What is Cao Dai or Caodaism?

If you are interested in broadening your mind in regards to different religions around the world, why not look into the details of Cao Dai (also referred to as Caodism). This religion focuses on monotheistic beliefs and is described as syncretist, which means that the religion tries to incorporate a variety of beliefs and practices into their way of thinking.


When tracing the roots of this religion, you will find that it was officially recognized in Tay Ninh, which can be found in the southern part of Vietnam. A man by the name of Ngo Van Chieu is credited for founding this particular belief system. The founding date of the religion is 1926. It is estimated that there are 2-6 million followers of Coa Dai, which is referred to in this shortened form. The full name given to the religion is actually Dai Dao Tam Ky Pho Do, which is roughly translated as “Great Religion [of The] Third Period [of] Revelation [and] Salvation.”


There are many different religions, belief systems and practices that the religion followers have embraced into their belief system, including Confucianism and Roman Catholicism. From Confucianism, various perceptions pertaining to ethics are followed. From Taoism, the religion draws from some of their occult practices. In looking into the way Roman Catholicism creates a hierarchy within their religious organization, Cao Dai establishes figures, such as popes within their organizations. From Buddhism, followers of Cao Dai also take with them thoughts regarding rebirth and karma. They also have a wide-range of saints, which have been noticeably “borrowed” from an array of different religions. The list may surprise you when you see figures, such as author, Victor Hugo. Additional people highly regarded within the religion, include Sun Yat-sen, Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, Pericle, Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha, as well as Confucius.


So, what do we know about the founder of this religion? It was 1919 and the founder, Ngo Van Chieu experienced a life-changing séance, which ended in his appointment of prophet of a new religion, which was formally recognized until 1926. At the time, Chieu was a French administrator in Indochina. It is believed that during that séance, he received a message from a higher being. His experiences are associated with the direct understanding of heaven and earth. It is often referred to as the Third Period of Salvation.


The rest of the history of the religion deals with the establishment of a Cao Dai army in 1943. This occurred during the Japanese occupation of Indochina. When the war ceased, the Cao Dai became a strong voice within politics on a national scheme. At first, they gave their support to Premier Ngo Dinh Diem, but then relinquished this support. After 1956, the Cao Dai was disbanded by the Premier, sending the pope (Pham Cong Tac) of this particular sect into hiding.


When the Communist takeover of the area occurred in 1975, the government attempted to repress the religion. Worship centers were created throughout communities filled with Vietnamese refugee. By the early 1990’s, the religion was thriving with about 2 million followers located in a wide-range of destinations, such as Vietnam, France, Cambodia, as well as the United States. Today, the numbers are closer to 6 million. The headquarters of Cao Dai can be located in Tay Ninh, which is close to Ho Chi Minh City, which was once known as Saigon.