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Tay Ninh

Tay Ninh is situated 95 km north-west of Ho Chi Minh city and is the original home of the Cao Dai religious sect. It is from here that Cao Daism has spread its influence onto surrounding provokes. In time past, this sect ran its own army, as they had been ruthlessly oppressed by Diem and his regime. The Cao Dais denied support to the Viet Cong, and after reunification, they were punished for this intransigence by the confiscation of their lands and temples which were not returned to them until 1985.

The central Cao Dai Temple is 4 km from Tay Ninh in the village of Long Hoa . Surrounded by a series of schools and administrative buildings, the temple contains an awesome array of colors and symbolism unlike anything else you will see in Vietnam. Built entirely with donations from its parishioners, the temple is built on nine levels and the inside is lined with a series of pillars with ornate colored dragons curling up them. The ceiling of the temple is painted sky blue and adorned with white fluffy clouds, said to represent the heavens. In fact, almost everything within the temple holds some symbolic value. At the far end of the great hallway is a large brightly colored globe upon which is a large eye. This is the divine "all seeing eye:, believed to represent the creator of the universe and similar eyes can be seen lining both sides of the building within its lattice windows. The temple always looks like it has just had a new coat of paint and is extremely photogenic.

Masses are held at 6 am, midday, 6 PM and midnight . It is worth timing your visit to the temple for one of these ceremonies as they are quite spectacular to witness. Men enter from and pray on the right side of the temple whereas women enter from and pray left. During festivals, all the worshippers are dressed from head to toe in white to add a bit more formality to the scene. The three colors you will see are those of red, yellow and blue which represent Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism respectively. If a funeral is in progress, an icon is placed on the central altar for each of the deceased. Although you are not allowed in the actual area of worship during prayer, you are allowed in the foyer, from where you can take some great photos of the mass. The Cao Dai do not mind having their photo taken, though it is always polite to ask first.


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