Ashley and I got off the bus, leaving the comfort of air conditioning behind for the insane heat reflecting off the massive amounts of blacktop surrounding the temple. Strangely, everyone's first thought was, "I need to go to the bathroom." My first thought was, I need to get back on the bus. But maybe that was just me. As I mounted Sophie on my back in the Osprey babypack, I looked to the only shade. The shade was by a chainlink fence. On the other side of the fence was a monkey. A wild monkey. Well, at least a monkey that wasn't in a zoo. As to this particular monkey's wildness, I can't really say anything...
While the rest of the group went to the loo, I set off around the grounds to take a look at the Caodai temple.
Caodaism is a 'traditional' Vietnamese religion. You can interpret traditional however you like, but in any case Caodaism is very Vietnamese. It emerged in the 1920s amid a general Vietnamese sentiment of anticolonialism and nationalist resistance. In other words, France had colonized Vietnam and the Vietnamese did not like this very much. Interestingly, you can kind of see the French colonial influence in the architecture of the Caodai temple(s). Below are some pictures of the exterior of the Caodai temple we visited:
As we geared up to go inside, the men had to go to the right side of the temple and the women the left. We had to take our shoes off way back by the asphalt and walk on bamboo mats and carpet up into the temple proper. Entering the temple was very prescribed and ritualistic, however once inside, we could stand by one another, talk, and even take video and pictures.
The exterior of the temple was nothing in comparison to the vivid color that made up the intricate--almost arabesque--designs that adorned the main hall, floor to ceiling.
Both the interior and the exterior, however, are filled with symbols. Couldn't tell you what they mean--but they were everywhere. This is the left eye of Cao Dai.
Cao Dai is revered as the highest deity--the creator of the universe. However, Caodaism incorporates many different religions, including Confucianism and Christianity. Here you can see Christ and Confucius, among others.
Shortly after exploring the main floor, we were ushered out into the entrance and a prayer ceremony began.
In the main hall, tons of people gather, kneeling, to pray. On the second floor, in a sort of loft, musicians accompanied the melodic praying.
We wandered around for a bit, taking videos and pictures. Below are some more pictures of the temple. Not all of the monks were in the main hall praying. Some were directing the traffic of tourists watching the ceremony, others were lounging about. Others still were admiring Sophie.
Let us know what you think of the pictures. I recommend reading up on Caodaism, the Wikipedia article is interesting. If that does sate your interest, let me know, I have a couple articles specifically concerning the syncretism in the religion.