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Cao Dai Holy See
The Cao Dai clergy has no objection to your photographing temple objects, but you cannot photograph people without their permission, which is seldom granted. However, you can photograph the prayer sessions from the upstairs balcony, an apparent concession to the troops of tourists who come here every day.
It's important that guests wear modest and respectful attire inside the temple; that means no shorts or sleeveless T-shirts, although sandals are OK since you have to take them off anyway before you enter.
Set above the front portico of the Great Temple is the divine eye. Americans often comment that it looks as if it were copied from the back of a US$1 bill (is this why it's called 'The Almighty Dollar'?). Lay women enter the Great Temple through a door at the base of the tower on the left. Once inside they walk around the outside of the colonnaded hall in a clockwise direction. Men enter on the right and walk around the hall in an anticlockwise direction. Shoes and hats must be removed upon entering the building. The area in the centre of the sanctuary is reserved for Cao Dai priests.
A mural in the front entry hall depicts the three signatories of the Third Alliance Between God and Man': the Chinese statesman and revolutionary leader Dr Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) holds an ink stone; while the Vietnamese poet Nguyen Binh Khiem (1492-1587) and French poet and author Victor Hugo (1802-85) write 'God and Humanity' and 'Love and Justice' in Chinese and French (Nguyen Binh Khiem writes with a brush; Victor Hugo uses a quill pen). Nearby signs in English, French and German each give a slightly different version of the fundamentals of Cao Daism.
The Great Temple is built over nine levels, representing the nine steps to heaven; each level is marked by a pair of columns. At the far end of the sanctuary, eight plaster columns entwined with multicoloured dragons support a dome representing the heavens -as does the rest of the ceiling. Under the dome is a giant star-speckled blue globe with the 'divine eye' on it.
The largest of the seven chairs in front of the globe is reserved for the Cao Dai pope, a position that has remained unfilled since 1933. The next three chairs are for the three men responsible for the religion's law books. The remaining chairs are for the leaders of the three branches of Cao Daism, represented by the colours yellow, blue and red.
On both sides of the area between the columns are two pulpits similar in design to the minbar in mosques. During festivals the pulpits are used by officials to address the assembled worshippers. The upstairs balconies are used if the crowd overflows.
Up near the altar are barely discernible portraits of six figures important to Cao Daism: Sakyamuni (Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism), Ly Thai Bach (Li Taibai, a fairy from Chinese mythology), Khuong Tu Nha (Jiang Taigong, a Chinese saint), Laozi (the founder of Taoism), Quan Cong (Guangong, Chinese God of War) and Quan Am (Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy).