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Norms and Practices in Contemporary Rural Vietnam

Christian Culas
Văn Sửu Nguyễn

Chapter 3. Practical Norms and Gaining Legitimacy in Ha Nam Province

Nguyen Thi Thanh Binh

Texte intégral

  • 191 BENEDICT, Kerkvliet J. Tria and DAVID, Marr G. (eds.), Beyond Hanoi: Local Government in Vietnam, I (...)
  • 192 PHAM QUANG MINH, “Caught in the Middle: Local Cadres in Hai Duong Province”, Beyond Hanoi: local go (...)
  • 193 BENEDICT and DAVID (eds.), Beyond Hanoi:…, 2004, page 17.
  • 194 PHAM QUANG MINH, “Caught in the Middle:.., 2004, page 100.

1Recent studies made on local government and authority in Vietnam have pointed out that local cadres play an important role in everyday life politics in rural areas191. They are implementing most of the central government’s laws, programmes and policies, while being representatives of local residents. Those cadres, especially village heads, are the state officials that are closest to the people and with whom they have the most interaction192. As a result, they confront a major challenge of how to be accountable to both local people and the state. As the authors conclude, local people would like their village cadres to combine fair-mindedness and impartiality with being “goofy with the people” and somewhat flexible in order to accommodate particular circumstances. People favour officials who can get results while also being morally upright193. However, some cadres often lack the training, skill and experience to do their job well. Their inadequate compensation and allowance are also the main reasons for dishonesty and corruption. Ineffective and immoral local leaders easily lead to discontent and protest among rural residents194. These suggest that the Vietnamese have developed a set of norms for their local authorities’ professional and personal behaviour, and it is not easy for local cadres to measure up to the people’s expectations, therefore the dynamics of everyday life interactions between local leaders and the people are interesting to explore.

  • 195 MALARNEY (Shaun Kingsley), “Culture, Virtue, and Political Transformation in Contemporary Northern (...)

2Shaun Marlarney195, through an examination of two politicians’ careers in a suburb commune of Hanoi, has clarified different moral notions by which Vietnamese people evaluate their leaders and illustrated how the application of these standards affect local political life. He aims to show that there is a sociocultural construction of ideas of good leadership in rural Vietnam and these local standards are different, sometimes contradictory, from the ideas and expectations of the party. The application of these local ideas and values, according to Malarney, has contributed to the development of civil society and enabled the Vietnamese to construct their own post-socialist political culture. Although the author could examine the construction of notions of prestige leaders that local people choose through their village election, he has not researched the interplay between the people and their leaders in everyday life interactions to see how the ideas or norms of good leadership constructed by local socio-cultural values work in practice, nor does he deal with what happens when most local leaders violate the norm or none of them entirely fit their standards? In that situation, how do local authorities gain legitimacy and mobilize the people to follow their leadership? I suggest that there are more dynamics in the relationship between the norms of a good leader and how they are practiced, which can only be understood through every day life politics in the village.

3In this chapter, I will examine the interplay between local authorities and rural residents to see how the cadres gain prestige and to what extent the people give them legitimacy. Through this interaction, I am aiming to illustrate how the norms of good leadership exist in Vietnamese contemporary society, their extent and what roles they have had in everyday village politics. Can these norms alone, as a socio-cultural construction, play a decisive role in gaining prestige among rural leaders, or are there any other factors that influence this process?

  • 196 Bắc Đồng is not the official name of the village where I carried out one year fieldwork from June 2 (...)
  • 197 LUONG Hy V, Revolution in the Village: Tradition and Transformation in North Vietnam. 1925-1988, Ho (...)
  • 198 KLEINEN John, Facing the future, reviving the past: a study of social change in a Northern Vietname (...)

4My analysis draws upon long-term ethnographic research in a village in Ha Nam province. Located in the centre of the Red River delta, Bắc Đồng village196 is one among thousands of rural communities in Vietnam, which is the lowest administrative unit of government and has long been a central focus for discussion on the social structure of Vietnamese society197,198. The village is about 60 km from Hanoi and 10 km from its provincial centre, Phu Ly town, Ha Nam province. Historically, it was formed by different lineages coming from surrounding provinces in the delta in the late 1700s. Over time, the population of Bắc Đồng has now reached over 4,000 inhabitants. Like other residents in the delta, rice cultivation has been the main livelihood of the villagers, combined with handicrafts and small forms of trade. Only a few people live and work within the village for their whole lives given the limited resources of the local area.

5Bắc Đồng people say that it was only after 1995 did they really have enough food to eat and only recently, after 2000, were their lives truly improved. Wars, conflicts, natural disasters and low rice productivity both before and during colonial times were the main reasons for poverty. After the 1954 Dien Bien Phu victory, the new revolutionary government led people in the delta into a campaign of socialism building. Difficulties during the war and even after the war, together with the subsidized economic policy, made people suffer a life of deprivation. In 1986, the economic renovation policy (known as Doi Moi) was launched, but it took about ten more years for people to catch up with the market economy and get out of the crisis. Towards the end of this crisis, a protest took place in Bắc Đồng that began with the idea of claiming back some land which had been given to a neighbouring village during the period of collectivism from the 1960s to the 1980s. The villagers believe this land to be their ancestral home and sent complaints, holding demonstrations at the government office and ultimately used force to get the land back. In the midst of the protest, the villagers started a fight against corruption among local authorities. The dynamics of the conflict between local people and their leaders during this period go beyond the scope of this paper. After the protest ended, Bắc Đồng people were swept by various movements started at the same time by the local government in their area and elsewhere in Vietnam. New policies on agricultural land, the promotion of rice cultivation, and a poverty-alleviation programme had made changes to the face of this rural area. At the same time as these economic improvements were taking place, social and ritual life in rural areas was enhanced by the movement to revive spiritual life. It is possible to say that after the protest, villagers merely followed the lead of local authorities and the government’s programmes. It is interesting to explore the dynamics of these programmes to see how leaders gained and regained the trust of the people, and how they ‘entered into the heart’ of the villagers.

6In this paper, I will describe the different methods of mobilizing villagers into a campaign aimed at building village infrastructure and a new life after the protest. One method was compulsory in style, which created a ‘cold war’ in the relationship between cadres and the people, while the most recent, more successful, method has used culture and ritual as a way for the villagers to communicate with their leaders. This accommodation of the local government with religion and culture has paved the way for people to imagine and practice their beliefs. The village god suddenly emerged as a popular authority who could create a strong passion for the villagers to recreate their village identity, a sense of communal spirit, and more importantly helped them communicate with local cadres. By quenching the people’s thirst for culture, local authorities gained power through the enthusiasm of the people. Its relationship with people, as I will conclude, was rebuilt through performances and ritual, together with the norms of good leadership.

