The Cao Dai religion (pronounced cow die) is a mixture of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Catholicism.
I wouldn’t think these religions would work together, but somehow, they do.
If you’re interested in learning more about Cao Dai ism’s beliefs, you can definitely have a look at the Wikipedia article.
However, here’s what I learned in the short amount of time we were at the largest Cao Dai temple.
- The Cao Dai have over 4 million members and are growing.
- Cao Dai is Vietnam’s third largest religion (behind Buddhism and Catholicism).
- Cao Dai is a pretty strict religion which requests that it’s members attend church 4 times/day for an hour and a half each service. (Not many young people join this religion as it doesn’t leave much time for work).
- During services, men and women are separated down the center of the temple.
- The temple has no pews or chairs. The worshippers sit on the floor.
- Victor Hugo is regarded as an early Cao Dai prophet and according to the religion was reincarnated in the form of a Vietnamese person in the early 1900’s.
It’s difficult sometimes not to judge what from the outside seems to be very strange.
But I try to look objectively at my own Catholic upbringing and religion. I can see that there are also some things within Catholicism that from an outside perspective seem very strange as well.
The temple itself is visually striking in many ways, not the least of which is the mixture of dragons and eastern mythical creatures combined with the vestments and hierarchy of Catholicism.
Also interesting is that the “eye” (similar to the All-Seeing Eye on dollar bills) is a recurring theme all throughout the Cao Dai Cathedral, which you can probably see in the pictures.
Overall, I enjoyed our visit to the Cao Dai Temple, where we listened to and watched the first 20 minutes of the service.
Going to the temple meant an extra two hours (each way) on the bus from Ho Chi Minh City, but the temple is a place I am glad to have seen. Cao Dai ism is a religion I find fascinating, if a bit abstract and strict.