What is it to live in country like Vietnam? How has the war ravaged nation developed and shaped up or retained their culture? With many invasions that Vietnam has had to face, it is simply amazing that it has managed to build a rich culture that is brimming with strange beliefs in animal worship, ancestor worshipping, while also being home to some worlds biggest religions- Buddhism and Christianity. The variety in food habits and the change in clothing from then and now is something to see for yourself.
The culture of Vietnam, although flourished in the first millennium before Christ, is largely a result of the tumultuous history of the country that led to its cultural development. The present Vietnamese culture has been gradually shaping up wherein there have been three layers off culture overlapping each other, namely the local culture, the blend Chinese and local and the other culture that came in contact with the Western region. The foundation of Vietnamese culture developed from the natural conditions which had a prominent impact on characteristics and life of the people, however, history had a deeper influence which showed cultural characteristics of the Chinese due to the long imposition of the Han dynasty.
One of the many contributions to the development of society and culture was the influence of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism that were modified to suit the local culture. In the wake of untold upheavals in the country, Ho Chi Minh became a national hero playing a pivotal role in leading the country up to independence, democracy and socialism.
Vietnam has been subjected to number of foreign invasions and thus the prominent feature of national consciousness and patriotism touched every aspect of the lives of Vietnamese people. Owing to the constant wars, there has been little scope for a continuous social development of the country, which has no artistic or cultural construction to boast of. Vietnam is a blend of 54 ethnicities that is accompanied with its own cultural shade making the culture a diversified one. The people are largely a mix of the Mongal races with Indian and Chinese influence. 85% of the ethnic minority group belongs to indigenous groups like Thai and Hmong, and around 3% is ethnic Chinese settled in the urban centers.
Food Habits and Clothing
Vietnamese food consists largely of rice and vegetables that also include fish and fish products. Boiling is a special way in which food is cooked and although meat and fish are the main dishes, pickled egg-plant is a favourite. Food comes first and they prefer eating heavy food. Clothing in Vietnam has undergone great change. Given the fact that the country is tropical, the people preferred light and thin material clothing in grey, indigo and black. Earlier women dressed in skirts and four piece long dresses which came to be modified to the modern ao dai. Men have transformed from a mere loin cloth to short jackets and traditional Vietnamese trousers. Hats, belts and kerchiefs were among the other accessories that were used in earlier times.
Customs, Traditions and Festivals
This land enjoys festivals all year round, most prominently in spring with minimal farming work at hand. Major festivals include- Nguyen Dan (Lunar New Year ), Han thuc (cold food), Mid-First month, Doan Ngo (double five) , Mid-Seventh month , Mid-Autumn Festival and some more. Agricultural rituals are an important part that includes praying for rain, getting into the rice field etc. while trade rituals include copper casting, forging, boat racing etc. Aprt from these, religious rituals are also held in great importance.
The custom of wedding, funeral and other rituals have their roots in the village community. Weddings begin with an official proposal to the bride’s family, the ritual of sharing bridal cup of wine ending with the couple’s visit to the bride’s family. A marriage thus replete with many formalities also sees the bride paying a fine for her acceptance into the village. Likewise, a funeral also is an elaborate procedure. Neighbours lend a helping hand in performance of services to the family of deceased. The custom of worshipping ancestors is widely practiced and they prefer to celebrate a commemorative anniversary for the deceased on the day they die rather than the birthday. The God of the home- Tho Cong is said to take care and bless the house while Thanh Hoang is the God of the village who protects the entire village. They often worship heroes or the ones who have laid down their lives for the village who then becomes the Thanh Hoang. The nation worships the first kings, thus celebrating a common ancestor’s death anniversary. They also worship the Tu Bat Tu, or the Four Immortal Gods- God Tan Vien, God Giong, God Chu Dong Tu and Goddess Lieu Hanh.
Animal species like deer, stag, snakes, and crocodiles- ones that are easily found at riversides are also revered. The people of Vietnam trace their origin to the Hong Bang line and the Tien Rong breed, where Hong Bang is the name of water bird and Tien (fairy) is a venerated egg-laying species of the bird named Rong (dragon). The dragon thus has a special place in the Vietnamese culture.
Buddhism is undoubtedly the religion with most number of followers in Vietnam, although Christianity too has large followers. There are many groups of people that have embraced theism, animism and ancestor worship. The country’s local religions and sects- Cao Dai and Hoa Hao have coexisted peacefully for all these years.
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