I-Profane Power

7Just three days after I commenced my fieldwork at Bắc Đồng, an event occurred which produced a stir in the village. It was the sudden death of the only son of a former chairman – Mr Lê Thời. At that time, I did not know anything about him or the situation in the village but I was curious when people had a strange attitude towards this death. They gossiped to each other in a state of awe and shock. I heard words like “oh how fearful, it is true that God knows everything” (sợ thật, ông trời đúng là có mắt”, or “sow the wind, reap the whirlwind” “ác giả ác báo”). Normally, villagers feel sorry for a person who passes away and his or her family. In this case too, they felt compassion for that young and handsome man who had died suddenly at his house at the age of twenty. But his death reminded villagers about his father and his past. It made them think about the law of causality. The dead man was affected by the bad attitudes of villagers toward his father. What was the reason for this gossip and did everyone in the village share the same opinion and attitude?

8Before the protest began in Bắc Đồng, Lê Thời was an ordinary accountant in the Commune’s People’s Committee. He had no influence in the village. By supporting his cousin, Lê Quý - who was chairman at that time, Thời emerged as an influential local cadre as a result of how he had coped with the protesters. After the protest, he took advantage of his new relationships and prestige to gain a promotion. He even turned against his cousin to get a higher position. Two years after the resistance ended, Thời became vice chairman and then chairman of the commune, a position he held for almost 10 years. The villagers, however, cannot understand how he could rise to such a place of authority (nảy nòi). They believed that his rise was due to pure luck (dựa thời).

  • 199 See PHAM QUANG MINH, “Caught in the Middle…”, 2004.
  • 200 My fieldwork in another commune in Hoài Đức district, Hà Tây province (now in Hanoi) shows that in (...)

9Thời’s power in village affairs is related to the fact that the apparatus of local government in Bắc Đồng is a bit different from the surrounding communes in particular and the rest of the delta in general. Since 1993, the position of village head has re-emerged in northern rural Vietnam199. This is the person who has direct contact with villagers. His/her task can be seen as an assistant to the commune chairman in the implementation of work and the instructions of local government, as well as the collection of fees and contributions. Normally, village heads are party members and are men. But recently there has been a more open-minded atmosphere in many localities and villagers elect heads who are not party members. In a few cases, children of former landlord families have gained this position.200 In Bắc Đồng, there is no such title as village head (trưởng thôn), but instead there is an area head (trưởng miền), a key leader in the Commune’s People’s Committee, who must live in the village. He has two titles and is responsible for both the commune and the village. Instead of being an assistant to the administration, the area head is a representative of local government in the village. Thus, his status is more important and empowering than ordinary village heads in other locations. The main reason for the existence of this title in Bắc Đồng’s commune is the local government’s aim to strengthen its guidance at the village level and create a consensus among all the village leaders so it can implement its policies and instructions.

10During his ten years in power, Thời assumed the role of village leader along with his high position on the People’s Committee. He was a handsome forty-year-old man when he first assumed these roles. Although he only finished secondary school, according to villagers he had good oratory skills (giỏi ăn nói). People believe that he was a clever person (khôn khéo) and skilled in the art of living (giỏi về nghệ thuật sống). He knew how to develop and maintain relationships with higher echelons to protect his position and get things done (giải quyết mọi việc) while making subordinates follow his instructions. During his time of leadership, Bắc Đồng village implemented various infrastructure projects in which Thời played an important role. When the district launched the programme to build a village road, he told his assistants (hamlet heads ‘trưởng xóm’, and security team members ‘tổ an ninh’) to mobilize villagers to respond to the movement. Each household (khẩu) contributed 100 thousand đồng for this project. The contribution was made in two instalments. At harvest time, households paid these instalments together with other fees and taxes. As a result, the main village road and lanes were concreted by the mid 1990s. Some years after that, he continued to mobilize people to build a water supply system. A water station was built at the edge of the village and pipes were installed along the main road and lanes. However, pipes did not reach each household. Therefore, only about 20 percent of households close to the main road and lanes could afford to connect to the water supply, although every family had contributed a large amount of money, 100 thousand đồng per household. Every year, households were also required to contribute towards small construction and repair jobs such as roads, fields, market or electricity station maintenance.

11When Thời was in power, no one in the village complained about his projects. Instead, many admitted that he had done a lot of work for the village (làm được nhiều việc). Only when he lost his power did villagers begin to look back on his behaviour, gossip about him and his corrupt ways. Many of them said that he corruptly appropriated materials for road building and issued fake receipts to report a larger quantity of cement than was really used. People felt discontent about some of his decision making, which lacked the people’s involvement. The water supply system was an example. In fact, this would have been a good project if it had been well constructed as the people had actively responded to it. At that time and even now, most of the villagers in Bắc Đồng are not interested in a public water system. They do not want to invest a large amount of money into it, preferring to use private wells equipped with pumps to keep their freedom and their independence. They are hesitant to depend on the public supply, reluctant to pay monthly fees and are not satisfied with the water quality. This is a problem of habit and calculation. People said that the village cadres organized a meeting about water to which they only invited some old people who would undoubtedly support their ideas and decisions. Then, since it was considered to be a community decision, individuals and households had to comply. Some claimed they had to contribute even when in disagreement (nhiều khi mình không đồng ý cũng phải đóng).

12According to village gossip, Thời’s benefits from building and construction were small compared to his gains from land transactions. By the end of the 1990s, Bắc Đồng was allowed to sell communal ponds and lakes near the main roads and market to expand the residential land of the village. A part of the sales income was kept for the commune and most of it was submitted to the higher administration. People say that they are not sure whether or not Thời stole some of this money, but they definitely know that he earned a lot from bribes. As Bắc Đồng is a crowded village, villagers are very interested in expanding their living space and accumulating land for their children. Therefore people flocked to buy land. Most of them came to entreat Thời to help them buy a portion of land. Later on, it turned out that Thời took about 2 million đồng from each person to whom he promised to sell land. People estimated that, since there were about a hundred portions of land, he could have earned 200 million đồng in 1998. In addition, he and his siblings acquired many pieces of land surrounding the village without any transparent auction or buying procedure. After one year, he was able to build a big two-storey house on new residential land near the inter-district road.

13Another kind of abuse of power that many people accused Thời of was his involvement in administrative formalities. It is difficult to find real evidence for this type of behaviour in the delta, however, one old man in Bắc Đồng told me:

Before the 1954 land reform, my eldest brother was the secretary of the village. Anyone who wanted to ask for papers like tax, birth or death certificates, had to submit a form with money clamped inside. During collectivization, such negative things rarely happened but people had to crawl before the cadres. Nowadays, people no longer have to do that. They have gone back to using money. Some years ago, it was complicated to apply for papers. Recently, thanks to Doi Moi the renovation procedures, it is simple and easier.” (Mr. Lâm, 70 years old).

