The unfortunately overexposed photo (taken by me) conveys just a small part of this intricate building and a few Cao Dai adherents during a service. I describe my visit there in A Spear Carrier in Viet Nam, but as I wrote, I lack the vocabulary to describe the building’s intricate decorations. So I just call it “Asian Rococo.” The building was a tourist attraction for Americans, even during the war. It was an easy day trip from Saigon.
The Cao Dai religion is a fantastic melding of world influences. A basic tenet of the Cai Dai faith is “All Religions are One,” and among its pantheon of “saints” are Victor Hugo, Joan of Arc, Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius and Louis Pasteur (there are more).
Cao Dai was initially active in Vietnamese politics, unfriendly to the French, largely opposed to Diem, but also critical of the NLF. It had to strike a delicate balance between the Saigon government and the NLF, who dominated much of the area, as Tay Ninh served as a path by which its armed forces could both enter and exit SVN via Cambodia. Cao Dai was banned after 1975, but has been reinstated and at least allowed to exist. I understand its “Holy See” is again a tourist attraction.