Cao Dai Temple

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Disney meet the Vatican at the Cathedral  of the Cao Dai at Long Than, north west of  Saigon.

Described in the Lonely Planet as  a "rococo extravaganza combining the architectural idiosyncrasies of a French church, a Chinese pagoda, the Tiger Balm Gardens and Madame Tussaud's".

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Caodaism was founded in Saigon in 1925 by the mystic Ngo Van Chieu.  His intention was to combine the faiths of all Vietnamese under one  supreme being.

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The cathedral and Holy See at Long Than was built in 1927.  At the height of its power in the early 1930's there numbered one and a half million faithful.

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Essential reading for anyone planning a trip to Vietnam  is  Graham Greene's  'The Quiet American' set in the 1950's

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Prayer sessions are held four times a day and we attended the noon time ceremony.  Visitors are welcome but not allowed on the floor of the temple.  We were directed to a balcony from where this photograph was taken. White robed followers are happy to describe their beliefs and answer questions.

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There has been no  Pope since 1933.  The three hooded figures on the front row are lady bishops.  Above the altar on a paper globe is the Cao Dai symbol of the divine eye surrounded by sun rays.

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Caodaism   combines the three main religions of  Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism and includes Christianity, Islam and the traditional Vietnamese  Cult of Ancestor Worship.   The robes of the priests who are non professional, indicate their branch of the religion.  Yellow for Buddhism, Red for Confucianism and azure for Taoism.

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On entering the temple shoes are removed..  Men enter and worship on the right and women on the left..  In spite of the somewhat bizarre surroundings we found the noonday  ceremony with its music and chanting to be very moving.  We were warned that the clergy would be unwilling to be photographed but this was not the case.  Even the octogenarian lady bishops sat for a 'portrait'.

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