The Vietnamese Illuminati Symbol

Everyone is familiar with the Illuminati’s icon, an eye framed by a triangle, but it seems the prominent symbol of the Vietnamese religion Caodaism isn’t quite as well known — despite it having the same design.

Caodaism is the third most widely practiced religion in Vietnam. It is an indigenous religion that is the combination of a wide range of other religions, such as Buddhism,  Confucianism, Taoism, and etc. Caodaism emerged in the 1920s in Southern Vietnam and was officially established as a religion in the city of Tây Ninh.  

Followers of this faith believe in a supreme being named Cao Đài (meaning Highest Lord), who created the universe and distributed his spirit to animals, humans, plants, and other materials alike. Caodaists believe in distinct features from different religions. They believe in kharma, yin and yang, and reincarnation. They also believe that animals and humans are comprised of a body (the physical), a spirit (Cao Đài’s spirit), and a soul (their emotions and personality).

Image result for caodaism symbol

Image: http://daisyresort.com/Tin-tuc/cao-dai-temple-in-phu-quoc-literally-means-high-tower–daisy-resort

The primary message of Caodaism is to unite religions and to bring humanity together. Caodaism strives to create a universal family, and thus create universal peace.

Caodaists practice their faith through prayer and meditation. On a day-to-day basis, Caodaists try to avoid committing evil. They show kindness towards humans, animals, and plants alike, and they follow Confucian practices as well. Daily prayer is essential to a Caodaist’s daily ritual, and they are expected to eat a vegetarian diet ten days each month.

Followers of the Cao Dai faith practice four daily rituals, either at a temple or at a home altar. Once every year, Caodaists hold a ceremony where they pray to Cao Đài, the Holy Mother, the founders of the five major world religions, and the founders of Caodaism. They also have monthly rituals that take place at midnight on the first and fifteenth days of each lunar month.

 

Caodaism

Image: http://www.huris.com/web/rel/r5207.htm

 

The symbol of their faith is Cao Đài’s Divine Eye, which is often framed by a triangle. His left eye serves as a reminder for Caodaists that the Supreme Being is omnipresent. In addition to worshiping a supreme deity, Caodaists also worship other spirits and their ancestors.

An interesting aspect of the Caodaist faith is the wide range of different gods they worship. In addition the their Supreme Being Cao Đài, they also worship figures from Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, and Geniism. Caodaism prefers to stretch its reaches towards all other religions by incorporating them into their faith, rather than trying to convince other that their faith is the one and only way to live.

Caodaism is one in hundreds of thousands of religions practiced in Asia. In Vietnam alone, there are 7-8 million followers. Worldwide, there are around 30,000 more followers.

Caodaism has an interesting approach to dealing with those of differing faith. Rather than trying to reign supreme over all other faiths, Caodaism tries to unite them. Rather than trying to eradicate all other faiths, Caodaism embraces them.

With news and media being filled with discriminatory and outright hateful content about different beliefs, races, and political views, there is something to be learned from the relatively young religion of Caodaism. Caodaism emphasizes the importance of unity and acceptance. It teaches its followers to embrace others even if their views are different from theirs, and perhaps it’s time we learned a thing or two from the Cao Dai faith?

 

Thank you so much for reading this article! I post new content every week, so don’t forget to like, comment, and/or subscribe. Happy readings!

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caodaism#Religious_mission

http://www.religioustolerance.org/caodaism.htm

http://www.religionfacts.com/cao-dai

Through the Eyes of Half-Asian Americans

There are times when we feel as though we don’t belong anywhere, as though we can’t affiliate with any certain group or niche. This struggle to find a place where we fit in can be overwhelming, stressful, and sometimes even isolating. For many of us out there, we struggle to find people who share similar interests or similar goals to associate with, but for a certain friend of mine, her struggle was between two entirely different cultures.

