Sunday, December 4, 2011

HCMC Vietnam : Cao Dai Temple

Day 1 Tour (Dec 2, 2011) : visited Cao Dai Temple after going to Handicapped Handicraft.

Constructed between 1933 and 1955, the Great Temple of Cao Dai closely resembles a Christian cathedral in its architecture - two square towers, a long central nave with upper gallery, and side aisles. The altar, an apse and ambulatory are at the opposite end from the entrance, just as in a typical church.

The exterior and interior of the Cao Dai Temple are both extravagantly decorated, incorporating symbols, abstract designs and images of saints. The high ceiling is painted sky-blue with fluffy clouds and the floor tiles have busy patterns. The dragon-encrusted columns that run the length of the nave number 28, representing the 28 manifestations of the Buddha. Seven-headed cobras represent the seven human emotions.

The three principal colors of Cao Dai are yellow (for Buddhism), blue (for Taoism), and red (for Christianity), and these appear in worshippers' robes as well as the temple. The most important symbol is the Divine Eye, representing God, which also appears in followers' homes. It is a left eye, because God is Yang, and Yang is the left side. It has a ying-yang symbol in the pupil.

There are four ceremonies with chanting each day: 6:00 am, noon, 6:00 pm, and midnight. An orchestra of 10 musicians and a choir of 20 youths lead the service in prayer and hymns. The hymns sound western, but the accompanying music is traditional Vietnamese.

One of the most memorable sights at the Cao Dai temple is the sea of worshippers who dress in flowing robes and assemble in orderly rows during a ceremony. Men sit on the right and women on the left.

Most worshippers are lay followers, who wear pure white robes. Men with the rank of priest and higher have brightly colored robes reflecting their spiritual allegiance: yellow (symbolizing Buddhism and virtue), blue (Taoism and pacifism) or red (Confucianism and authority). Bishops and cardinals have the Divine Eye emblazoned on their headpieces.

Visitors are warmly welcomed at the Cao Dai Temple and may watch ceremonies and take photos from the galleries. Visitors are only asked to wear trousers or skirts covering the knee, remove their shoes before entering, and remain as quiet as possible during ceremonies. The noon ceremony always has the largest audience, since most visitors are day trippers from Ho Chi Minh City.

Source : Cao Dai Temple


Joshua Sterrett said...

Wow the photos and info were really interesting. Especially about the different meaning of the robes that the Priests wear.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I actually find it interesting...