Superstition in Vietnam
Each individual will be responsible for writing their own research paper on a specific issue discussed in class. The topic will be the same as the one presented on. It is imperative that students write their own research paper. The minimum length for the paper is 8-10 pages (double spaced, Times New Roman, 12-point font with 1-inch on all sides), not including bibliography. Specific requirements of both the paper and the presentations will be disscused further during class. Each student will also present this paper (approximately 5-10 minutes) and their findings to the class at the end of the semester.
After the oral presentation, it is encouraged for all to participate in an active disscusion. Answer: Since a long time ago, people had always been living with the belief in the supernatural force. Needless to say, there have been many stories and cases with the mysterious air around them occuring all over the world, some are pretty hard to believe, while many others happened very close to our lives, it is just so familiar to us that actually scares us the most. Believing in this kind of force, for me to say, it is neither good or bad as everything in this world always has two sides depending on the viewer’s perspectives, just like a mirror.
However, if the people become too obsessed to the supernatural world , it will bring out many negative affects which surely lead to tragedies, that is what we call “superstition”. Basically, superstition is the belief in supernatural causality: that one event leads to the cause of another without any physical process linking the two events, such as astrology, omens, witchcraft, etc. , that contradicts natural science. It makes people believe that when certain events happened, which cannot be explained by reason or science, might bring good or bad karma, affect them in positive or negative ways.
For short, superstition means blind belief. Superstition is the fear of what is unknown and mysterious, we cannot possibly explain it by science laws and researchs. When it comes to superstition, people have no idea of who or what they are dealing with, superstition has always been there, the invisible existence of this term had appeared since ancient time, then by generations, the seed of superstition is passed down from people to people, from grandparents to parents, then rom parent to their child, etc. Because people at that time couldnot understand the causes of physical changes taking place around them, they were ignorant of the science, which leads to they believing in the supernatural force, for example: respecting and worshipping the force of nature like the sun, the moon, fire, wind, water, storms, etc. Also, they believed that diseases were caused by the wrath of gods as well as evil spirits.
They tried to satisfy the gods with offerings, prayers, sacrifices, etc. They tried to ward off evil spirits by offering sacrifices. Sacrifice of birds and animals to please the gods and goddesses and to atone for one’s sins in a common practice. We can also see this in the way of definition of social norms influecing behavior, they are unspoken but shared rules of conduct in a formal or informal group, in this case, it is the superstition that is passed and ruled in the social.
People generally adhere to social norms, however at times they make errors in perceiving these norms and in interpreting the social world by norm misperception –pluralistic ignorance, just like the superstition rumour with harmless intention but by receiving the message wrong, people misunderstand it and thus, it become dangerous. That is to say, even nowaday, at the era of science blooming, many countries, including developed countries like United State, or China, etc, still have many kind of superstition behaviors.
Almost all of the superstition are just old stoies or traditions or rumours passed from mouth to mouth, which we do not actually see or feel them, they are just neither true or false, depending on the viewer’s perspectives. They are kinda harmless if we just ignore or just don’t know them yet. Here are some of the superstition in Vietnam: One of the most interesting superstitions of Vietnam is the belief in the wandering soul. Wandering Souls’ Day – Vu Lan Day is the second largest festival of the year (Tet is the first).
It is held on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month every year at the Hoi An pagodas. It is believed to bring absolution of the soul. This is especially true in the case of parents; it allows their wandering souls to return home safely. The Vietnamese celebrate this holiday with many ceremonies including the floating of lights down the rivers at night to guide the lost souls to Nirvana. Another superstition is the burning of spirit money. When it comes the specific days like fullmoon or a family member’s death ceremony there will be the altars and the $100 bills being peeled off individually and arefully offered into the burning embers of a clay pot outside the family home. This money is offered to the deceased ones to use to pay down the remainder of his or her debt and to be able to obtain a body and fate to pursue their karmic journey, etc. So these are the samples of superstition with deep belief. I personally think that there is absolutely nothing wrong with believe in traditions like that, in fact, I think this is a good way of paying respect and homage to our ancestors, since the ancestors are the ones having brought us into this world.