14Many villagers said that Thời took amounts ranging from five thousand to ten thousand or twenty thousand đồng each time he signed a paper for someone. Two men in the village told me that they had heard about that, so when they asked for his signature, they gave him ten thousand but he refused. Maybe Thời regarded them as old friends from his youth so he signed it without question. Or Bắc Đồng people might have been exaggerating when describing Thời as ‘eating dirt’ (ăn bẩn) and worshipping ‘the omnivorous fish deity’ (thần me lai ăn tạp). Nevertheless they told me that he often tried to find a reason or opportunity to take money from people. If a village man dug some soil from the canal in the field to add to his garden, he would be summoned to meet Thời at the communal office (bị gọi lên xã). When he went there at the appointed time, Thời found an excuse not to meet saying that he was busy. After several repetitions of this, other villagers would recommend that the man visit Thời at his house in the evening. By seeing him privately and giving him some money, everything would be solved. People liked to conclude that he ‘ate’ without consideration for others and without exception, even towards relatives (không nể, không chừa một ai).

15As he was in a high position and had relationships with high echelons in the district and province, some villagers went to him to ask for help in difficult situations that they were facing with the law. People say that on one occasion he succeeded in helping one villager to avoid a trial through back door means (chạy). He boasted about it (huênh hoang). After this, many villagers came to ask for his help. They gave him money, but their problems were not solved. For instance, a village man who provided a money exchange service at the border with China in Lạng Sơn province was involved in a criminal case. He came back to the village, asked for Thời’s help, and gave him money. However, Thời did nothing to make his situation better except signing a paper to certify that this man had never been involved in any criminal case before. In daily life, villagers often needed to circumvent the regulations of the government and went to ask Thời for permission, or simply to turn a blind eye to what they were doing. He often agreed after receiving a bribe but at the end did not really let people do what they had sought permission for. This was the main reason why many villagers resented Thời and gossiped about him.

16Many people talked about Thời’s various weaknesses and evil habits. He was considered a superficial person (nông nổi) when he decided to build a big house which cost several hundred million đồng after only one year in power. He was approachable (dễ gần) but imperious (hách dịch) and was considered a vengeful person (hay thù vặt). If he had a grudge against someone he would use his power or relationship to take revenge on them or repress them, whether they were colleagues or ordinary villagers. He might induce someone to sue his enemy or simply order his lackeys to disturb them. After the protest ended, Lê Quý, his cousin, became his rival when they both competed for the position of vice chairman. He took revenge on Quý’s whole family, despite them being close relatives. Quý’s mother said Thời used his authority to ask the association of elderly women at the pagoda to abolish her role as the chief ritual officer (chủ tế) there. The village security team was given the task of watching for her family’s mistakes. Whenever they saw her family’s ducks or chickens wandering from her garden to the rice field, they would take them to the communal head office and ask her to come for retribution.

17The majority of Bắc Đồng villagers seem to have created a ‘legend’ about Thời as an example of strength, power and corruption. Nevertheless, people do recognize his ability and some of his contributions to the village. One said ‘about thirty percent of what he did was good/moral work’ ‘có đức khoảng ba mươi phần trăm’. He ‘ate’ but could work as well (ăn được, làm được). A few villagers think he was quite good (ông ấy cũng tốt) and did not do anything bad to them. Some people said ‘he ‘ate’ to the marrow of popularity’‘ăn đến tận xương tuỷ của dân’ while others told me that ‘he stole from the state, not from the people’. In general, most people did not like how he used his power. When he was the authority, people followed him because they were afraid of his power, not because they had high esteem for his talent or moral values. His relationship with high-level authorities and the power of his siblings in the village became obstacles for anyone who was ambitious or wanted to challenge him. After the protest, when the emotion of people was compared to ‘detached grains of sand’ (những hạt cát rã rời), villagers were hesitant to resist Thời or any formal power. This created a situation of ‘willing face but unwilling heart’ (bằng mặt không bằng lòng) in the relations between him and the people. Surprisingly, when he was in power, people appeared to respect him, especially a number of people who benefitted from exchanging gifts and favours and holding banquets with him. Whenever his family held a big activity like emptying the pond for fishing or having a wedding party, many people came to help him enthusiastically. He always stood out from the crowd by speaking loudly and directing people about what to do and how. Only when his power declined did people criticize him (giậu đổ bìm leo).

18Thời went too far when he embezzled donations the commune had collected for victims of the storm in the South and the purchase of some hospital beds for the commune’s health clinic. His brother was urged to stop threatening people after he beat up the son of a commune cadre who lived in a neighbouring village. It took the combined pressure of most cadres and communist party members in the whole commune to discipline Thời, who then lost his position in the early 2000s. Some villagers say that he was lucky to avoid imprisonment given his corrupt ways. Since then, no one cared about or maintained a relationship with him. When he appears at communal activities like a wedding or ritual in the village, no one takes an interest in him. He keeps silent instead of speaking in his sonorous voice. People have moved from honouring to disdaining him.

19After losing formal power, Thời continued to use his relationships to develop a business in the provincial town. He opened a coffee shop and ran it as a brothel. After some years, his illegal activity was discovered and he was arrested. With his connections, he was able to avoid a trial, and the death of his son was seen as a consequence of this immoral trade. According to villagers, the son died from a drug overdose, rather than from an electric shock as his family claimed. After all these stories, Thời does not often stay in the village now. He avoids travelling on the main village road to avoid curses. His story stimulated a discourse among villagers about the concept of virtue (phúc đức) and karma (quả báo). People remind themselves about how to live a virtuous life. They believe that the example of Lê Thời will help the new generation of village cadres be aware of and try to avoid following these ‘tire tracks of falling vehicles’ (tránh vết xe đổ).

20Although young cadres dislike Thời, they are dissatisfied with the people’s attitude towards him. Villagers still harbour the prejudice that being a cadre means being corrupt. The case of Thời and similar officials has shown what villagers’ bribes and favours can achieve. One retired cadre told me ‘ungratefulness is typical of the people, wickedness of the soldier ‘bạc như dân, ác như quân lính’. He complained that villagers often insisted cadres help them and then turned around and scolded them. All these discussions raise the question of whether a number of villagers encouraged Thời to become corrupt and misuse his authority by exchanging gifts and giving him bribes or whether the system let him do it. It was similar during the period of collectivization. There have always been a number of villagers, about one third of the population some villagers estimate, who have tried to exploit the system by giving gifts and favours and holding banquets for cadres for their own benefit. These give more room for local officials to utilize their position to earn benefits.

