Cult, Culture and Authority

Cult, Culture and Authority: Princess Lieu Hanh in Vietnamese History

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  • Book Info
    Cult, Culture and Authority
    Book Description:

    Princess Liễu Hạnh, often called the Mother of the Vietnamese people by her followers, is one of the most prominent goddesses in Vietnamese popular religion. First emerging some four centuries ago as a local sect appealing to women, the princess’ cult has since transcended its geographical and gender boundaries and remains vibrant today. Who was this revered deity? Was she a virtuous woman or a prostitute? Why did people begin worshiping her and why have they continued? Cult, Culture, and Authority traces Liễu Hạnh’s cult from its ostensible appearance in the sixteenth century to its present-day prominence in North Vietnam and considers it from a broad range of perspectives, as religion and literature and in the context of politics and society. Over time, Liễu Hạnh’s personality and cult became the subject of numerous literary accounts, and these historical texts are a major source for this book. Author Olga Dror explores the authorship and historical context of each text considered, treating her subject in an interdisciplinary way. Her interest lies in how these accounts reflect the various political agendas of successive generations of intellectuals and officials. The same cult was called into service for a variety of ideological ends: feminism, nationalism, Buddhism, or Daoism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6207-7
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-XI)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. XII-XII)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Nineteen eighty-eight. My first trip to Vietnam. I discover the country I studied for five years at Leningrad State University. The pages read, the lessons learned, the conversations conducted, all these come alive. Back then, Vietnam and the Soviet Union were still brotherly countries. I was an interpreter for a Soviet delegation on a visit of friendship. During the day I dutifully translated negotiations to develop programs of cooperation. But some evenings I had for myself. And on these evenings I tried to imbibe and absorb as much of Vietnamese culture as I could. I was mesmerized by the temples...

  6. 1 Writing Hagiographies, Creating History
    (pp. 13-44)

    An awareness of supernatural beings is a widespread human experience. Naming these beings and establishing rituals for experiencing their presence arises from the application of human thought and authority. The supernatural cannot be named without provoking questions about the meaning of the name as well as who has the right to speak on behalf of it and to what purpose. Our earliest evidence of answers to these questions among the Vietnamese comes from texts that reveal how rulers and their followers endeavored to systematize and narrate approved knowledge of supernatural beings. Over a period of several centuries, these texts document...

  7. 2 The Appearance of Liễu Hạnh’s Cult
    (pp. 45-81)

    In general, in Vietnam, female deities occupy a rather modest position compared to their male counterparts. For example, of the one thousand entries inDi Tích Lịch Sử Văn Hóa Việt Nam(Historical and Cultural Vestiges of Vietnam), a recently compiled catalogue of cultural sites, only 250 sites are dedicated to female deities.¹ Among these deities are historical figures, mainly war heroines or royalty, and they are usually referred to as Kingdom/National Mother (Quốc Mẫu) or Royal Mother (Vương Mãu). Others, usually legendary rather than historical, are famous for their supernatural powers and are simply called Mother (Mẫu) or Saint...

  8. 3 Contending Narratives in Classical Voices
    (pp. 82-118)

    Once Liễu Hạnh’s cult was established as a visible aspect of popular culture, educated people found ways to make use of it. From being a dynamic aspect of village life, a focus of religious practices and community events, it was given literary form and philosophical significance, thereby becoming a figure of contention among intellectuals, who made it represent their preferred visions of social authority.

    This chapter will discuss three works written about Liễu Hạnh in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. All of them were written in Hán (the classical Chinese language). Together they constitute a discussion of the role of...

  9. 4 Vernacularization of the Sublime
    (pp. 119-163)

    In the previous chapter, we saw how in the eighteenth century Ðoàn Thị Ðiểm wrote her story about Liễu Hạnh in classical prose to harness the sublime for the emancipation of educated women. It was addressed to the restricted audience of educated people. This chapter discusses two works on Liễu Hạnh written in vernacular poetry, one from the mid-nineteenth century and one from the early twentieth century. Both of these works use Ðoàn Thị Ðiểm’sVân Cát Thần Nữ Truyện(Story of the Vân Cát Goddess) as a master text; however, each processes this master text into the vernacular in...

  10. 5 From Superstition to Cultural Tradition
    (pp. 164-202)

    I saw this slogan in front of the building of the people’s committee of Vụ Bản district, Nam Ðịnh province, during the Phủ Dầy festival of Princess Liễu Hạnh:Phát huy thuần phong mỹ tục của lễ hội truyền thống, kiên quyết bài trừ mê tín dị đoạn và hủ tục(Bring into play good customs of traditional festivals, resolutely eradicate superstitions and outdated practices). Each year on the third day of the third lunar month, the anniversary of Liễu Hạnh’s death, tens of thousands of people visit Phủ Dầy. In 2001, so did I. It was not my first...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 203-230)
    (pp. 231-250)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 251-260)