When I asked her whether she would like to be interviewed for this article or not, she readily responded with a wonderfully written explanation entailing her struggle as someone who is of mixed-Asian descent:

If you’re looking to learn about my nationalities’ cultures and customs, you came to the wrong place. You see, I’m a mixed Asian kid. Ever since birth, I have been confused as heck. I’m half Bangladesh and half Taiwanese, so my parents’ culture, traditions, and languages, and whatnot don’t match at all.

I’m not a true Buddhist; neither am I a true Muslim. I don’t know how to speak Bengali, and although I can understand conversational Chinese, I’m godawful at responding verbally because tones and accents are difficult! Fully Bengali and fully Taiwanese people both look down on me because I don’t know anything about their culture. Heck, I don’t even look like the natives! One time I went to Taiwan, and this one lady came up to me speaking in Spanish!

Even though my mixed descent has exposed me to two different Asian cultures, I am completely Americanized. I can’t use chopsticks well, I can’t join in on my relatives’ conversations when they speak about our histories, and I could barely speak with my grandparents and relatives because of our language barrier. And to be honest, I know much more about Korean culture from all the K-Dramas I watch than I do my own culture. Sad, right?

 My friend’s struggle to find a culture she can identify with is common among those of half-Asian descent. Being someone of mixed descent, she does not identify with either her Bengali or Taiwanese heritage. Sometimes she and her mom would celebrate Lunar New Year and Moon Day. However, they aren’t all that involved in their community, and her mother feels as though Americans look down on their traditions, so more often than not they don’t celebrate their cultural holidays.

Because of this, she identifies as an American. I asked a few other half-Asian friends of mine, and they identified as American as well, rather than whatever half-Asian they are. One of my friends, who is half-Chinese and half-Caucasian, says that what ethnicity she identifies with varies depending on whatever she is feeling at the moment. But whether she is feeling more white or more Asian, she finds that it is not necessarily a struggle for her to choose between the two due to the nature of American culture.

American culture is really just a mixture of different cultures and customs, so I don’t ever feel compelled to conform to it.

 Even though being ethnically mixed comes with its fair share of struggles and problems, my half-Asian friends have also seen the good in it. Being half-Asian allows for greater exposure to a variety of different cultures, and for kicks and giggles, you can also play mind games with people when they try to guess what ethnicity you are!

Being ethnically mixed gives me the opportunity to explore multiple cultures while still feeling ties to both. It really gives me a broader perspective on life and its many cultures.

 

Thank you so much for reading! I make new posts every week, so don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe. 

Happy readings!

Through the Eyes of an American Muslim

As the first part of this series, I interviewed a close friend of mine. We will be referring to her as Fatima. Fatima is of Pakistani descent and plans on pursuing a degree in the medical field. Below is the Q&A of her interview.

Q: What is your faith? Ethnicity?

A: My faith is Islam. I was born in the United States of America, but both of my parents are from Pakistan.

Q: What is the significance of your headscarf? 

A: The headscarf is a symbol of modesty and dignity. Headscarves are worn in my culture in order to prevent people from judging me for my body and physical appearance. This allows me to be judged for who I am, for my personality, for my intelligence, rather than for what I look like.

Q: What exactly is henna? What is its cultural significance?

A: Henna (aka mehandi) is a paste that is put into a cone and is then piped onto a body part (typically on hands and arms). Essentially, henna is a temporary tattoo. Henna is also prominent in Indian and Arab cultures as well. We usually use henna for weddings and religious holidays.

Q: What lesson/moral does your faith teach?

A: Never give up your faith in God. If you are feeling sad and lonely, pray to God because he will always be there for you.

Q: What are some difficulties you have faced growing up with your faith/culture?

A: Growing up I always wanted to look like the girls in school. They always had the newest clothes, their makeup was always perfect, and of course boys would just swarm to them. I was not allowed to wear makeup or have a boyfriend, and my headscarf and modest clothes were far from being trendy. But as I grew up and matured, I realized that all of these things — the makeup, the clothes, the trends — they were all just worldly possessions. They didn’t truly matter. What truly matters is your character, your compassion, and your ability to persevere through difficulties and injustice, all while maintaining a kind and tender heart.