As a way to thank them nourishing us and having prepared the conditions under which we grew up, it is like a way to pay back them by looking after their afterlives and spiritual body. Basically, this is the kind of tradition suprstition we should keep and follow. But just like the water reflecting everything, there are always two side of this matter. Even without any evidence and science explaination, many people blindly believe and follow these rumour without knowing they are right or wrong.
For example, don’t express lavish admiration for a new baby, because the devils might hear you and steal the child because of his desirability. When going somewhere on business, avoid seeing a woman first, if you do see a woman first as you go out your door or on the way, postpone the trip. Mirrors are often placed on front doors, if a dragon tries to get in, he will see his reflection and think that there is already a dragon there and go away. Single bowls of rice and chopsticks should not be served, always place at least two on a table, one bowl is for the dead.
Never let chopsticks touch others or make unnecessary noise with them, do not place chopsticks in food and leave them there. Do not hand someone a toothpick. Never buy one pillow or mattress pad, always buy two. Do not use relative’s towels. Do not overturn musical instruments, or beat both sides of a drum simultaneously. Do not cut finger and toenails at night. Going dutch with a Vietnamese is not appreciated. If you run into someone at a restaurant and you join his table, let him pay the whole bill or pay it all yourself. The senior person usually pays.
Gifts for brides and grooms are usually given in pairs, including blankets, a single item indicates the marriage is not expected to last long, two less expensive items are more desired than one nicer one. Educated people and others who are not in the peasant class do not work with their hands, to do so would appear to try to beat a poor peasant out of his job. In addition, it is considered beneath the dignity of refined people. Hats are not usually worn inside churches, even Catholic ones. And don’t take photo of three people posing, otherwise the middle one will die, etc.
As we can see, most of these superstition belief is kind of like made-up rumours, without any of the believers actually experiences it, though they just blindly accept it as a part of their daily lives, trying their best to avoid it. What I am trying to say here is that we are all being influenced by the social without realizing it. Essentially, it is what we call “mass hysteria”. To definite “mass hysteria” in psychologic term, it is a form of groupthink, in which several people with something in common begin to think in the same way. In mass hysteria, the group members all develop a common fear that often spirals into a panic.
The group members feed off each other’s emotional reactions, causing the panic to escalate. A popular case involving mass hysteria had happened for the last few month and become a hot issue, that is the case of some man in Tiringoulou Town, Africa lost their penis because of a handshake. The rumour is about two local mans, when shaking hand with a certain strange foreign traveller after he buying a cup of tea, they suddenly felt a ray of electric shock run across their body. They realized that their bottom parts were becoming smaller and smaller till it totally disappeared.
They screamed in pain which drew attention of other people around. As a result, this rumour became a seed of anxiety, which scare around 2000 mans in the local area, made them afraid of greeting others by shaking hands. This is surely an unique case, however it is not the only one. Like in 1967, there was this Koro incident, many mens experieced the belief that their genitals were getting smaller or dissapearing entirely. For the lat two century, there were many reports involving this rumour had been seen around the world. “Losing penis” has become a disease that makes the Western and the Africa and the Asian mans afraid most.
The real cause of this superstition is never revealed, though just because of rumour spreading like that had made the people in chaos and riots all over the world. From this case we can see how easily people are influence by the social, when many people speak of one thing, wether it is true or false, we will also start to believe in it too. And because of that, many religions and organizations takes advantage of superstition to spread their power and influent, doing bad things to the social. Which leads to many people have been commiting crimes based on the superstition they now, as well as many others taking advantage of this to control blind believing and illiteracy people. That is truly unforgiven. Unaccountable serious cases involving superstition are happening around people without us aware of that. For example, here is a serious case of superstition happened in Vietnam that leads to the deaths of a member in the family. The case began with this family in Binh Dinh province, within one week, two members of the family suddenly passed away, due to this incident, the other members started to fell unsafe and anxious of evil spirit.
