Vietnam: Journeys of Body, Mind, and Spirit takes the reader on an informed and engaging journey into the social and ritual life of contemporary Vietnam. Created to accompany the first major collaboration between a Vietnamese museum and an American museum on an exhibition of Vietnamese culture, this book moves beyond the troubled wartime history of both nations to a deeper portrayal of how Vietnamese of different ages, ethnicities, occupations, and circumstances live at the start of the twenty-first century. The contributors—most of whom live and work in Vietnam, while others have spent many years in intimate association with Vietnamese life—offer a unique perspective on the country and its diverse cultural mosaic. The text is complemented by a rich collection of photographs and illustrations that capture the complexity and nuance of daily life.
The journeys portrayed in this volume cut across virtually every domain of Vietnamese experience. Some take place on roads, railways, rivers, and footpaths, as family members come home for the New Year and traders carry goods precariously balanced on bicycles. Others are metaphorical: life is a journey marked by significant rituals, and the year is a journey mapped by a calendar with holidays as milestones along the way. Souls travel to the netherworld, while gods and ancestors return to the human world during celebrations in their honor.
Although the Vietnam War dominated the consciousness of a generation of Americans, few understand the country and few can imagine what it is like today. Appearing more than a decade after Vietnam's entrance into the global market and more than a quarter century after the cessation of hostilities between the Vietnamese and U.S. governments, this book provides a new understanding of how Vietnamese live, work, and celebrate critical passages of life and time.
Copublished with the American Museum of Natural History and the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
Introduction A Journey between Two Museums
—Laurel Kendall and Nguyen Van Huy
1 One Country, Many Journeys
2 Vietnam’s Ethnic Mosaic
3 Tet Holidays: Ancestral Visits and Spring Journeys
—Nguyen Van Huy
4 The Mid-Autumn Festival (Tet Trung Thu), Yesterday and Today
—Nguyen Van Huy
5 Four Ways to Map a Year’s Journey
—Chu Van Khanh, Cam Trong, and A Bao
6 Bat Trang: A Pottery Village and Global Node
—Nguyen Anh Ngoc
7 Scenes from the Sapa Market
8 The Yao Initiation Ceremony in the New Market Economy
—Ly Hanh Son
9 Weddings and Funerals in Contemporary Vietnam
—Shaun Kingsley Malarney
10 Other Journeys of the Dead
—Luu Hung, Nguyen Trung Dung, Tran Thi Thu Thuy, Vi Van An, and Vo Thi Thuong
11 The Village God’s Journey
—Nguyen Van Huy, Nguyen Anh Ngoc, Nguyen Huy Hong, and Nguyen Trung Dung
12 The Perilous Journey of the Then Spirit Army: A Shamanic Ritual of the Tay People
—La Cong Y
13 Len Dong: Spirits’ Journeys
—Ngo Duc Thinh
List of Contributors
Nguyen Van Huy is Director of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology and the principal author of The Cultural Mosaic of Ethnic Groups in Vietnam (1997). Laurel Kendall is Curator of the Asian Ethnographic Collections at the American Museum of Natural History. Her books include Getting Married in Korea: Of Gender, Morality, and Modernity (California, 1996) as well as several other works on gender and popular religion.
“Each one of the chapters is richly illustrated with beautiful photographs and pictures of Vietnamese everyday life, of fascinating rituals, costumes , and handicrafts of many ethnic groups. . . With this book as a guide readers can easily go on their own journey to the bodies, minds and spirits of the Vietnamese people.”—Miyazawa Chihiro - Nanzan University Asian Folklore Studies Nagoya
“Written in a very accessible, jargon-free style, this superb book is a marvelous window on the culture of Vietnam. Highly recommended.”—A. O. Edmonds Library Journal