“Cao Dai Great Temple” by Mark Indig

The image was taken during a 2013 photo trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. The Temple is the birthplace of Caodaism, officially established in the city of Tây Ninh in southern Vietnam in 1926. The full name of the religion is Đại Đạo Tam Kỳ Phổ Độ (The Great Faith for the Third Universal Redemption).

Adherents engage in practices such as prayer, veneration of ancestors, nonviolence, and vegetarianism with the goal of union with God and freedom from saṃsāra (the cyclicality of all life, matter, existence).

Estimates of the number of Caodaists in Vietnam vary; government figures estimate 4.4 million Caodaists affiliated to the Cao Đài Tây Ninh Holy See, with numbers rising up to 6 million if other branches are added. However estimates vary. The United Nations found about 2.5 million Cao Dai followers in Vietnam as of January 2015. An additional number of adherents in the tens of thousands, primarily ethnic Vietnamese, live in North America, Cambodia, Europe and Australia as part of the Cao Dai diaspora.

Caodaism teaches that throughout human history, God the Father has revealed his truth many times through the mouths of many prophets, but these messages were always either ignored or forgotten due to humanity’s susceptibility to secular desires. Adherents believe that the age has now come when God speaks to humanity directly. The primary objective of the Third Amnesty is the unity of all religions, which will bring mankind together in a universal family for universal peace.

Cao Dai blends Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, Confucianism, and Islam and includes in its unusual pantheon: Victor Hugo, Sun Yat-sen, Trang Trinh (the Vietnamese Nostradamus), Joan of Arc, Muhammad, Moses, Louis Pasteur, Shakespeare, and Lenin.

The temple is extravagantly decorated, with the Third Eye as the main symbol. It is both a place of devotion and tourism, so it was literally packed on the day I was there. It was very difficult to get a shot of the activities on the floor without hordes of people in the background, so I found a balcony and leaned over as far as I could and held my breath to capture this composition.

What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

Symmetry/Composition and culture.

If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

I would have someone to hold my feet while hanging over the balcony.

Mark Indig shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


Mark Indig, Los Angeles, USA


Equipment and settings

Sony NEX-7, 18-200 lens
60mm equivalent / 1/80 sec., f/5, ISO 640

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