21The dynamics of Thời’s leadership show that in the transitional stage to a new economy in the 1990s, there was a certainty of increasing resources and economic opportunities for prosperity. Thus, local people had little choice but to accept the profit-seeking behaviour in the economy that Thời had practiced in order to better their lives, even though it went against both moral values and the law. Relationships between people and village cadres and between people themselves were based on pragmatism alone. As people were not entirely happy with that model, Thời could not create a feeling of confidence within the village community.

II-Tolerance and Sentiment in the Building of Legitimacy

22Thời’s fall ended the obsession with the protest within the village itself. By the early 2000s when he lost power, people’s painful memories of the past were fading and the social atmosphere outside was much more open to them. The new generation of village cadres replacing Thời was quite well received by community members. Under Thời’s leadership, most hamlet heads were not approved of by villagers as Thời was not concerned about whether the candidate he nominated suited the will of the people or not. Recently, Bắc Đồng people think that most of candidates nominated by the authorities are in line with their opinions.

23At present, there are two important cadres in the village, Hiền and Khôi. They are both vice chairmen on the Commune’s People’s Committee and had an equal opportunity to play the role of Bắc Đồng village head. Right after Thời was dismissed, Hiền replaced him to lead the village. However, after six months he decided to resign. Hiền is the eldest son of one of the brigade leaders during the collectivization period, and is about 49 years old. When he was young, he joined the army for some years and then went to Eastern Europe to work. After returning to the village, he became a member of the People’s Committee. He was then sent to study at the provincial political school for one year to become chief of the office; now, as noted above, he is vice chairman of the People’s Committee. In the eyes of villagers and his colleagues, Hiền is a gentle and outspoken person. He is not a calculating worldly person and is quite strict in matters of principle. He is considered more suited to deskwork than governance. When he took on the role of village head, he found it difficult to run the system. Hamlet heads did not cooperate well with him in implementing tasks and affairs. The main reason for this was that Hiền did not establish good relationships with them. He did not clearly show how the activities would benefit them and their hamlets. No one knows whether he did not dare to do this or simply lacked the ability to do so. For villagers, Hiền is a timid person and not skilful in speech and behaviour. This shows the importance of leaders’ relational skills in this society.

24Khôi is the same age and has the same background as Hiền, but has different qualities and abilities. After completing several years of military service, he was first selected to be a staff member at the communal military department. Over the last ten years, he has improved his education by completing his high school certificate, and then passing a political course, just like Hiền. More importantly, however, Khôi has experienced and learned a lot about how to develop relationships and gain influence. As a co-vice chairman in the commune, he easily took over the role of village head after Hiền resigned. So far, he is considered to be a cadre who knows how to contact, talk to and humour people.

Lê Thời could not enter into the hearts of people because he sold so much land, even the pagoda’s land to fill his own pocket. Thus, villagers did not respond to his call for village affairs. Mr. Khôi is cleverer and has gained more within people’s hearts. He does not sell land, only builds up the village (chỉ có kiến thiết). He is more sensible (khôn ngoan) and sentimental (tình cảm hơn). Thời, before, always threatened villagers with bringing their problems/troubles to the Commune’s People’s Committee to take their money. Nowadays, Khôi mainly solves village internal affairs by consensus (giải quyết bằng tình cảm là chính), not by sending people or their matters to the commune. By acting within good reason, he managed to endure his position (khôn như vậy mới được bền) (Mrs. Đức, 55 years old, a famer in the village).
“Khôi appeals to people’s sentiments, treats people properly and kindly (
sống có tình, hẳn hoi tử tế). He talks to people in both a logical and sentimental way (ăn nói có tình có lý). And he does not treat people with contempt (không khinh người) (Mrs. Hoa, 70 years old, who used to be a farmer and petty trader).

  • 201 Thông tư 112/2003 của Bộ Tài chính hướng dẫn miễn, giảm thuế sử dụng đất nông nghiệp (năm 2003 đến (...)
  • 202 On 15th October 2007, the government issued the decree No 154/2007/NĐ-CP on exemption of irrigation (...)
  • 203 A household in Đông La commune, Hoài Đức district, Hà Tây province (now in Hanoi) showed me a range (...)

25Although most people in Bắc Đồng at present are quite happy about the attitude of the new generation of cadres, they still are not happy with the excessive contributions for agricultural services and duty they have to pay. In 2003, the government launched a decree which exempted or reduced tax on agricultural land usage201. Since 2004, like other peasant households in the Red River delta, all Bắc Đồng families have benefitted from this new policy. But they still have to pay contributions while some surrounding communes were exempt. Each household in Bắc Đồng pays 14 to 16 fees. For each sào of allocated rice land, they pay almost 10 kilograms of rice for the irrigation fee202, 4 kilograms for field protection and smaller amounts for insect prevention, a veterinary fund or agricultural extension203. They are also required to make payments for social funds like the conscripted labour fund, children’s health care fund, fund for the poor, educational promotion fund, Peasant Association fees and the brigade/hamlet operation fee. In addition, depending on the annual plan of the village for building common works or activities like roads, schools or festivals, each household has to contribute money according to the amount of rice field they are allocated or the number of family members.

26Among these contributions, the irrigation fees, conscripted labour fund and contributions for common construction work and village affairs are the most onerous. On average, a household with 5 sào of rice land had to pay about five hundred thousand đồng (about 27.5 USD) for each crop before 2004. After the land use tax was abolished, the amount dropped to about three hundred thousand đồng. Villagers say that these duties are still too much compared to what they earn from cultivation. The average income from one sào of rice land is around two to three hundred thousand đồng per crop after all the production expenses are paid. People think that it is not proper and fair that children born after 1993, who are not allocated rice land, are still subject to contributions levies on household members. Many villagers question why they have to contribute fees and duties that are not required by the state and why rural inhabitants such as themselves have to contribute money to build roads while urban dwellers never have to. The answer lies in local government policies. In many rural locations, the local government invests part of the income gained from selling land for residential expansion in village infrastructure after giving a certain percentage to the state. People living in those villages do not have to contribute, or if they do only very little, to the construction of roads, schools or electricity station. In these cases, the local cadres are implementing a kind of ‘converting land into infrastructure’ policy, which is in line with state policy.

27Many Bắc Đồng villagers are hesitant to question the local government or openly complain about the fees and charges because of their memories and experience of the protest period. They just concentrate on working and earning enough money to enable them to meet the contribution requirements. In other villages where people are poorer than them, villagers might sue local authorities about excessive duty. However, this situation in Bắc Đồng might change in the near future. Recently an anonymous complaint appeared in a neighbouring village in the same commune denouncing the local cadres’ abuse of power over people’s contributions. Some villagers said that “everything has a threshold, as things go beyond it, they will not accept it”.

