Saigon Cao Dai Temple

Rachel Tran
Rachel Tran | Published: September 18, 2020

If you come to Ho Chi Minh City and you feel bored with ẹnjoying in the night streets, walking around and eating snacks with friends, watching the city from the skyscrapers, choosing a sacred location will make you feel refreshed. Saigon Cao Dai  Temple, with a combination of East-West harmonious architecture, will make you not disappointed.

    Location: 891 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ward 1, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City

I. History of Saigon Cao Dai Temple

Before 1949, the practice place of Cao Dai religion in Sai Gon was located at Thai Hoa pagoda (75 Co Bac street, District 1). This is originally a pagoda of Minh Su religion and then is contributed to Cao Dai to worship Chi Ton (Master of the Universe). Cao Dai followers around the region come here to worship on holidays. This is also the place where the office of Kham Chau Dao Sai Gon at that time. Today, this place is a spacious Buddha Shrine, called Thai Hoa Mother Buddha Goddess  Shrine.

Outside of Saigon Cao Dai temple

In 1949, due to the religious need, Great Guardian Pham Cong Tac bought a French villa, located on an area of ​​931 square meters. The address at that time was 107 (now 891) Tran Hung Dao Street, District 5, Sai Gon, to set up a working office. Therefore, he and his officials can rest and work here.

Later, Guardian Pham Cong Tac gave this place to Chau Dao Saigon (Sai Gon religion brach) as a religious practice site, at that time it was the ground house, in front of this place worships Chi Ton, on the side worships Buddha, and the rear house is working and resting place for the administrators and the directorates of the religion in the territory of Saigon.

Until 1973, Cao Dai believer Thuong Dau Thanh of Sai Gon Branch at that time built an extra floor.  The second floor worshipped Duc Chi Ton and Buddha Goddess. It is more spacious than the old one. The first floor now is used as a restroom and creates additional doors in the style of the three-door tradition.

After 1975, this place was seriously degraded. In the mid-1990s, when the religious policy was more open and the rapid need for development, rulers of the Saigon Branch held a large meeting leading to the decision to rebuild the Holy Temple according to model number 4 of Tay Ninh Holy Temple.

This is a large building of Cao Dai religion, which was built in 2 years. It was inaugurated on July 14, 2001. The total construction fee was approximately 1,335,496,000 VND (equivalent 100,000 USD at the current exchange rate), which was a huge amount of money at that time.

Structure and Architecture in Saigon Cao Dai Temple

II. Structure of Cao Dai Temple

Saigon Cao Dai Temple place has three floors.

1. The Ground Floor

This has the living hall of the faithful believers and the workplace of the managers of the District 5 branch. The back is the kitchen and auxiliary works (water reservoir, toilet, public bathrooms).

2. The First Floor

This is the place worshipping the legendary spirit Cuu Huyen That To and stateroom. It has a small balcony overlooking Tran Hung Dao street. It is also architecturally and beautifully decorated. Behind the house is a separate room for resting.

3. The Second Floor

This is the main part, built in the model of a Cao Dai Temple including Hiep Thien Dai floor, bell towers, empty floors, Cuu Trung Dai, Bagua Dai. This floor is a 4-storey house, with an arched ceiling, dragon pillars, etc.

3.1. Cuu Trung Dai

The middle part of the Main Hall is the area of ​​ Cuu Trung Dai, connecting Hiep Thien Dai and Bagua Dai. This area has 6 pillars divided into 2 sides, but according to the rules of the Tay Ninh Holy Temple, it is not decorated with dragons as in the Holy Temple. Beneath each pillar is a large red lotus.  It is the place of worship of dignitaries, officers, and believers.

