Ho Chi Minh City has lots of big religions in which there is Cao Dai religion. Each region has a temple to worship its gods and show its theory. Coming to Ho Chi Minh City, we should not miss the opportunity to visit Thanh That Sai Gon (Saigon Cao Dai Temple) of Cao Dai religion.
Cao Dai religion
Firstly, we need to know little about Cao Dai religion. Cao Dai is a new religion born in Vietnam in 1926. According to Cao Dai books, the head of Cao Dai region is the creator. Cao Dai theory is the juice of all religions such as Confucianism, Buddhism, Faoism, Christianism. The biggest worship place of Caodaism is in Tay Ninh Province.
Overview of Saigon Cao Dai Temple
Saigon Cao Dai Temple is a branch of Tay Ninh Cao dai Temple. Saigon Cao Dai Temple is located at 891 Tran Hung Dao, Ward 1, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City.
The area of the campus is 931 m2. Before 1949, this place had been a Villa built according to French style. It is bought to worship and work by Mr. Pham Cong Tac, the highest leader of Caodaism at that time. In 1973, Mr. Tran Dau Thanh, an officer of Caodaism, built the temple of Saigon Temple. In 1999, the temple was rebuilt into the temple with large scale as now.
Now, let us go for a sightseeing Saigon Cao Dai Temple. The front of Saigon Cao Dai Temple is opposite Tran Hung Dao Street. Standing outside, we see the three-arched-entrance gate. The upper part of the gate has a big word line: ĐẠI ĐẠO TAM KỲ PHỔ ĐỘ. It means Cao Dai is a big religion; the creator has opened religion two times before; this is the third time; this time, the creator purposes to save all human being. Đại Đạo Tam Kỳ Phổ Độ is the official name of Cadaism (Cao Dai is a common name).
The front of Saigon Cao Dai Temple
Now, let us go inside. In front of our eye is the temple. Looking generally, the temple looks like the church of Christianism. It has 2 high towers with 2 pointed roof-top. The tower on the left contains a big drum and the one on the right contains a big bell. On celebration days, between the two towers has a long “phướng” or “phuong” leaf. “Phuong” leaf is the same as a flag, but it contains a spirit meaning. It brings souls of human being to the paradise. The leaf has three lines with three colors: yellow, blue, red. Yellow is the symbol of Buddhism, blue is the symbol of Faoism, red is symbol of Confucianism. On the above of the blue line, there is the picture of eye. The eye symbolizes for the creator. The creator sees clearly everything including the mind of the human. The creator would reward people carrying out good things and punish people carrying out evil things. On the celebration days, there are also small flag strings. The flag also has three colors. The above has the official name of Caodaism in Chinese. The middle has the picture of eye and a picture with 3 things symbolizing for 3 big regions in East Asia.
Because this place has narrow space, the temple was built 3 floors. Now, we go into the inside of the ground floor. This is a sitting room. Let us come here to ask permission to visit the first floor and the second floor.
We go up the ladder to come to the second floor. In front of our eyes, there are the altars of the officers and believers of Caodaism passing away. Behind the altars is the place where the officers work.
We go up the ladder to come to the third floor. The front of the entrance, on the right, we see the statue of Honest God and on the left, the statue of Fierce God the right. Two gods are 2 characters in a Chinese tale which shows honest people can improve themselves to go to paradise; the fierce people can, too.
Honest God with gentle face
Fierce God with cruel face
At the back of the entrance, there is the picture “Three Saints sign agreement”. They are Chinese Leader Sun Yat Sen, Poet Victor Hugo and Vietnamese Professor Nguyen Binh Khiem. In the picture, Sun Yat Sen is holding an ink, Victor Hugo is writing words in French, Nguyen Binh Khiem is writing words in Chinese. The worlds mean equality and humanity. The saints represent human being to sign agreement with the creator to carry out equal and humane opinion.
The backside of the picture “Three Saints sign agreement” is the picture with three the high-class dignitaries of Caodaism. Those dignitaries are Ho phap Pham Cong Tac, Thuong Pham Cao Huynh Cu, Thuong sanh Cao Hoai Sang. Each person stands on a lotus put on a platform. Three platforms are winded by a snake with 7 heads. On 7 heads, there are 7 words in Chinese. Those are gladness, angry, love, hate, sadness, happiness, worry. That reminds people to control the emotion. In front of the picture is the place where the officers and believers kneel in prayer. If you want to pray, come into here.
The picture of Ho Phap Pham Cong Tac, Thuong Pham Cao Huynh Cu and Thuong Sanh Cao Hoai Sang.
Hiep Thien Dai (Hiệp Thiên Đài, Legislative Board)
In fact, Hiep Thien Dai is the 2 towers that we mentioned above. On the third floor, we can enter the towers where to communicate with the occult to receive divine messages, to preserve the religious laws and listen to the complaints of the miserable, meaning to symbolize the equality in the religion. Hiep Thien Dai is connected with the Main Hall – the area of Cuu Trung Dai and Bat Quai Dai on the this floor.
Cuu Trung Dai (Executive Board, Cửu Trùng Đài)
Located in the center of the Main Hall. It is supported by six pillars in two lines Cuu Trung Dai takes charge of missionary activities. Caodaists sit on their knees, pray in this area.
Bat Quai Dai (Bát Quái Đài, Supreme Holy Organ)
Located at the back of the second floor, Bat Quai Dai directs all activities of the universe under the leadership of Holy Spirits and God. The Supreme Holy Organ has eight dragon carved pillars and a big altar which has eight steps. The God Eye is worshipped on the top step.
At the back of the temple is the place worshiping the creator and the Gods representing for some religions, including Laotsu (老子), Shakyamuni, Confucius ( 孔子), avalokitesvara (觀世音), Lǐ Bái (李白), Quanvu (關羽), Jesus Christ, Khuongtunha (姜仔呀).
The above worshiping way shows the philosophy of Caodaism: The creator gathered all religions into Caodaism. The creator is a father and everything in the universe including human being is hís children. All must love one another.
If there is a chance, you should visit Tay Ninh Cao Dai Temple. It is much bigger than Saigon Temple. On the way, we can visit Cu Chi Tunnel. The trip lasts only one day.