Vietnam – Caodaism: One of many religions in Vietnam

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Tay Ninh province, Vietnam 07/11/2020

In Vietnamese life, spiritual values have always been highly regarded, sometimes even far better than material ones. Therefore, religion plays an important role in the culture of this Southeast Asian country. Besides popular imported faiths; like Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. There are also indigenous beliefs such as Veneration of the Dead, Worship of Mother Goddesses, and Caodaism which could be the most special one.

Ninety kilometers from Vietnam’s biggest city of Saigon, in the southwestern Tay Ninh province bordering Cambodia, the Cao Dai Holy See or the Great City of God locates. One of the largest religious sanctuaries in the world, which is twice larger than the Vatican City. The headquarters of the Cao Dai Religion features about 20 buildings with complete bodies of the religious legislature, executive and judiciary; temples and gardens; schools and hospitals; offices and residences; archives and warehouses; and even jungles with wild monkeys. Caodaists almost control themselves in every aspect of their religion and daily life.

The term “Cao Dai” literally means “High Palace” where God the Father, representing by the Divine Eye, reigns over the universe. This religion’s official name is The Third Great Universal Religious Amnesty, and its fundamental objective is the unity of all faiths. In Caodaist theory, throughout human history God the Father has revealed his truth many times. The previous two Religious Amnesties saw the rise of many religions such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism. Now Caodaism has come as the embodiment of the Third Amnesty to unite the traditions of these two former periods.

The fact of collecting and mixing other religions’ elements in Caodaism can be seen in the Great Divine Temple at the center of this holy city. At first glance from afar, we see twin towers of the front facade resembling a Catholic church. On the roof in the middle, there is a half-dome resembling an Islamic mosque. The dome is painted with the world map and has a dragon-horse statue of Taoism. And the tower in the back resembles a Hinduist temple.

Not only a holy land for pilgrimage, but Cao Dai Holy See is also one of Vietnam’s major tourist attractions and welcomes millions of visitors every year. Especially, witnessing a Noon Mass here is always on the top list of almost every tour. Caodaism was born in the French colonial time, banned for a while after the Vietnam War, Caodaism officially resumed the government’s legal recognition and unrestricted practice in 1997. Today, about five million followers in Caodaist communities could be found across Asia, North America, Europe, and Australia. There are even some Caodaist studies in the colleges in the USA and Bangladesh.

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