3.2. Bagua Dai

Bagua Dai is located at the end of the temple. This area has 8 dragon pillars arranged in Bagua shape. It also has a large altar with 8 steps. The first step is a large eye that symbolizes the Supreme God. There is an oil lamp called the Taiji lamp that is always lit, under the eye. The second step is the altar worshiping three founders of three major religions, Buddha Shakyamuni, Lao Tzu, and Confucius. The third step worships Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Ly Bai,  Guan Yu. The fourth step worships Jesus. The fifth worships Jiang Ziya. The sixth, seventh and final steps are places where your offerings are placed: a vase, a fruit plate, three glasses of wine, a cup of tea, a cup of water, two candlesticks and a large incense burner.

3.3. Hiep Thien Dai

Hiep Thien Dai in Saigon Temple consists of two bell floors and drums. Each floor is 18m. The lower is equipped with a ventilated box, creating the word “CAO” in Vietnam and Chinese characters, on which are 4 words “Bach Ngoc Chung Dai” in Vietnamese. There is a large bell on the floor called Bach Ngoc Chung. The top of the below floor has carved a lozenge symbolizing a valuable item of Ly Thiet Qua, which is said to be the previous life of Thuong Trung Nhut officer.

The lower floor has a ventilating box, creating the letters “Dai” in the Vietnamese and the Chinese language, on which there are 4 words “Lac Am Co Dai” written in Vietnamese. There was a large drum called Loi Am Co. The top of the floor below the lightning rod is carved a basket of blue flowers which are valuable items of Long Nu, the attendant of  Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. She is said to be the previous karma of the First Master Huong Thanh.

The main entrance area has 4 pillars called Long Hoa Pillars. Each side has two parallel pillars. One has carved a red dragon, the other has carved a lotus flower. All of them are delicate carvings, bright colors, symbolizing Long Hoa Congress, a period of evolutionary transition of mankind.

The middle of the entrance has a painting, which draws a hand from the clouds to hold a scale on the globe. It is called the Scale of Justice, symbolizing justice for judging human sins. On the right of the entrance is the statue of Mr. Thien. On the left of the entrance is the statue of Mr. Ac.

On top of the outside temple, the Eye of God symbol is embossed. Above, there is a Maitreya Buddha statue sitting on the back of a white tiger and a lotus tower. The symbol of the tiger symbolizes the year of Fire Tiger (1926), which is the year of the initiation of Cao Dai religion.

Going through the five steps of the main entrance, you will go to Tinh Tam Dien Area. In the front of this, you can see a picture of the Three Saints of Cao Dai. They are signing the Thien Nhan peace treaty, painted in the model of Tay Ninh Holy Temple.

The inner compartment of the Holy Temple is called the Main Hall behind the Cao Dai Three Saints painting. Opposite with the God altar, that is the Dharmapala altar drawing the character of Qi in the Chinese language.

III. Highlights and Activities in Saigon Cao Dai Temple

Watching Cao Dai believers pray is the main highlight when visiting the temple. They can wear clothes with different sizes and colors: white, yellow, blue and red. In the temple, men sit on the right and women on the left. They pray in their sacred temple and belief.

You also take the pictures outside the temple, not inside. With paintings and amazing structure outside, you can have the most beautiful photos.

IV. Tips on Visiting Cao Dai Temple

To enter the temple, your shoes must be outside. Visitors are not allowed to enter the main door. They must go to the side door, the male to the right, and the female to the left.

Visitors are allowed to visit the temple at any time, but it is advisable to choose the Mass hour (usually 12:00 am) to see the solemn atmosphere of the Cao Dai believers.

Visitors are not allowed to take photos of people taking the background of the Holy Eye, only capturing the scenes.

Because this is a solemn place, you need to pay attention to how to dress appropriately, avoid offensive clothes. An advice for you is wearing comfortable clothes, avoid high-heel shoes to move easily.

V. How to Get to Cao Dai Temple?

The only transport route in Ho Chi Minh City has routes passing through Sai Gon Temple: Number 01. You can use this to get there easily.

It can be said that when you visit Sai Gon Cao Dai Temple, visitors can experience one of the most unique architecture and imbued with national culture. Come here and have your own valuable experiences!

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