SUPERSTITIONS, ASTROLOGY AND FORTUNETELLING IN VIETNAM

SUPERSTITIOUS VIETNAMESE

Vietnamese are very superstitious and beliefs in astrology, feng shui (geomancy), and spirits is widespread. Geomancers are consulted to make sure shops are properly situated. Fireworks displays are held to ward off evil spirits and haunted souls. Shopkeepers consider their first customer on auspicious days to be good luck, and they put heavy pressure on these customers to buy something. During the year of the dragon—considered an auspicious time to have a baby— in 2000 the birthrate in Vietnam jumped 8 percent in the first half of the year.

Despite official disapproval of superstitious practices, most Vietnamese, regardless of their professed religion, level of education, or ideology, were influenced at one time or another by such practices as astrology, geomancy and sorcery. Diviners and other specialists in the occult remained in popular demand because they were believed to be able to diagnose supernatural causes of illness, establish lucky dates for personal undertakings, or predict the future. Moreover, many Vietnamese believed that individual destiny was guided by astrological phenomena. By consulting one's horoscope, one could make the most of auspicious times and avoid disaster. It was not unusual, for example, for a couple to consult an astrologer before marrying. He would determine if the betrothed were suitably matched and even fix the date of the ceremony. [Source: Library of Congress]

According to a Vietnamese student at the University of California, San Diego: "Vietnam is a very superstitious nation. I believe most of them are created from feng shui, star divinations, astrology, and other Chinese spiritual practices and beliefs. To start off, feng shui would be a good one to tackle down first. Feng Shui or in Vietnamese, phong thuy, is basically the belief of chi and the flow of this energy in the universe. Things should be placed in a certain direction in order to get certain results. This includes the direction of your house, your bed, your sleeping position, etc. Flow is very important in this spiritual practice so cleanliness and order are imperative. Another thing in phong thuy is that the flow of energy must circle throughout the environment and not just leave. This is why most things do not face the door because all the qi would escape. Beds never point towards the door because they say death will drag you by the feet out the door. Stairs are another thing that do not point towards the door. All the good energy would escape out the door. [Source: Culture Corner, Vietnamese Student Association, University of California, San Diego, November 25, 2012 ||||]

"Star divinations and astrology are closely linked. Basically, the shamans can determine your life based on the time and star alignment at the time of your birth. Another thing shamans can do is palm reading. This tells you usually your longevity, love life, and success based on the smoothness of the contour lines on your palm. Astrology is based on the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese zodiac not only gives you an animal and tells you your character and personality, but it also tells you compatibility. For example a tiger year cannot marry a horse year or else misfortune will fall upon both sides of the family. ||||

Vietnamese and Americans looking for MIAs have enlisted the help of Nguyen Thi Nghi, a psychic who uses a cracked saucer and three coins to communicate with spirits of the dead. Working out of the village of Chi Do, 70 miles southeast of Hanoi, she that after she drops the coins on the saucer she can see faces "as clearly as you see them on television." The physic usually says the remains of lost ones can be found "under a tree with purple flowers" or "a cave guarded by a magic serpent that you can only get into by using a magic powder." Sometimes people find buried bones but it is difficult to say who they belong to or if they even human. [Source: New York Times]

Ancestral altars and shrines, with pictures of deceased loved ones have traditionally dominated the front room of a house. Members of the household bow before it, light incense and pray. Altars are decorated with incense, fruit and flowers during Tet. Some Buddhist altars are situated outside in front of the house. After Tet, chicken feet are hung from the front of the house to ward off evil spirits. If the feet turn black it means a year of bad luck is ahead.

Vietnamese Superstitions

In Vietnam passing a funeral or a bat is good luck. Breaking a bottle of fish sauce is bad luck. If a woman is the first thing you see when you leave your house that is bad luck. Pregnant women and people who have had a recent death in the family are considered bearers of bad luck. children should no eat eggs or bananas on the day of an exam. Even the way hair grows on a water buffalo says something. If a pattern grows symmetrically on both sides of a water buffalo that means good luck and good health.

According to a web forum posting by Thomas on Sun: 1) Don’t express lavish admiration for a new baby, because the devils might hear you and steal the child because of his desirability. 2) 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. 3) 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. 4) Do not hand someone a toothpick. 5) Never buy one pillow or mattress pad, always buy two. 6) Do not use relative’s towels. 7) Do not overturn musical instruments, or beat both sides of a drum simultaneously. 8) Do not cut finger and toenails at night. [Source: Thomas on Sun, iasiang.forumotion.net, Sep 14, 2008]