Q: What do you love about your faith/culture?

A: There are many aspects of my faith and culture that I truly adore. However, I will admit that one of my absolute favorite things about my culture is the food. I could not live without my spicy biryani and sweet gulab jamun!

Q: What are some stereotypes about your faith/culture that you would like to dispel?

A: I am NOT a terrorist. I would greatly appreciate it if people stopped telling me to go back my country because I was, in fact, born and raised in the United States. My family and I come in peace. By no means do we wish to harm anyone. I hope to put an end to the stigma that all Muslims are terrorists. There are around 2 billion Muslims worldwide. If we were all truly terrorists, then this world would be even more chaotic than it is now!

A/N: Fatima’s faith, which is highly stereotyped as one that promotes violence and terrorism, actually tries to promote the opposite. The Islam faith teaches of love, kindness, and acceptance. However, the Islamic faith has been stigmatized into a religion of violence and terrorism. This is all due to racism and discrimination.  This racism has raised hatred and intolerance against those who wish no harm towards others — simply because of the actions of a few extremists that happened to identify with their faith.

Terrorism is a horrendous issue that should not be dealt with lightly. However, this does not justify the discrimination of an entire culture and faith. There is more to the Islamic faith than what the news and media portrays. We shouldn’t judge a person based solely on their religion or ethnicity; instead we should be judging them based on what truly matters — their character.

If you’re an Asian American and would like to be interviewed, feel free to email me! I would love to here everyone’s stories. Thank you for reading, and see you next week!

Through the Eyes of Asian Americans

As a blog dedicated to all things Asian, I decided to start a series called “Through the Eyes of an Asian American”. In this series, I am going to interview some of my Asian American friends about their faith, customs, and culture. This will be an ongoing series dedicated to the lifestyle and struggles Asian Americans go through everyday. In respect for my friends’ privacy, I will be referring to them under a pen name.

Each article posted for this series will explore a variety of different Asian cultures, ranging from Chinese to Vietnamese, from Indian to Pakistani, and even those of mixed Asian descent. My hope is that this series can give people a glimpse of what life is like Through the Eyes of Asian Americans.

If you’re an Asian American and would like to be interviewed, feel free to email me! I would love to here everyone’s stories. Thank you for reading, and see you next week!

 

Everything You Need to Know About Chopsticks

A trademark often associated with East Asians are chopsticks — and with good reason. Chopsticks are prominently used in Asian countries historically influenced by China, like Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and etc. Chopsticks are used as utensils to cook with and eat with and have been used as such for over 6000 years.  They were generally made from bamboo, but were also made from other materials such as bronze, silver, and gold.

The use of chopsticks emerged at least some time in 1200 B.C. Early chopsticks were mostly used for cooking, but in 400 A.D. chopsticks gained popularity, and people began using them for eating as well. This is due to the teachings of Confucius. He believed that the sharp points of knives invoked the horror and bloodshed of slaughterhouses and would sully a good meal. Thus, chopsticks become more widely used as an eating utensil in East Asia.

Although the use of chopsticks stemmed from China, different customs distinct to certain countries emerged as chopsticks became more widespread. In this article, we will examine several different types of chopsticks, certain customs associated with them, and the proper way to use them.

Types of Chopsticks

There are countless varieties of chopsticks used in different East Asian countries, but for the sake of keeping this article brief, we will only be comparing and contrasting chopstick types from China, Japan, and Korea.