28Villagers often claim that their village cadres earn income from contributions based on the area of rice land cultivated and from tractor contracts. After de-collectivization, each household had to take care of their own production. During the 1990s and early 2000s, people in the village prepared the land for cultivation with their own family’s ox or hired someone to use a small tractor to do it. Recently, new seeds and cultivation techniques require a strict and comprehensive schedule. Hamlet leaders have taken over the role of hiring a tractor and preparing the land for people to speed up the process, and they collect money from each household to pay for a driver. Villagers understand that cadres can benefit from both sides of the contract, the households and the driver. If households hire a tractor themselves, they might only have to pay ten thousand đồng per sào. Through the hamlet leader, they have to pay twelve thousand đồng, but the quality of land tilled is not ensured as the mechanic often has to pay commission to the leader so he reduces his costs by tilling carelessly. Bắc Đồng people estimate that a hamlet leader in their village can earn about thirty million đồng a year, an income equal to a well-to-do person in the village, while their boss – the village head – might earn double that. However, they have quite a calm attitude toward this phenomenon. They think that there is a consensus among village cadres about the level of contributions and that it is difficult for a normal villager to make any changes. Moreover, people nowadays tend to concentrate on their own family and have become more self-centred.

Nowadays people care more for their families than for common interest. Everyone is busy earning a living as agriculture is not their main livelihood. Every family takes charge of how to earn at least ten million đồng a year to cover expenses. Therefore, they are not bothered about what village cadres ‘eat’. In meetings, someone may raise questions and ideas for the higher echelons but we are not sure if those are passed on to higher authority… Thus, it is better to turn a blind eye to everything” (Mr. Tý, 58 years old).
“… As cadres, they have to take care of common affairs and at the same time think about how to have a life, at least like the ‘well-todo’ ’in the hamlet. However, they should keep in mind and only ‘eat’ in certain circumstances (
biết ăn tuỳ chỗ) and leave something for the people (Mr. Tú, 65 years old).

29There is a widespread idea among villagers that during collectivization cadres only ‘ate’ paddy and rice, while nowadays hamlet and village heads earn money from household contributions. People believe that this form of corruption is very skilful. It is difficult to find evidence as the contribution is strictly regulated, from the commune down to the hamlet. The income of village cadres mainly comes from their agreements with contractors. This applies equally to other construction contracts in the village like repairing the roads, canals and other infrastructure projects. The leader no longer has to write fake receipts to siphon money from the construction projects. Instead, he earns money indirectly through the contractors.

30Nowadays, people tend to accept and tolerate the fact that cadres benefit monetarily from their positions. A quite well-to-do man in the village at present can earn about three to four million đồng a month from production, trade or craft. In the opinion of villagers, a head of the hamlet must have the same capacity, quality of life and standard of living. He should therefore earn about that amount of income by devoting his time to the village. Nevertheless, people expect and require a good response and attitude from him. One elderly woman in Bắc Đồng gave an example of one former hamlet head who knew how to use the hamlet funds to sponsor parties and long dresses (áo dài) for women in the hamlet on the occasion of Women’s Day. Villagers considered him a clever man who knew how to flatter the people. Bắc Đồng villagers accept that cadres need to improve their low wages and allowances by taking part of the households’ and individuals’ contributions for public funds or village affairs. At the same time, however, they want to set a notional threshold for this. Details about this limit vary according to context, event and story. However, two main general rules are: the amount should not to be too much and should not be applied in every case. Taking contributions people have donated for spiritual affairs, like donations to repair or build a pagoda or temple, is not acceptable. The percentage of the creamed off portion should not be too high compared to the total fund or contribution. To maintain those rules satisfactorily, a cadre must respect the people (nể dân) and their wishes, and be cautious in his dealing with the people (gờm dân).

  • 204 See MALARNEY (Shaun Kingsley), “Culture, Virtue, And Political Transformation…”, 1997, page 908.

31At the moment, Bắc Đồng people are fairly satisfied with their current arrangements. However, their relationship with the cadres is an ongoing dialogue. Villagers still believe that ‘to be a cadre one must be corrupt’, therefore they always carefully monitor their actions. Their trust and responses towards cadres and their call for action fluctuate depending on the dynamics of everyday life. In their discourse on contemporary politics, villagers rarely mention concepts of virtue and talent, which were previously seen as essential qualities for a leader. People are very practical and assume that, nowadays, it is difficult to apply the revolution’s moral standards such as “industry, thrift, incorruptibility, public spirit and impartiality” (Cần, kiệm, liêm, chính. Chí công vô tư) that Uncle Hồ embodied as a defining image of political morality204. The most important qualities that Bắc Đồng residents expect in their leaders are sentimentality and kindness. If the leader does more good work for the village, he will earn more prestige, but the above qualities are critical to becoming an esteemed political leader. The dynamics of everyday life politics in Bắc Đồng show that under the intensification of the market economy, local people have given more tolerance to the threshold of corruption and the norms of moral leadership, but there is still no consensus among people on a good leader according to criteria of the norm. Although many Bắc Đồng villagers have high esteem for Khoi’s good sentiment and ability, at the same time they still doubt his honesty and transparency. Thus, he and other village cadres are always worried that when they retire or quit their jobs, they might have to go through a similar situation or suffer the same criticism that Thoi experienced. In this situation, their commitment to the norm of good leadership was not enough to create a good relationship with people or to gain popular legitimacy. The following example will illustrate that in order to change their discourse with people and to gain of prestige, local government should meet the people’s desire for a new ritual and religious life.

III-Rebuilding Trust and Decision: “Enter into the Hearts” of People

32In the early 2000s, Bắc Đồng people could make a sigh of relief and feel more relaxed when a more convincing form of local governance replaced the old order. However, when socio-economic life really improved, people had more room to think beyond subsistence level concerns. Villagers suddenly found that they were being left behind compared to the surrounding villages. The appearance of Bắc Đồng had improved with new concrete roads, more tile-roofed and flat-roof houses and a public hygiene system, but it still lacked the new social and cultural institutions and titles that many other communities in the region had already received. During Khôi’s leadership, a program was initiated that gave villagers a new sense of hope, a new image and model of the responsive leader.

  • 205 After the Central Government launched a Resolution on this movement, provincial governments like Vĩ (...)

33The movement of building Cultural Village (làng văn hoá) was introduced during the period of 1991-2000, and was officially adopted at the fifth Resolution of the 8th Party Congress in 1998. In the early 1990s, a small number of cultural villages were built according to strict criteria. After 1998, locations in the Red River delta became more actively involved in this programme205. Aware of these developments, the new generation of Bắc Đồng village cadres started to mobilize villagers to join the movement in the early 2000s. They began by building cultural houses in five hamlets in the village to cater to contemporary formal meetings and cultural performances.