In another web forum posting viet364 wrote: "They say spirits often take new borns mainly boys especially if they are really cute/beautiful. So parents would give them girl names, dress them in girl clothes and/or call them names like, "you're ugly" and what not but usually doing so with lots of love. By doing this, the spirit thinks the baby isn't worth taking. Proof of this is my mom calling my nephew names when he was a baby but its always with lots of smiles, hugs and love from what I've seen. One of my father's friend dressed up his son in girls clothes. I would think after being in the US for so long they wouldn't believe in those superstitions but only having 3 girls and finally a boy, I guess they didn't want to take chances. Another friend of mine told me a long time ago since he was born in vietnam that when you are chased by a spirit, before you are caught, make a sharp turn in another direction. He said by doing that the spirit won't chase you because they can't turn. [Source: viet364, Sep 15, 2008 //\\]

My father also say don't whistle at night because you'll be calling the dead (mainly the bad ones I think). I guess I can claim this because my roommate always does it. One night while he was in my room talking, I was on my computer which was kind of faced at the door in an angle when I suddenly caught, out of the corner of my eye, a piece of paper going up then dropping. I not only saw it but also heard it. My roommate claimed didn't hear anything.

Vietnam's Vice Sports Minister Turns to Child Rape To Rid Him of Bad Luck

In 2004, Associated Press reported: "Vietnam has charged a former senior sports official with the alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl in what reportedly was his attempt to rid himself of bad luck, state-controlled media. Luong Quoc Dung, 52, former vice chairman of the sports ministry, was formally charged while at the B14 prison in Hanoi, following a six-month investigation, the official Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper said. The charge carries a maximum 15-year jail term. According to the police report, Dung assaulted the girl in a hotel room in December, 2003 after paying his former mistress, Nguyen Quynh Nga, $1,000 to procure the girl.[Source: Associated Press, August 19, 2004]

State-controlled media have widely reported that Dung requested the meeting because he was experiencing a spate of bad luck and believed that having sex with a virgin would end that streak. Nga also has been charged with child rape. The case has been extensively covered by state media and marked the first time that a high-ranking government official was publicly accused of raping a minor. Numerous articles have run saying the victims' family attempted to drop the case after Dung allegedly paid them US$68,000. Dung was arrested at his office on Feb. 19, and Prime Minister Phan Van Khai officially fired him March 1, citing "special seriousness of his lawbreaking act."

Superstition Has High Place in Vietnam

Astrologers, psychics and fortunetellers help shape many people's lives and beliefs in Vietnam David Lamb wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "College professor Nguyen Ngoc Hung had spent nearly three decades searching for the remains of his brother, who died at age 20 fighting U.S. troops. Hung had scoured battlefields in Vietnam's Central Highlands and talked to military commanders and pored through archival records, always coming up empty-handed. Finally, in desperation, he went to a psychic here and explained his grief. "This is easy," Pham Thi Hang said. "I can help." She sketched a map of a hilly region about 400 miles south of Hanoi and drew an "x" to indicate an unmarked grave. "Before you dig," she said, "stick a chopstick in the earth. If an egg balances on it, your brother will be below." And there, beneath a chopstick in Kontum province, is where Hung's quest ended two months later and Nguyen Ngoc Cuong was exhumed for a proper Buddhist burial. "My other brother is an engineer," Hung said, "and without scientific evidence, he has doubts about anything. He can't quite believe a psychic found Cuong. But if people feel hopeless, they will reach out, like I did, to superstition; and whether you're a Communist or not, if you're Vietnamese, you're a very superstitious person." [Source: David Lamb, Los Angeles Times, December 29, 2000 **]

"Like many Southeast Asians, the Vietnamese would not consider making a major decision, whether it involved marriage or building a house, without considering the lunar calendar and consulting an astrologer, psychic or fortuneteller. This is pragmatism to them, not superstition: Abiding by these forces of nature is how one finds harmony with surroundings and is in turn rewarded with good luck and a happy life. Vietnam's folkloric beliefs--three people, for instance, will never pose together in a photograph because the one in the middle will be struck by ill fortune--are a mixture of Buddhism, Confucian ideology, local tradition, paganism and ancestor worship. Out of this nourishment for the soul comes the belief that one's destiny is determined by the time, day and year of birth. **

"On Hung Ma Street in Hanoi's Old Quarter, shop after shop sells paper cutouts--some near life-size when unfolded--that people burn to pass the object on to their relatives in the afterlife. There are paper cars, cellular phones, refrigerators, stacks of imitation $100 U.S. bills, TV sets, electric fans--all made in the village of Ba Binh, where most of the population spends its days snipping and folding. "Our most difficult order was for a sewing machine," said Lan Van Binh, who owns one of the shops. "But what the living have, the dead also need. This really isn't superstitious. It's about faithfulness and showing serious feelings to your ancestors." **

The Communist government has long frowned on superstition, mysticism and religion. In the dark postwar years of the 1970s and '80s, it banned fortunetelling. But as the government began loosening up in the '90s, the ban on fortunetellers was lifted and psychics are back in strength. Vietnamese believe that the first visitor of a new year sets the tone for the next 12 months and make arrangements for a healthy, successful, happily married friend to knock on their door at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1. "I do not know exactly how I got the wisdom to find the graves of missing soldiers," said one psychic, Nguyen Van Lien, 37, whose living room was crammed with 25 people seeking clues to the fate of MIA relatives. "But I had two serious fevers as a young man, and when I survived, I found I had the ability of a fortuneteller. My fame soon spread." **

