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Inside Cao Dai’s Holy See

Cao Dai or Caodaism is a Vietnamese religion that was founded in the early 1920’s by Ngo Van Chieu. It brings together aspects of Confucianism, Taoism, theories of karma and rebirth from Buddhism, and a hierarchy much like the Roman Catholic church. The Cao Dai saints include some diverse figures:

  • Buddha
  • Confucius
  • Jesus Christ
  • Mohammed
  • Pericles
  • Julius Caesar
  • Joan of Arc
  • Victor Hugo

Cao Dai seeks to unite all of humanity through a common vision of the Supreme Being in order to promote peace and understanding throughout the world. Cao Dai (“High Tower”) is regarded as the same supreme honored in all major religions, but the term Cao Dai avoids gender, personality or other earthly attributes. God is represented as the Divine Eye, an eye in a triangle, which appears on the fascades of the sect’s temples.

The photographs below are from the headquarters of Cao Dai at Tay Ninh, not far from Ho Chi Minh City, and I was lucky enough to make a visit there when I was in Vietnam. Cao Dai is a fascinating religion and the Holy See is one of the most colourful places of worship I’ve ever visited.

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