34In 2003, Mr. Bách, the leader of hamlet number five took the initiative in this movement in Bắc Đồng. He himself borrowed money to build a house on the foundation of a vacant pond in the hamlet. By showing people that he devoted his time and whole heart to the project without stealing any building material, he convinced people to contribute one hundred thousand đồng per inhabitant for the project. The opening ceremony of this house became a festival for the villagers. People were not only happy with the bright and spacious building in their neighbourhood. What’s more is that they were very proud of their own contribution and confidence. Since then, others have followed and responded to the movement. By 2005, all five hamlets of Bắc Đồng had cultural houses, which cost a total of about one billion đồng. Besides getting involved in the construction, village cadres also mobilized people to participate in various social activities launched and implemented by the Veteran’s Association, Women’s Union, or Youth League. The main content and aim of these activities was to promote agricultural production by training villagers about new seeds, skills and techniques; to introduce new secondary jobs, or to increase people’s awareness of social problems like drug addiction, transport accidents and AIDS/HIV.

35Despite the fact that villagers regard contemporary movements as formal activities, under the leadership and mobilization of a new generation of cadres, they have tried to carry out the instructions and tasks as well as meet the targets set by higher levels government. Their efforts were acknowledged in 2005 when they received the title of ‘Cultural Village’ for the first time. As a poor woman who receives only three hundred thousand đồng a month for cleaning the village road said:

“… to gain that certificate cost the villagers’ blood, sweat and tears. Everybody had to work hard for improvement and to build big houses from hollow foundations. Women in the village had to be active in movements to be recognized”.

36For the many Bắc Đồng people, the title is not only the a manifestation of the government’s recognition of their well-being and improved socio-economic life, but more importantly it abolishes their complex about the adverse political attitude towards their village. As some of the criteria to be a cultural village is that villagers implement state policy as well as the law, and that they ensure order and security, the title therefore certifies that Bắc Đồng people are good citizens who always obey the guidelines and policies of the government.

37Since receiving the title of Cultural Village, many Bắc Đồng people have been thinking of another plan for a long time. Most of the other villages in the region had revived the festivals connected to the village guardian deity cult at the communal house. Bắc Đồng village, however, could only revive and maintain the Confucian-inspired tế-ritual on special occasions each year. In principle, a village has to apply for approval from the Ministry of Culture and Information or the Provincial Department of Culture and Information to rank its communal house or temple as a historical building before the village can hold a festival. Under Lê Thời’s leadership, some old villagers raised the idea of applying for approval of the đình, and started to prepare documents, which they then sent to some officials, but no result came of this. People wondered if this was because Thời was not sufficiently enthusiastic in pursuing the matter or whether the government was prejudiced because of the villagers’ former political resistance. Only in 2004, under the leadership of Khôi, was this process resumed and promoted.

  • 206 MICHAEL DiGregorio, “Things held in common: Memory, space and the reconstitution of community life” (...)
  • 207 TA LONG (ed), S phát trin ca làng ngh La Phù [The development of La Phu Craft Village], Hanoi : (...)

38For a long time, small repairs had been made to the đình, but then, a large amount of money was needed for it to be certified as a historical building. Village cadres and the village Committee of Rituals decided to organize a big movement to collect funds. Loudspeakers were used everyday to call for donations. Speeches praising the village’s socio-economic development and poems about the đình’s sacred nature (copied from somewhere else) were broadcast to stimulate the villagers’ community spirit. The organizing committee also drew up a letter to invite Bắc Đồng villagers who had moved away from the village to give money to help restore the đình. For many migrants in the northern mountainous provinces, the Central Highlands or Mekong delta, who have been far away from Bắc Đồng for several decades, this was the first time that cadres and the people at home had shown any interest in them. All these efforts brought amazing results. Seventy million đồng was contributed by people within the village and over forty million đồng was donated by migrants, particularly migrants in the South. Several successful companies owned by Bắc Đồng people donated items for the đình which were worth ten million đồng. The donations Bắc Đồng villagers made were not as large as some other villages in the delta where long ago villagers had contributed several hundred million or a billion đồng to repair or rebuild their ritual spaces206207. However, it was the biggest amount of money that Bắc Đồng people had ever spent on a communal activity. Some villagers told me that they responded to the call as it was a Party decision that embraced their soul (ý Đảng lòng dân).

  • 208 Đinh Tiên Hoàng (Đinh Bộ Lĩnh) is a famous character in history of Vietnam. He was born around 924 (...)

39The village association of elderly people was given the task of preparing the documents and records needed for the application. In this process, rituals, festivals and history of the village tutelary deity which had been interrupted for 70 years were revived through the memories of contemporary villagers with the assistance of the officials of Ha Nam museum. There are many new factors and methods of invention that come with the process when villagers remember, imagine and select their history and tradition. However, this goes beyond the scope of this chapter. What’s important was the swiftness in which construction and requests went during that year, in 2006. This brought great happiness to the villagers who were not only glad to have a certificate like others, but more importantly they could be proud of their village god and their communal house. Villagers said that before this event, they only had a vague knowledge of their village god, King Đinh Tiên Hoàng208 through legends and stories that had been passed down. They thought of him more as a spirit than a historical character. Through the efforts of the cultural staff and the elders, people learned more about King Đinh and the communal house. They became prouder of their village god’s deeds of merit towards the country and confident that their communal house was related to a significant historical milestone for the nation. As one woman described in her poem ‘the đình had entered into the orthodox history’ (đi vào Sử xanh).

  • 209 This is a pseudonym.
  • 210 Quoted in ‘Niềm tự hào’ (Pride), Hương Bắc Đồng, Ha Nam: NXB VHTT, 2007. p. 67. The real village na (...)

Our Bắc Đồng209 community house
Happily received the provincial certification
Village people and cadres are proud of that
Having the Đình enter into orthodox history

40Villager’s recognized Khôi, the village head, as a person who had the merit of gaining the certificate of historical building. Villagers thought that without the efforts of the local government, this title would never have been given to them. They understand that Khôi acted as he did partly for the to have a good memory of his time of leadership. After he received the approval in 2007, Khôi organized a ceremony to receive the certificate as well as a three-day village festival.

41On the first day, the villagers took part in the procession of King Đinh Tiên Hoàng’s statue from his small temples to the communal house, where rituals were performed. During the procession, when the village cadres carried his statue from behind the palace of the temple to the palanquin outside, it was the first time that nearly all Bắc Đồng people were able to see the physiology of the King. That moment made a strong impression and sparked a lot of emotion amongst them. Many villagers suddenly felt that their king/god was extremely sacred (linh thiêng). Since then, this historical character who had been concealed in the temple for seventy years has received more care from local government and villagers, and has started participating actively in the everyday life dynamics of the community.

