What does Victor Hugo and a colourful religion of non violent vegetarians in Vietnam have in common? Most people would probably assume, very little. That is, until you learn about the region of Cao Dai.
Cao Dai is a peaceful religion prominent in Vietnam that preaches worship of ancestors, non violence and vegetarianism. Cao Dai is a fascinating blend of religions; Christianity, Confucianism, and Buddhism are blended and interlinked, creating something truly unique.
Followers of Cai Dai believe in the coming of an age called The Great Amnesty. This is the unity of all world religions, creating universal peace for mankind. And considering the great degree of similarity between all human religions, as well as the death and destruction created when religions clash, it is a very beautiful idea indeed.
Followers of Cai Dai believe that God has revealed himself to humanity several times throughout human history, and that these people have become prophets in different human religions – yet the God of all these different religions is actually the same entity. Cao Dai is divided into angels, saints, immortals and Buddhas. Jesus, Victor Hugo, Confucius and Joan of Arc among others are just an example of some of the religions saints.
That is just the briefest overview if the Cao Dai religion, one which I find immensely interesting. Even more interesting than the unique blend of religions into one is actually visiting one of their temples.
Visiting a Cao Dai Temple
The headquarters of the Cao Dai religion is based in the town of Tay Ninh, northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. You can visit the temple on a day trip from HCMC. We visited on a tour that visited both the Cai Dai Temple and the Cu Chi Tunnels.
The structure of the temple itself is absolutely mind blowing. Just like the religion itself, the temple combines different styles from around the world to create something unique and beautiful. The main temple is a blend of French colonial style, a Chinese temple, and an Islamic mosque. The temple is brightly coloured and dragons, flowers, and the symbolic divine eye.
Worshippers attend the temple for prayers four times daily, dressed in spectacular and colourful robes, and tour groups are welcome to view the prayers from upstairs balcony. Photography is permitted but please do not use a flash as it can disturb the worshippers.
If you only have time to visit one temple in Vietnam, I highly recommend that it be this one.