Cao Daism is a religion that was founded in Annam (now Vietnam) in February, 1920, when the spirit Cao Dai appeared in a seance to Ngo Minh Chieu. It took hold among Ngo's bourgeois circle of friends, who all felt a need to resolve the cultural contrast between their French education and their Chinese traditions. The religion claimed to supercede and include all previous religions. It recognizes a plethora of spirits, including Victor Hugo, Jesus Christ, and Vladimir Lenin. The doctrine draws heavily from Buddhism, but includes Taoist, Confucian and indigenous animistic concepts. It has been said, however, that the Western figures were just show pieces and that the doctrine was actually thoroughly Asian in substance.
The religion's doctrine was believed to be revealed to a group of spiritual mediums through Ouija-board style seances. Ngo was devout and sincere in his beliefs, but he did not proselytize.
After 1925, the religion began to spread among the peasantry in an area of the Mekong delta just north-east of Saigon due the opportunistic efforts of Le Van Trung. It did not grow beyond the bounds of Tay Ninh provice, but remained a strong regional influence. It developed into a anti-French socio-political force that became large enough to make the French worry.
The Japanese forces later militarized the Cao Dai and used them against the French.
The Cao Dai remained an armed social-political force through the Vietnam war, during which their anti-communist stance was supported by American aid.