Moving the village deity’s statue from the spirit palace to the communal house

42On the morning of the second day, an official ceremony was held to receive the certificate of ‘historical and architectural building’ for the Đình. With the help of one retired journalist in the village, Khôi turned this occasion into a display of Bắc Đồng people’s achievements and spirit. Another procession was held to carry the certificate from the People’s Committee head office to the đình. An official ceremony was held at the communal house. The village was proud to welcome high-ranking leaders of the province, district and commune to this event. In his speech at this ceremony, Khôi made a brief presentation on the history of the building. He emphasized its value by highlighting Đinh Bộ Lĩnh’s struggle in unifying the country and acquiring independence, as well as the revolutionary cause when the đình became a meeting place for revolutionary fighters in the region and a ceremonial venue to send young people off to fight during the American war. Khôi also described the efforts and achievements of the people of Bắc Đồng in relation to social and economic development. He took this chance to call on the people for further unification and good implementation of the state policies. This ceremony and the festival became an opportunity for village cadres to encourage people to successfully implement production tasks and to build a more beautiful and rich homeland.

43Before the festival began, Khôi and the organizing committee were very worried about the villagers’ response. They thought about erecting a barrier at the village gate to stop people leaving the village, a strategy similar to the one used by the government during the collectivization period to keep their members at work. However, contrarily to their worries, villagers were highly enthusiastic about the festival. No one went to the rice field or city to work during the festival. All stayed home to participate in the processions and organized activities. Unexpectedly, people set up archways for their own hamlets, decorated them beautifully, which they turned into a gathering place for three days and nights. In all the hamlets, people gathered and contributed money for banquet feasts and drinks. For most Bắc Đồng villagers, the festival thus revived a communal spirit, which had long been lost. Many people say that they were very sad at the end of the festival when the village gods’ statue was put back in the temple and people dismantled the archways and tents, ending three warm and happy days.

The incense table of one hamlet (behind it, people gathered to chat, drink, and even sing and dance, especially in the evening)

44The night before the festival began, most Bắc Đồng people did not sleep. They were busy preparing the offerings and rituals. Many families brought their own offerings to the deity at the communal house between midnight and 5am to make sure that their prayers to him were fulfilled before the procession. One woman in the village said that “nowadays, only spiritual life can make people forgo their sleep”. People did not hesitate to donate money for the ritual and each family spent several hundreds of thousands of đồng to contribute to feasts and celebrations in the hamlets. Almost one year after the festival, one man still remembered its atmosphere as follows:

The festival really entered into the heart of the people (lễ hội thực sự đi vào lòng dân). Many people were so absorbed in this village affair that they forgot their family’s work. Nothing happened in families where both husband and wife participated in preparing for the ceremony and rituals. But in families where only the wife was busy with rituals and performances, there were quarrels and conflicts when the housework was left undone and the husband became jealous. In total, seven couples in the village quarrelled because of the festival. Everyone felt excited, ebullient and blessed (sôi nổi, rạo rực và linh thiêng). It entered into people’s heart so strongly” (Mr. Phương, 50 years old)

45Although some people, especially the oldest men, were dissatisfied about the way local leaders treated them during the festival, all Bắc Đồng villagers were very proud of their festival as they considered it a big and beautiful event. Local cadres evaluated the festival as a great success which gave the village a good reputation. Meanwhile, the villagers were excited about the festival, as it was a good opportunity for them to rest, enjoy and enhance their feeling of unity. No festival had been held in previous years because people’s lives had not really improved and, more importantly, villagers were not satisfied with the local government. Thời was so corrupt that people were not enthusiastic about any movement he tried to organize. At present, Khôi is held in higher esteem and people feel his decisions can enter their hearts. Following the festival, Khôi decided to continue the villager’s interest in spiritual movements by mobilizing people to rebuild the old road to the temple, which had fallen into disrepair, and to renovate the pagoda. By meeting the demands of the people to revive spiritual life, he could mobilize and unite villagers to make their community more beautiful and warm. However, the dynamics of his success in these new projects depend on whether he violates the norm of good leadership or oversteps the threshold.


  • 211 MALARNEY Shaun Kingsley, Culture, ritual and revolution in Vietnam, London: Routledge-Curzon, 2002.
  • 212 TAYLOR Philip (ed), Modernity and Re-enchanment: Religion in Post-revolutionary Vietnam, Singapore: (...)
  • 213 ENDRES Kristen, “Spirit Performance and the Ritual Construction of Personal Identity in Modern Viet (...)
  • 214 PHAM QUYNH PHUONG, Hero and Deity: Tran Hung Dao and the Resurgence of Popular Religion in Vietnam, (...)
  • 215 SALEMINK Oscar, “Embodying the Nation: Mediumship, Rituals and the National Imagination”, Journal o (...)

46Through the interaction between Thời, Khôi, some village cadres and Bắc Đồng people, we could see the existence of many socio-cultural norms for the leader’s moral values and prestige in Vietnamese society. The above examples have shown that these norms play an important role in guiding the every day political and social life of the village. However, in the new socio-economic situation, some criteria of these norms turned out to be idealistic. In situations as such, local people have adjusted and given more tolerance to compensate for the shortage of effective authorities with good moral values. Additionally, authorities also find a new way to introduce new social movements into their locality to mobilize people and build trust. In the case of Bắc Đồng, cadres consider their success in organizing the festival as a measure of their prestige among villagers. In reality, Bắc Đồng authorities have acted in response to a nation-wide social movement. The model is a result of a significant change in official policy towards religion after the 1986 economic renovation. After over thirty years of strict control over cultural life through propaganda and surveillance activities, the Vietnamese state now sees in religion a source of inner strength that might aid the development of a prosperous, orderly and wholesome society211 212. Together with the religious efflorescence and the resurgence of tradition, leaders in many localities have found that they should meet the people’s desire for self-image, personal identity and a national cultural identity in a transitional society213 214 215. Cadres and local governments have played the leading role in reviving and organizing festivals and rituals for the community. By doing so, they aim to gain popular legitimacy and to change their relationship with the people. As a consequence, recently, the country has been shaped by the image of a spiritual and cultural society. Governance via culture, despite being a ‘soft’ mode of governance, has become a modern principle of contemporary Vietnamese socialism.

