I quite enjoyed my visit to this very colourful and very kitch temple. It doesn’t look so inviting from outside but once you are inside the colours and dragons and pink is definitely eye catching. I wonder who chose the colour scheme and decided that gaudy dragons is the perfect adornment for a collective religion. The colourful Cau Dai Temple is in Tay Ninh City, which is actually a small town just outside of Ho Chi Minh City.
This “Great” holy temple, built in 1926, is considered one of the most striking structures in all of Asia. I do think that they were talking about the interior of this temple and not the exterior which is not very striking.
The name Cau Dai means ‘the highest place in which God reigns’ and sources suggest that the religion has between 2-6 million followers. This was the first time that I had ever heard of this religion so it must not have a very wide spread following.
Cau Dai or Caodaism is a religion with a colourful mix of Buddhism, Christianity and Confucianism. I couldn’t find any set of “rules” for this religion but understand that it is very peaceful and they meditate a lot.
Pulling up to the temple we were greeted by this huge peach structure. Standing proudly in the middle of the countryside, it does stand out. From the look of this temple it is hard to believe that it boasts an array of stunning vibrant colours on the inside.
We had arrived just in time for the midday mass, one of 4 daily services taking place every 6 hours from noon. I wonder if you have to attend all 4 services or you can choose which ones to attend? I would definitely give the 6am service a skip if it was voluntary.
While the service was taking place we got to remain on the balcony and to watch quietly from above. We were told however not to use flashes when taking photos and to please be quiet and not disturb the service. I wouldn’t want to be praying while a bunch of tourist watch me and take pictures of me so it was quite difficult for me to get myself to take photos during the service but I am quite glad that I did take some. Taking photos inside churches or temples always make me uncomfortable, especially if they are working churches or temples and people are worshiping here.
All the priests and pilgrims gather to pray and chant together at these services and I do wish that I could actually understand what they were saying. It sounded so peaceful. During the service the men and woman are separated with the men at the front and woman in the back. They all kneel down and sit in groups according to the coloured robes they are wearing. They would then bow as a group at certain parts of the service which looked quite spectacular from above. The pilgrims formed a sea of white while the priests stood out wearing either red, yellow or blue. These three colours are worn to symbolise the three principals of Cao Dai – red for Christianity, yellow for Buddhism or blue for Taoism. So I wonder if in essence they actually are still Christian or Buddhist and just pray and worship together?
The Cau Dai symbol is an all-seeing eye that is seen all over the temple while the temple decor in general is colourfully garish and very interesting all at the same time. I always thought this all-seeing eye was part of the Egyptian culture. Cau Dai is definitely a mixture of so many beliefs it is quite confusing.
Being able to attend this prayer session was a fabulous experience but it left me with so many questions about this colourful religion and its customs.