Cao Dai

Caodaism, or the “third great way of salvation,” is an indigenous religion of Vietnam that reflects a singular sociocultural and historical environment—Cochin China of the 1920s and the French colonial presence. Inspired by Chinese spirit mediumship and divination and also by Western spiritualism and Theosophy, a group of Vietnamese civil servants entered into communication with local, Chinese, and European spirits. The first oracles quickly constituted a canon, rituals, and a strong hierarchy inspired by Catholicism, from which Caodaism intended to differentiate itself, becoming its main competitor on Vietnamese soil.

Theologically, the “Master [residing in] the high tower” (thay Cao Dai)—an avatar of the Chinese Jade Emperor—augured a renovation of Buddhism and, more broadly, a codified unification of the Sino-Vietnamese Three Teachings (Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism). Moreover, ...

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