After knowing about the family situation, a women named Huynh Thi Huu Duyen (born in 1986, Quy Nhon city) approached them and took advantage of them. The family included Mr. No Ngoc Duy (born in 1948, Binh Dinh province), with his wife (also the victim) Tran Thi Lieu, and his daughter Ngo Thi Thom. When Miss. Thom was working in Ho Chi Minh City, she met Duyen and became friend with her. The relationship between them was really deep, to the point Duyen was even considered as another member of Mr. Duy’s family. The tragedy started when Mrs.
Lieu’s mother passed away at the end of the year 2008. After the ceremony, just a few days later, Mrs. Lieu’s older sister also suddenly died, although she had no sign of illness or any other disease, she was a really strong women. From that that onward, Mr. Duy’s family started living in fear, this double death made quite a riot over the local area. And so, Mr. Duy’s family went to a famous shaman’s house in hope of clear the spiritual force that haunt them. But after looking at the case, the shaman said that these all happened due to Mrs.
Lieu’s mother passing away at such a bad time, leading to the death of her daughter and would continue to bring bad karma to the famiy. Duyen heard and saw everyhing in the story because all the time, she was there with the family. But instead of comforting the pain of the family and ease the anxiety of supersition, Duyen took advantage of the situation and talked to Mr. Duy’s family that someone else was telling her because they were living with bad virtue, they now had to take bad luck. If they hadn’t worship the God carefully, Mrs. Duyen will be next in line.
And because of that, Mr. Duy had to spend a lot of money to ask Duyen doing the worship, he even sold everything in the house to continue the worship. The case became really serious at the start of 2009 new year, Duyen said that the God had told her in dream that Mrs. Lieu would get the bad karma and die, thus, she also said that she can worship to overcome the situation. Blindly believe in Duyen, at month 9 of the year 2009, Mrs. Duyen went to Ho Chi Minh city to meet Duyen at her house. Duyen helped her buy many sacrifices like fruits, chickens, etc, to give to the God.
But not only bringing sacrifices, Duyen also said that she had to make Mrs. Lieu feel pain by hitting and kicking her, so that the God would forsaken her. The serious crime happened at 14/8/2010, when Duyen was kicking Mrs. Duyen continuously, made her unable to breath. Seeing that Miss Thom and other family member stopped her and took Mrs. Lieu to hospital, but it was too late, Mrs. Lieu passed away while being taken to the hospital. Mr. Duy after that sued Duyen, asked her for a compensation of 65 million dongs for the loss in mental and physical.
For Duyen, she was then sentenced for 4 years in jaw and give back every assets Mr. Duy gave her along with 65 million dongs compensation. What is need to consider in here is about both Duyen and Mr. Duy’s family, it’s true that Duyen is the one with the biggest responsibility, but we also cannot ignore the stupidity and blindly belief of Mr. Duy’s family. They knew about this all along, yet, when Mrs. Lieu was being violenced brutally, no one intercept and stop it, they were just watching there with the blind belief that was the right thing to do.
This case is just one of many supersition cases happening around the world. In my opinion, superstition is not a thing we should judge blindly, there is no such thing as good or bad in this matter, to determine it, we have to question both the people with blind belief and the people takig advantage of it. Superstition has and always been a part of our life, we cannot just throw it away, but if a person believing too much in superstitions he will always be haunted by unknown fears and anxieties, he loses self-confidence.
We have to learn how to co-exist with it, not blindly become its slve. In order to do that, we have to choose carefully what kind of superstition that need to be keep and what kind of ignorance superstition should be forgotten forever. Thus, gradually as the light of knowledge grows brighter, born of darkness, as the superstitions are, they cannot stand the light. I believe that one day, superstition will remain with importance traditions and good lifestyle, with eventually bad superstitions and bad people taking advantage of it will vanish forever.