47Beyond the expectations of its leader, Bắc Đồng people were extremely enthusiastic in their response to the idea of reconstructing their village identity through the ritual. They not only revived their village god as a form of moral support, but also recreated his nexus and involvement in daily life. They imagined their village territory as being the King’s land and under his patronage, as well as seeing him as a close authority who manages and decides the fate of their concerns. This imagination created a great level of emotion, sentiment and excitement among the community. In this case, King Đinh Tiên Hoàng became a symbol to unite villagers and rebuild village identity. His magic power, potency and prestige are considered as resources to empower people, improve their lives and find meaning in their local leaders. The god has even become a bridge between people and their local leaders. By showing a set of values through performance and ritual, the villagers could communicate with their leaders about their personal identities. Meanwhile, by introducing this national style of responding to people’s thirst for culture in harmonious agreement with local self-respect, the cadres could reclaim some power and legitimacy through the enthusiasm of the people. In this context, life in contemporary rural politics is not only guided by socio-cultural ideas or frameworks, but also by emotion and imagination.


191 BENEDICT, Kerkvliet J. Tria and DAVID, Marr G. (eds.), Beyond Hanoi: Local Government in Vietnam, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore: NIAS Press, 2004.

192 PHAM QUANG MINH, “Caught in the Middle: Local Cadres in Hai Duong Province”, Beyond Hanoi: local government in Vietnam B.J. Kerkvliet and D.G. Marr, (eds.), Pp. 90-109, Vietnam update series. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004.

193 BENEDICT and DAVID (eds.), Beyond Hanoi:…, 2004, page 17.

194 PHAM QUANG MINH, “Caught in the Middle:.., 2004, page 100.

195 MALARNEY (Shaun Kingsley), “Culture, Virtue, and Political Transformation in Contemporary Northern Vietnam”, The Journal of Asian Studies, Nov 1997, Vol. 56, No. 4.

196 Bắc Đồng is not the official name of the village where I carried out one year fieldwork from June 2007 to June May 2008. In fact, is one version of the revolutionary name of the village during the collectivization period. I prefer to use it as it is a beautiful name and it protects my informants.

197 LUONG Hy V, Revolution in the Village: Tradition and Transformation in North Vietnam. 1925-1988, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1992.

198 KLEINEN John, Facing the future, reviving the past: a study of social change in a Northern Vietnamese village, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1999.

199 See PHAM QUANG MINH, “Caught in the Middle…”, 2004.

200 My fieldwork in another commune in Hoài Đức district, Hà Tây province (now in Hanoi) shows that in this area, young people and non-party members are elected as village heads. Many people hesitate to do this work as it is considered as ‘eating at home, but shouldering the work of assisting the Canton’ (ăn cơm nhà vác tù và hàng tổng).

201 Thông tư 112/2003 của Bộ Tài chính hướng dẫn miễn, giảm thuế sử dụng đất nông nghiệp (năm 2003 đến 2010 theo Nghị định 129/2003 của Chính phủ) [Circular 112/2003 of the Ministry of Finance on reducing and exempting agricultural land tax from 2003 till 2010 according to the decree number 129/2003 of the government]

202 On 15th October 2007, the government issued the decree No 154/2007/NĐ-CP on exemption of irrigation fees for peasants. In the Red River delta, people in many locations were free from these burden fees right after this policy was launched. But in some provinces, the policy was still not applied.

203 A household in Đông La commune, Hoài Đức district, Hà Tây province (now in Hanoi) showed me a range of their receipts for contributions in recent years. They only have two main fees for irrigation and crop protection. With over 3 sào of rice land, they only have to contribute about one hundred thousand dong per crop.

204 See MALARNEY (Shaun Kingsley), “Culture, Virtue, And Political Transformation…”, 1997, page 908.

205 After the Central Government launched a Resolution on this movement, provincial governments like Vĩnh Phúc province introduced their own Resolution to implement the target. See Resolution 7, Vĩnh Phúc People’s Council on Building Cultural Family – Cultural Village in the period 1998-2004.

206 MICHAEL DiGregorio, “Things held in common: Memory, space and the reconstitution of community life”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Vol. 38, No. 3 (2007), pp. 441-465.

207 TA LONG (ed), S phát trin ca làng ngh La Phù [The development of La Phu Craft Village], Hanoi : NXB Khoa hc Xã hi, 2007.

208 Đinh Tiên Hoàng (Đinh Bộ Lĩnh) is a famous character in history of Vietnam. He was born around 924 and died in 979. When he was young, the country was in a historical period called ‘disorder of twelve warlords’ (loạn mười hai sứ quân). In that situation, Đinh Bộ Lĩnh gathered followers and built a base in his home land, Hoa Lư - Ninh Bình province. From this area, he expanded his influence, defeated all the warlords and reunified the country. In 968, Đinh Bộ Lĩnh became king and gave the country a new name: Đại Cồ Việt. Historians praise him as the person who established federal centralism in Vietnam. Since his time, Vietnam has been officially recognized as an independent country from China (see QUỲNH CƯ and ĐỖ ĐỨC HÙNG, Các Triều Đại Việt Nam [Dynasties of Vietnam], NXB Thanh Niên, 1993; TRẦN QUỐC VƯỢNG and HÀ VĂN TẤN (eds.), Lịch sử chế độ phong kiến Việt Nam [History of feudal regimes in Vietnam], Volume 1. Hanoi: NXB Giáo Dục, 1960.

209 This is a pseudonym.

210 Quoted in ‘Niềm tự hào’ (Pride), Hương Bắc Đồng, Ha Nam: NXB VHTT, 2007. p. 67. The real village name was replaced by Bắc Đồng.

211 MALARNEY Shaun Kingsley, Culture, ritual and revolution in Vietnam, London: Routledge-Curzon, 2002.

212 TAYLOR Philip (ed), Modernity and Re-enchanment: Religion in Post-revolutionary Vietnam, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2007.

213 ENDRES Kristen, “Spirit Performance and the Ritual Construction of Personal Identity in Modern Vietnam” in FJELSTAD and NGUYEN (eds) Possessed by the Spirits: Mediumship in Contemporary Vietnamese Communities, Ithaca New York: Cornell University, 2006, pp. 77-94.

214 PHAM QUYNH PHUONG, Hero and Deity: Tran Hung Dao and the Resurgence of Popular Religion in Vietnam, Mekong Press, 2009

215 SALEMINK Oscar, “Embodying the Nation: Mediumship, Rituals and the National Imagination”, Journal of Vietnamese Studies, Vol. 3, No. 3 (2008), pp. 261-290.

Table des illustrations

Légende Moving the village deity’s statue from the spirit palace to the communal house
Fichier image/jpeg, 228k
Légende The incense table of one hamlet (behind it, people gathered to chat, drink, and even sing and dance, especially in the evening)
Fichier image/jpeg, 221k

© Institut de recherche sur l’Asie du Sud-Est contemporaine, 2010

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