Four Palaces (“Tu Phu”) - A Beautiful Journey Into The Spiritual World
You may have heard of water puppet show, Ca Tru singing show, but probably not about Four Palaces performance. It is inspired by the ritual of the spiritual medium ship (“Hau Dong”) of the Mother Religion believing in The Mother Goddess. The spectacular show offers a unique opportunity to learn about Vietnamese culture.
Worshipping Mother Goddess (“Dao Mau”) - UNESCO-recognized world intangible cultural heritages
Worshipping Mother Goddess is a purely Vietnamese folk belief. Dating back to 16th century, it has a long history and has adapted to social changes. Today this belief is widely practiced throughout Vietnam and in Vietnamese communities overseas.
“Mau” means mother in Vietnamese. It emphasized the important roles of women in the family. Back then, the women normally stayed at home, grew the crop as well as took care of the family while the men went out for hunting. Now, it is based on the amazing capability of women which is to give birth. Hence, I can see why worshippers find great emotional support in their belief. Worship of the Mother Goddess addresses the concerns of daily life and desires for good health and good fortune.
“Dao Mau” worships Goddesses representing 3 realms of the Universe: the Goddesses of Heaven (Red), Water (White) and Mountains and Forests (Green). However, in many texts four Mother Goddesses will be represented, including the Goddess of Earth (Yellow). All of them were worshipped as Goddesses for their role in the world. Well, I guess this may sound strange to modern ears, especially to foreigners like you.
Do you know that there is a total of 75 Goddesses in Vietnam? Legend has it that 3 of them are God’s daughters. “Thanh Mau Lieu Hanh”, “Thanh Mau Chua Ngoc”, “Linh Son Thanh Mau” descended to the Earth to rule the North, The Centre and the South, respectively. If you visit all 3 regions, take a chance to visit their temples and listen to their legends.
Tu Phu Performance
One ritual accompanying Mother Worship is “Hau Dong” Ritual. The ritual in a temple or pagoda is a solemn occasion to pray for good weather, health and so on. For a youngster like me, to attend the ritual space with the deities for the first time, I found it really strange but at the same time interesting because it is generally organized in temples, pagodas or similar sacred places.
The medium here or “Thanh Dong” will be a woman or a man dressed as a woman. “Hau Dong” uses musical invocations to lure spirits to possess mediums to communicate with spirits or deities. After being possessed, usually by heroes who had great contributions to the country, I can see many different facial expression and movement of the medium, representing different people in the history.
With outstanding visual, “Chau Van” singing, colorful customs and lively dance performance, the show got my full attention through 3 chapters: “Chau De Nhi”, “Ong Hoang Muoi” and “Co Be Thuong Ngan”. Within 45 minutes of the mysterious ceremony, I can find myself immersing in the culture.
At the end of the ceremony, we were gifted a small box of sweet treat that have been offered on the altar and taken down, foods that have been blessed. We normally call it “Loc”. I myself felt blessed for having a chance to see a harmonious combination of cultural, moral values as well as the spirit of national identity. It should be well preserved and honored to younger generation as well as friends from all over the world.
Free in the evening? Book your seat at Cong Nhan Theater now to join beautiful journey into spiritual world of Dau Mau.
Author: Hong Anh
For her, travel is all about breaking out of your comfort zone, immersing yourself in different cultures and exploring hidden trails. During her numerous journeys within Vietnam, Hong Anh collected marvellous memories with her film camera allowing the observer to dive in the culture.