A Place Where Writer Victor Hugo is a Saint

There is a religion in Vietnam called Cao Dai. The full name is   Đại Đạo Tam Kỳ Phổ Độ (Great Religion [of The] Third Period [of] Revelation [and] Salvation). That  might be the least complicated thing I know about it. The religion has approximately 30 million followers in Vietnam. They believe that before god existed, there was the Tao. Then a big bang occured from which God was created. In order for God to create the heavans and the earth he first had to create the Yin and the Yang. All things followed that.

The Cao Dai people believe that there are 36 levels of heaven and that there 72 planets with intelligent life.  Planet number 1 is the closest to heaven, and planet 72 the furthest away. Earth is planet number 68. The Cao Dai folk believe that the lowliest person on planet 67 would not choose to be a king on planet 68, and so forth up the chain.

They have 3 saints. One is  Sun Yat-sen, a former ruler in China.  Another is Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, a Vietnamese poet and sage and then we have Victor Hugo who wrote the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Our guide was a Cao Dai guy and I think he was perplexed that I was perplexed as he tried to explain it all to me. He quickly gave up and just showed us the really cool temple. So I will stop now, and just show you some pictures.

This was my first view of the temple and I was already impressed. I have seen an awful lot of temples in the last 18 months, but nothing quite like this.

The front view of the temple. This place is basically the Vatican for the Cao Dai. There are many Cao Dai temples in Vietnam, but nothing this big. They are all very ornate.

A closeup of the front door just to show that these people are serious about the bling.

The eye is the most prevalent icon of the church. God is symbolized by the Divine Eye, specifically the left eye because Yang is the left side and God is the master of Yang. Got it?

We arrived just before the noon mass, which is the main mass for each day. There are four. These two guys are leaders in the church. The colors represent which religion they come from. I believe red is Catholic and yellow is Buddhist. Notice the eye on the cool hat.

Once inside the door you see this painting with three saints. Right there in the middle is Victor Hugo, and you thought I was joking.

We were there for the noon mass. This is not Easter or something, it was just a Thursday. The guy standing in back has the job of making sure everyone is perfectly aligned. Look at those columns, I have a close-up for you shortly.

This picture shows that the leaders in the colors are separated from the devotees in white

As promised, here is a close look at one of the columns. Of course there are dragons on them. Dragons seem to be everywhere in Asia.

The devotees and kahunas are in front of the alter of the divine eye. This is a big globe maybe 15 feet across.I am not sure which of the planets it is supposed to represent.

Well, that will do it for Cao Dai. I liked everything I learned about the religion, and I sure would like to see plant 67 and up someday. I wonder if I have the frequent flyer miles for that!

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Comment by Sam Scribe on September 23, 2011 at 9:56pm
Victor Hugo was a great writer, but a saint? I'm reminded of the guy in Good Morning, Vietnam, who (unaccountably) has a crush on Walter Brennan.

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