Jesus, Lenin and Victor Hugo: The "Outrageous" Syncretism of Caodai Religion in Vietnam and California

Janet Hoskins, 2013 Lee Kong Chian Distinguished Fellow, APARC at Stanford University

RSVP required by 5PM May 7

The Caodai religion is unique.  Born in French Indochina in 1926, it mixes Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism with organizational elements from the Catholic Vatican and French spirit-writing practices.  It is a masculine monotheism that worships Cao Dai (the Jade Emperor) as the head of an elaborate pantheon of “spiritual advisors” who include Asian sages, Jesus, Victor Hugo, Vladimir Lenin, and Jeanne d’Arc.  It emerged in tandem with the Vietnamese struggle for independence as a form of “cultural nationalism” expressed as spiritual revival.  Described as both conservative and revolutionary, nostalgic and futuristic, it has been called an “outrageous form of syncretism”—an excessive, even transgressive blending of piety with blasphemy, obeisance with rebellion, the old with the new.   It counts some four million followers worldwide and has grown rapidly in the US, with dozens of temples in California.  Using the case of Caodaism, Prof. Hoskins will explore the controversial concept of “syncretism” and its application to Asian religions.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013 | 12:00 pm — 1:30 pm
Okimoto Conference Room, Encina Hall East, 3rd Floor