Home > Vietnam: Temples

Vietnam: Temples

March 28th, 2011 at 03:58 am

Some people love pictures, others less so. Big Grin And a picture show isn't particularly fiscal. I plan two more picture posts: temples of Vietnam, and some of the Cambodia pictures.

One of the surprises of Vietnam was the religious life. There was plenty of it, something unexpected in a socialist country. In the north and during the war especially, it turns out that religion was restricted 'softly' using old-fashioned peer pressure: it was considered uncool. In other words, your grandmother went and wasn't harassed, but no one else in the family went. Now all the temples are busy with "customers" of all ages and offerings galore because you just never know who should be appeased. I missed the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, where Ho Chi Minh is preserved (like Lenin was in the Kremlin) and on display. Too bad for me, the mausoleum is definitely a temple for a socialist true believer.

Vietnam has a large number of Confucian temples, a legacy of a thousand years of Chinese occupation. Emperor worship belonged in that also – you worshiped hierarchy starting with your father and your ancestors and your Emperor was top dog in that. In addition to the Confucian, there are large number of Buddhist temples, a smattering of Catholic Churches, and then a couple of big outliers – Hindu, Angkor-esque ruins at My Son dating from the 9 – 14 century or so from when mid and south Vietnam was the Champa Kingdom, and a Cao Dai temple.

Its painting with the broad brush, but in general it seemed to me that the north is more Confucian and the south is more Buddhist, Catholic and Cao Dai. Cao Dai is a new one for me – it is a Buddhist inflected religion that began in the 1920s, stressing the relatedness of all religions – those temples are generally found in the south.

Hanoi: Temple of Literature. If you scored well on the mandarin exam, not only did you serve the emperor, you got your name on a stone stele resting on a stone turtle symbolic of perseverance, and stored in perpetuity at the temple of literature. There is a Confucian temple inside – offerings are plentiful, varied, and recent.

Hue: Ma Thien pagoda, a Buddhist temple.

Hue: The Citadel, the French name for the Vietnamese emperor’s version of the Forbidden City. Once crocodiles swam in the moat.

Hue: Inside the Citadel, showing the long expanses inside. The Vietnamese tour guide told us that when he first came, they were still cultivating rice along these straight-aways.

South of Hoi An: The My Son ruins. These were very reminiscent of the Angkors of Cambodia. Quite a bit of destruction occurred during the war – there were bomb craters everywhere.

Saigon: The neon blue Virgin Mary in the Saigon Cathedral of Notre Dame. The little plaques are the especially generous donors.

Saigon: This was another shot from the 20th floor of the block below – minarets and the square is a Muslim temple.

Outside of Can Tho: The ‘eye’ in the center between the two steeples defines a Cao Dai temple.

Cao Dai Temple: the inside is just as brilliantly colored as the outside – Walt Disney color scheme, I joked. The pillars are especially interesting. Greek Corinthian on the top, Confucian Chinese on the bottom. Note the center blue area at the front top of the altar.

Cao Dai Temple: Zoomed in on the center blue area on the top of the altar. No burning bridges here. You have Buddha, a couple of Dao priests, Jesus with a reddish beard, and Confucius.

2 Responses to “Vietnam: Temples”

  1. FrugalTexan75 Says:

    I for one enjoy your pictures immensely. They are the only way I'll probably ever get to see these places. Smile

  2. Looking Forward Says:

    I REALLY enjoy your pictures! I am so happy you've taken the time and effort to post all of them.
    Thank you! Big Grin

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