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Cult, Culture and Authority

Princess Lieu Hanh in Vietnamese History

Olga Dror

Publication Year: 2007

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.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. ix-xii

My path to this point of my life has been neither straight nor short. From the time I was first introduced to Asia in 1982 till now, a good number of years have elapsed. My way could have been shorter, no doubt. But new countries, new jobs, new interests have only confirmed that my allegiance lies with Vietnam and Vietnamese studies, which I was so fortunate to...

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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...

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1: Writing Hagiographies, Creating History

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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...

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2: The Appearance of Lieu Hanh's Cult

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pp. 45-81

Nguyen Quang Le, a modern northern scholar, has argued that Mother worship originated among northern Vietnamese and, like all other aspects of Vietnamese language and culture, subsequently spread to the central and southern parts of what is today the modern state of Vietnam...

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3: Contending Narratives in Classical Voices

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pp. 82-118

Once Lieu Hanh’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

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4: Vernacularization of the Sublime

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pp. 119-163

In the previous chapter, we saw how in the eighteenth century

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5: From Superstition to Cultural Tradition

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pp. 164-201

The group was welcomed by district officials with a formal reception at which speeches were made about the necessity of developing cultural traditions and of strengthening ties between peoples. To a former citizen of the Soviet Union who left that country in 1990, before the country...


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pp. 203-229


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pp. 231-250


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pp. 251-260

E-ISBN-13: 9780824862077
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824829728

Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 256468302
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Cult, Culture and Authority

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Subject Headings

  • Religion and politics -- Vietnam -- History.
  • Vietnam -- History.
  • Vietnam -- Religious life and customs.
  • Lieu Hanh, Princess (Vietnamese deity) -- Cult.
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