Friday, November 13, 2009

The Great Divine Temple for Cao Dai in Vietnam

One of the Vietnam excursions that students are particularly fond of is the treck to the Cao Dai Great Divine Temple located near the Cambodian border. The religion was founded in 1926 in southern Vietnam. It has roughly six million follows many of whom worship in temples, which a spread along the Mekong Delta. Caodaism is a mixture of three other Eastern religions: Buddhism, Confucionism and Taoism. The Cao Dai banner pays homage to these three foundational religions. Concepts from each religion, such as vegetarianism, yin and yang and reincarcation, have been appropriated. The interior of the temple also shows some of these influences; for example, situated around the temple are 28 dragon-shaped columns, which represent the manifestations of the Buddha.
Services at the temple are held several times each day. Students attended the noon services, and observed from the balcony. A group of musicians and singers led the congregation in a 45-minute prayer session. The  music is Vietnamese, but hymns sound a bit like Christian spirituals rather than traditional Buddhist or Taoist chanting.
Below is a clip taken from the balcony of the temple during the beginning procession of the noon service. Women and lay people are dressed in white, while men of rank within the church hierarchy wear solid colored robes of red, blue or yellow.

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