Cao Dai Holy See Temple is probably one of the most unique religious buildings in the world. This work was built without a prior architectural design, without the participation of any engineer and also without any modern equipment.
In 1919, Ngo Van Chieu, a lowly Vietnamese civil servant working for French colonial administration, received an image of God. He became the prophet of the new religion, which was formally established in 1926 and began to preach a new credo based on the unity of the world religions following the heavenly message. According to his new doctrine, Cao Dai will be the third and final alliance between god and humanity which can unify and prove the message of uniting all previous religions.
The new religion followed the reincarnation cycle of Buddhism, based on moral precepts of Confucianism, has an ecclesiastical hierarchy similar to that of the Roman Catholic church and still preached the Taoist concept of Yin-yang and two balancing forces, good and bad.
Cao Dai spread quickly through Vietnam, and it was such a power by the 1950s with the establishment of a Cao Dai army in 1943 during the Indochina occupation of Japan, and claimed that an eighth of Vietnam’s population as followers. After the war, Cao Dai was an effective force in national politics. At first, it supported, and then opposed Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem.
The rapid growth would not last long. In 1955, he dissolved the Cao Dai army and forced Pham Cong Tac, the cardinal of Caodaism, into exile. After Communist party of Vietnam won in 1975, Cao Dai was suppressed by the government and its whole land was confiscated. However, centers of worship were established in Vietnamese refugee communities abroad, and Cao Dai was legalized in 1985.
Today, Cao Dai was reported to have 6 million adherents in Vietnam, Cambodia, France, and the United States. Cao Dai followers will regularly participate in worship rituals, practice vegetarianism for at least ten days each month, purify their bodies and spirits and avoid killing sentient beings.
Located in Tay Ninh, about 100 kilometers northwest from Ho Chi Minh City, the Cao Dai Holy See stands out in its unique architectural style and is one of the most unique destinations in this province.
Started in 1933 and formally inaugurated in 1955, Cao Dai Holy See Temple is the worshiping place of the Divine Eye - the sacred symbol of Cao Dai. Pham Cong Tac mobilized 500 men and women to establish the vow of virginity during their direct involvement in construction. These followers had to swear not to get married. During the construction, all steps were done by hand with the cardinal’s oral design. Strangely, many people are farmers who have never studied in any art school still successfully created tens of thousands of sculptural motifs, dozens of statues with high artistic level.
Cao Dai Holy See Temple is 140 meters long and 40 meters wide with the 2 bell towers of 25 meters high. The whole temple consists of nearly 100 different large and small architectures, especially built of bamboo reinforced concrete. The 12 gates are carvings of lotus and the four spiritual mascots including dragon, unicorn, turtle, and phoenix.
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The main hall is also the largest door with distinctive decorating style of 2 dragons flanking the moon, lotus and ancient dharma, reflecting the spirit of 3 sects Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. It is divided into 9 sections by shallow steps, representing the 9 steps to heaven, with each level marked by a pair of columns. Worshippers achieve each new level depending on their years as Cao Dai followers.
At the end of the sanctuary, the eight plaster columns which support each dome and are entwined with multi colored dragons represent the heavens. Under the dome is a giant star blue globe with the Divine Eye on it. In front of the main hall, there are seven chairs divided into three levels. The largest of the seven chairs is reserved for the Cao Dai pope, a position that has been stayed empty since 1933. The next three chairs are for the 3 men responsible for the Cao Dai holy books. The remaining ones are for the leaders of the three branches of Caodaism, with the 3 principal colors yellow, blue and red representing Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity in order. In addition to the Divine Eye, this religion also worships Buddha, Jesus, Confucius, Lao-tzu, and Guanyin.
The 9th of January and the mid of August according to the lunar calendar are the two largest festivals of the temple. Now, the main ceremony of the day at the Cao Dai Great Temple is usually celebrated at 12 noon. Visitors can visit the temple at any time of the day, but it’s important that guests wear modest and respectful clothing inside the temple, which means no shorts or sleeveless T-shirts, take shoes and hats off before entering. Moreover, the area in the center of the sanctuary is reserved for Cao Dai priests. Women enter the Great Temple through a door at the base of the tower on the left, and men get into on the right. One of the most unforgettable sights at the Cao Dai Holy See is the scene of worshippers who dress in separately colorful robes and gather in orderly rows during a ceremony. Men sit on the right and women on the left.
In the temple, there are many symbols with mysteriously special meanings hidden. That each person, depending on his or her ethnicity, level of education, spiritual levels, observes the Cao Dai Holy See will discover these values themselves. VN Bike Tour will be with you on the Cao Dai Temple Tour for exploring this famous building and bring you memorable experience.
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