Upon arrival at Ho Chi Min City one day before the Asia Pacific Publishers Association (APPA) meeting, I went (almost two (2) hours by car) to Tay Ninh province to visit the Cao Dai Great Temple (CGT) which is the Holy See of Vietnam indigenous religion called Cao Daism
It was built circa 1933. It is a rococo structure merging the feature of a French Church, Chinese Pagoda, Hong Kong’s Tiger Balm Gardens and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.
The CGT is built over nine (9) levels representing the nine (9) steps to heaven, each level is marked by a pair of columns. At the far end of the sanctuary, eight plaster columns entwined with multicolored dragons support a dome representing the heavens – as does the rest of the ceiling. Under the dome is a giant star-speckled blue globe with the “divine eye” on it.
The largest of the seven chairs in front of the globe is reserved for the Cao Dai pope, a position that has remained unfilled since it was built. The next three chairs are for the authors of the religion’s law books. The remaining chairs are for the leaders of the three branches of Cao Daism, represented by the colors yellow, blue and red.
On both sides of the area between the columns are two pulpits similar in design to the minbar in mosques. Up near the altar are barely discernible portraits of six figures important to Cao Daism: Sakyamuni (Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism), Ly thai Bach (Li Taibai, a fairy from Chinese mythology), Khuong Tu Nha (Jiang Taigong, a Chinese saint), Laozi (the founder of Taoism), Quan Cong (guangong, Chinese God of War) and Quan Am (Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy).
A mural in the front of entry hall depicts the three signatories of “Third Alliance Between God and Man”; Chinese statesman and revolutionary leader Dr. Sun Yatsen (1866-1925) holds an ink stone; while the Vietnamese poet Nguyen Bin Khiem (1492-1587) and French poet and author Victor Hugo (1802-85) write “God and Humanity” and Love and Justice” in Chinese (Nguyen Binh Khiem writes with a brush; Victor Hugo uses a quill pen). Nearby signs in English, French and German each gives fundamentals of Cao Daism.
I am truly overwhelmed by varying influence and architecture of the structure
I was able to buy the Cao Daism hat as a souvenir from the restaurant where we ate lunch. It was inexpensive.
It took us two hours to go back to our hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. After a brief walk of the City, I am amazed with the present day modernity like the conversion of the historic Rex Hotel into a five-star hotel, the landscape, cleanliness, etc.
Thank you Lord for this trip.