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Worshipping Mother Goddesses: new UNESCO's Heritage

Released at: 14:55, 11/12/2016

Worshipping Mother Goddesses: new UNESCO's Heritage

Photos: DMVN/Nhan Dan/Courtesy

Recognized as UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage, Vietnam's Mother Goddesses of 3 Realms reflects the importance of spiritual needs in the daily life of the community.

by Le Diem

The announcement was made in the 11th session of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Ethiopia in early December. This is the first time this image of Vietnamese women has been honored by UNESCO.

The dossier on “Practices related to the Viet beliefs in the Mother Goddesses of Three Realms” for UNESCO recognition was recognized for its important role in the community which reflects the history, culture, solidarity and spiritual and religious needs of the people.

The recognition will raise the awareness of Vietnamese people to preserve and promote the tradition, according to Mr Pham Sanh Chau, Secretary General of Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO.

The worshipping Mother Goddesses is based on a form of worshipping of the mother’s incarnation in the nature like sun, rivers, forests and mountains… to respect the role of women in the society, according to the document of the Cultural Heritage Department under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Since the 16th century, the practice of worshipping Mother Goddesses has become an important religious and cultural activity in the society and it permeates people’s consciousness.

These figures include Lieu Hanh (a nymph who descended to earth, lived as a human and became a Buddhist nun), Au Co (an immortal mountain fairy who gave birth to Vietnamese ancestors), and Vuong Mau (the legendary Mother of Saint Giong, a legendary hero who expelled the enemy).

As well as showing the respect to women and mothers, the practice of the worship also matches the spiritual demands of the people for good health, luck and prosperity.

In the temples, the worship of Mother Goddesses also mixes with local religions and other imported ones like Taoism and Buddhism. The worship is practiced in many localities, all over the north, Ho Chi Minh City and Nam Dinh which is considered the centre with nearly 400 places of worship to the Mother Goddesses.

In addition to the ritual ceremonies, the combination of different folk art in costumes, music, singing and dancing the worship is like a live museum preserving the history, heritage and cultural identity of the country.

In particular, the practice of going into a trance called “len dong” a ritual in which practitioners become mediums for various deities who take over their bodies and carry out actions in the human world, is central to the worship.

Vietnam is the home to other UNESCO-recognized world intangible cultural heritages, including ‘Nha nhac Cung dinh’ (royal court music), the Gong Culture in the Central Highlands, ‘Quan ho’ (alternating response love duets), ‘Ca tru’ (chamber music), and Hung Kings worshipping rituals.

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