China

Chinese chopsticks are significantly longer than Japanese and Korean chopsticks. Chopsticks used1-Pair-Chinese-Cherry-Square-Head-Wood-Chopsticks-Non-slip-Eco-Friendly-Handmade-Wooden-Chopsticks-Tableware.jpg in modern day Chinese restaurants are generally made of melamine, a type of plastic. Chinese chopsticks are longer and have a blunt end. Typically, Chinese meals are eaten together as a family where a variety of dishes are set in the center of a table. The longer, blunt ended chopsticks allow for people to pick up their food with greater speed and efficiency.

Japan

When chopsticks first arrived in Japan, they were more commonly used in ceremonies than in day-to-day life. However, chopsticks gradually made their way into the daily lives of the Japanese, Image result for japanese chopsticksand they began using them for cooking and eating as well. Japanese chopsticks are shorter than Chinese chopsticks and were more tapered towards the end . Japanese chopsticks are designed like this to cater towards their diet of predominately seafood. The pointier ends of the chopsticks can efficiently pick out the bones of fish and thus makes eating easier.

Korea

Korean chopsticks are longer than Japanese chopsticks, but shorter than their Chinese counterpart. In Korea, chopsticks are usually paired with a spoon for eating rice. These chopsticks Image result for korean chopsticksare traditionally made of metals such as silver or bronze, but in modern times they are made from stainless steel. Due to the slippery nature of metal, the ends of Korean chopsticks are roughened in order to pick up food more easily.

 

Now that you can tell the difference between several types of chopsticks, let’s move on to certain etiquette you should follow when putting them to use. Although the etiquette involved with using chopsticks has evolved differently in accordance to certain countries, chopstick etiquette in East Asia overall is quite similar.

  1. Don’t stab your chopsticks into your food. By doing this you are essentially defiling the food.
  2. Don’t stick your chopsticks into your bowl of rice vertically. When you do this, your chopsticks look like incense, which is burned to honor the dead. By doing this, you would be cursing someone to death.
  3. Don’t point your chopsticks at someone. Pointing at people in general is rude, but doing so with chopsticks would signify that you are cursing them.
  4. Don’t knock your chopsticks on your bowl. In China, knocking on your bowl means that you’re begging for food.
  5. Don’t pass food from chopstick to chopstick. If you want to give someone a piece of food, place it directly into their bowl instead.

Note that there are some chopstick etiquette rules that only apply to certain East Asian countries. Some rules that apply to certain countries may not apply to others. The best way to learn the rules and etiquette of the East Asian restaurant you’re in is to do some prior research. Although I have listed several, general chopstick rules, please be aware that there are much, much more!

If you want to learn more about chopstick etiquette, you can watch this nifty YouTube video:

Disclaimer: I do not own this video. All credits for this video go to the YouTube channel The Chen Dynasty.

We have discussed the brief history of chopsticks, as well as some different types and certain rules and etiquette regarding chopsticks, but how exactly do you even use chopsticks?

As someone who grew up in a hardcore Vietnamese household, I never had any issues with learning how to use chopsticks, so when some of my non-Asian friends struggled to even pick up a piece of tofu with chopsticks, I was baffled. In fact, even some of my relatives struggled with using chopsticks!

But no worries, the art of chopsticks is an all-inclusive skill that anyone can acquire with enough practice and determination. There are several different ways one can use chopsticks, but I found a visual guide for the way I was taught to use chopsticks. All you need to start practicing is this guide, your dominant hand, and a pair of chopsticks.

Image result for how to use chopsticks gif

Photo: http://www.genjiweb.com/genji/faqs.html

 

And with that, our brief guide about chopsticks comes to an end. I hope you were able to learn something new and interesting, and be sure to tune in next week for more! I post new Asian-related content every week, and feel free to leave a comment. Thank you!

 

Sources:

http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/a-brief-history-of-chopsticks

https://www.tofugu.com/japan/chopsticks-in-japan/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chopsticks

https://pogogi.com/differences-between-japanese-chinese-and-korean-chopsticks

https://www.etiquettescholar.com/dining_etiquette/table-etiquette/pacific_dinner_etiquette/chinese.html