cao Dai Holy See was founded in 1926. I took the tourist cafe tour in which you arrive there for the noon mass. It is an interesting and colourful place that is worth seeing. Most tours combine this trip with a visit to the Cu Chi tunnels.
Caodaism is an attempt to create the ideal religeon by mixing and matching all other religions. So you have pieces of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam all thrown together. The whole religion is based on a man named Ngo Minh Chieu who received messages revealed during seances. Most baffling is the reverence for people such as Victor Hugo in a religious context.
The religion does stress love for one another and the belief that God resides within each of us. There are now around 2 million followers of this faith.
This colourful temple is located in Tay Ninh and it hosts a religion founded in 1920s by Ngo Minh Chieu. This unique religion combines religions from east and west. The temple attracts many tourists during noontime prayer and ceremony. The colourfully attired followers in red, blue, yellow and white chant religious hymns while tourists take pictures of the ceremony from the second level of the temple. It is worth visiting this colourful temple. From Saigon daily tours including Caodai Temple visit and Cu Chi Tunnels cost around 8 USD,
This picture here shows the exterior of the building. The architecture, religious rites and customs really are a fusion of vastly different styles. The 2 towers are a nod to the architectural styles of churches (think Notre Dame), and you'll also see dragons and Chinese characters on pillars and windows.
Before you enter the temple, you'll need to remove your shoes (the same rule applies when you enter a mosque). And the clothes the devotees don, well, they really resemble what a Taoist priest would wear. In short, this is totally bizzare!
Caodaism combines the three main religions of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism and includes Christianity, Islam and the traditional Vietnamese Cult of Ancestor Worship.
The Army of Caodai were once aided French to fight Viet Minh.
The capital of the same-named province, Tay Ninh is situated 95km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City and is the original home of the Cao Dai religion which has around 3 million adherents in Southern Vietnam. Tay Ninh is home to the Cao Dai Great Temple, built between 1933 and 1955, which sits a few kilometres outside of the town.
A rather garish meld of styles and influences, the temple is dominated by the divine eye which is the religion's representation of God - for those who are curious, it's a left eye. The temple is done out in hues of pink and baby blues, with a brilliant interior bedecked with eight grandiose pillars wrapped with writhing dragons, and a clouded pastel blue sky that wouldn't be out of place in a Vegas casino - you really have to see the place to believe it! The faith has built temples all over the region, especially in the Mekong Delta, but this is the biggest, brightest and the best. I went on a tour with the Sinh Cafe whose offices are in the Pham Ngu Lao backpackers area of Ho Chi Minh City and it cost me 136,000 VND (about $8 includes lunch) which also included a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels in the afternoon. The tour visits the temple in order to witness the mid-day mass.
For more information, pictures and video of the mid-day mass, why not visit my Tay Ninh page below:
The picture shows you the altar in the temple. The huge sphere bears the symbol of Cao Daism - the eye. The altar is where you'll find tablets (written in Chinese characters) of different Gods and Deities - Jesus Christ, Lao Tzu (the founder of Taosim), Confucius, etc being worshipped together.
Only if you're already in Tay Ninh: The people are a different religion than most other Vietnam people.
They worship the one eyed religion and they wear the white dress robe (ao dai)
Don't forget to go visit the Black Virgin Mountain. (Better place to explore)
Cao Dai is a religion found only in southern Vietnam and is an amalgamation of many different religions. Like Muslims they pray periodically throughout the day. The temples are very bright and colourful.
Cao Dai Temple or the Great Holy See Temple is one of the places you must have to see when in HCMC. This is the 2nd place we visited for the whole day tour so we can witness the midday mass held by the Cao Dai followers.
The temple was built in 1926 and considered one of the striking structures in Southeast Asia. It is the headquarters of the unique Ca Dai sect, a religion with a hybrid of Buddhism, Christianity & Confucianism.
We arrived in the temple at 1130am which is just on time. Our tourist guide advised us that we can take a picture with the temple but once inside it is prohibited to take pictures of you (I don’t know why and I didn’t bother to ask). The temple is very colorful and beautiful. The very sunny weather adds more admiration to the temple visitors. Before entering the temple, you have to remove your shoes and leave it outside.
In front of the temple is the “Divine Eye” inside in a shape of triangle which is the sect’s symbol and also can be seen on the sides. On the altar lies 3 golden glasses of water, wine and tea. I was really amazed by the temple’s colorful surroundings. The dome ceiling is painted with the light blue color imitating the appearance of the sky. We were able to go upstairs in the balcony to have a different view. In the balcony, you’ll see the musicians.
The head of the worshippers wear red representing Confucianism, yellow representing Buddhism and blue representing Taoism while the followers wear white. When the ceremony started, you’ll see that the men come in the right side while the women enter in the left and they face each other praying.
I admit that I can’t get over admiring this temple.. it’s really beautiful!!!