Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cau Dai Holysee in Tay Ninh

Saturday we went on a tour with Saigon Tourist. Our first stop was Tay Ninh, in a province that borders Cambodia. In this province there is a religion called Caudai (pronounced Gow Die) and we visited their Holy-see. It is considered the Mecca for people who practice Caudaism.Caudai is a mixture a many religions including, Buddhism, Confusionism, Taoism, Muslim, Christianity, Free Thinkers, etc. The main three religions are Buddhism (represented by the color yellow), Confucianism (represented by the color red) and Taoism (represented by the color blue).
Followers of Caudai wear white in their mass ceremony, whereas the monks wear the color of the religious theory that they predominately study. People wearing strings on their head are praying for loved ones that have passed away.
The temple has three towers, each representing one of the main three predominant religions of Caudai.
The symbol of Caudai is the left eye. You can see the eye in the center of their temple and it is a symbol that is repeated throughout the temple decor.
Caudai means "Supreme God" and they believe that he created everything and including all the different religions, which is why it is a mixture of all religions. The Caudai religion was found around the 1920s and at one point was practiced in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Now it is mostly only the region of Tay Ninh that practice Caudaism.
The interior of the temple was full of rich detail. Lotuses, dragons, stars, bright colors, statues and other religious artifacts filled the inner chamber.
The temple has four masses a day. One at 6am, noon, 6pm and midnight. Tourists are allowed in the temple about 15 minutes before mass and can walk around and take pictures, after removing your shoes. About 5 minutes before mass starts, all tourists must go outside or to the upper floor.
This is when the monks and followers take their places for worship. Mass begins as musicians play traditional Vietnamese stringed instruments. Vocalist begin singing the prayerful chants.
The mass last for quite awhile and during this time, nobody is allowed to enter the temple grounds. This includes parts of the outside grounds that are considered sacred.
Tourists may leave the mass when they desire however. We only stayed for about 15 minutes.
It was quite an interesting and cool experience to witness. Something our tour guide told us was that it is disrespectful to take pictures inside the temple with yourself in them. That's why none of us are in the pictures.
After the mass, we had to go to the "happy house" a.k.a. bathroom. I've only seen this twice so far in Vietnam, but it's a little hard to get used to.... the hole in the floor toilet.
Gross. They way you flush it is that there is a bucket outside and you fill it full of water and then you pour it in the hole when you are done. At least they had an outdoor sink to wash your hands.

On our way to the next stop on our trip, our tour guide told us about the surrounding area. The people here are known for growing rice, tapioca, rubber trees, sugar cane and okra. We saw a lot of water buffalo grazing in the fields. They use the buffalo to eat the left over grass after the harvest.
In the area of Tay Ninh, there is a mountain. So far it's the only mountain I've seen in Vietnam. It is considered a sacred mountain. At the very pinnacle of the mountain is a Buddhist Temple. Many devout Buddhists will make a pilgrimage to the temple and climb the mountain by foot.

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