Concept of Spirits and Spirit-Controlled Environment in Vietnam

Belief in good and evil spirits, both animate and inanimate, is basic throughout Vietnam regardless of other religions professed. Some Americans are superstitious; but usually in spite of their religious beliefs. Many Vietnamese are superstitious because of their beliefs. Some Vietnamese are very serious in seeking to appease evil or harm-causing spirits and the spirits of deceased ancestors. Not to appease would be to create problems. [Source: The Religions of South Vietnam in Faith and Fact, US Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chaplains Division,1967 ++]

Thus the Spirit House, the Spirit Pole in the rice paddies, the mirror by the door of the home, the "ishi" lions at the Temples or homes, the Ancestor Altars or Shelves, etc., are attempts to be in harmony with the spirits, and to have the spirits to do the will of the appeaser. Moreover, pleased spirits can do much to counteract evil ones. It is widely believed by most classes throughout Vietnam that spirits have the power to do evil by causing sickness, death, and other troubles. It is because of such beliefs that: 1) Mirrors by the door frighten spirits and prevent them from entering the home. 2) Red paper representing the "Door God" does the same thing. 3) Buddhists desire that an even number of people be in a picture lest death be caused to one of the group. 4) Since spirits cause sickness and death, never joke about these lest the spirits be angered and take action. ++

Since the "life-stuff" of man lives in the head, patting the head is believed by some to be an attempt to steal away the spirit and cause death. NEVER PAT ANYONE ON THE HEAD. Better yet, simply keep your hands to yourself. Because the head is the residence of the soul, the feet are considered of lowest value. So do not sit with feet crossed, pointing the soul of the foot to anyone. This is considered gross insult by many Vietnamese. Many of the rituals created by Animism, wherever found in Vietnam, are designed to ward off illness, death, etc., by requesting protection or by propitiating an errant or evil spirit. Many women have small shrines to Quang An for protection during childbirth and while children are small. The small children may also wear numerous amulets as charms against harm or ailments caused by errant or wandering spirits. ++

Many Vietnamese families have a service within the first twelve years of a child's life which is suppose to cleanse the child from the evils of its birth and allow intelligence while promoting a healthy adulthood. This service may consist of a small altar dedicated to the goddess of birth--usually Quang An--on which are placed twelve bowls of sweet soybean and sugar soup. Twelve pieces of paper with pictures of the calendrical cycle is then burned. Because childhood is the time when the evil spirits are most zealous, the little ones must be carefully guarded. It is now that little boys especially must be protected and brass bracelets may be placed on the small child as the spirits do not like the feel of metal, or an earring may be worn by the male-baby to fool the spirits into thinking it is a girl. Likewise, the small children are sometimes cautioned not to play under the trees where the spirits "rest" for fear they may anger the spirits. ++

Pregnant women often observe many taboos in order that the strains of pregnancy be eased and that birth may bring forth well-formed children without deformity. They must not eat "unclean" foods such as the snake, rat, mouse, dog, or beef lest the child be retarded; this does not preclude the use of tobacco or betel-nut. Because her presence might create "bad luck" for a bridal couple, a pregnant woman is not supposed to attend weddings, nor is she to take part in funerals as this may cause her child to be a "crybaby". She is to also shun places of worship including the pagoda and shrines to avoid angering the resident spirits of these places: since the spirits often promenade at twelve and five o'clock, she must not be outside her house so the evil spirits will not see her and create harm for her or the baby. Within the house, she must always take care to avoid stepping over a sleeping place or the unborn child may be infected with lethargy so that it will take seven days after birth for its eyes to open. Moreover, stepping over her sleeping husband can afflict him with sleeping sickness even as drinking from a cup which he is using may create many problems for him. ++

Feng Shui and Lucky Numbers

To Chinese, 8 is a lucky number. Vietnamese believe 9 brings luck, and the 1 and 8 of 18, adding up to 9, are considered auspicious.

According to Vietnamese beliefs about feng shui even the way your bed is placed in your room is significant. A bed should be aligned in a north-south direction so that it is pointing diagonally across a room. 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.

For More on Feng Shui and Lucky Numbers, See China

Fortunetellers, Mediums and Fortunetelling in Vietnam

In Vietnam, fortunetelling is a respected profession and fortunetellers have credibility. Even incredulous Vietnamese seek the advise of fortuneteller before making an important decision such as choosing the date for wedding or decided where to open a shop. Within the Vietnamese cultures-arising out of religious beliefs-there is an emphatic belief in the validity of the many types of "fortune tellers". The geomancer aids in the determination of the proper location of houses and tombs and informs one as to the best orientation as to north, south, east or west; the physiognomist, like the old-time phrenologist of the western world, is supposed to be able to look at a person's features and tell not only what type of person he is, but also what the future holds for him. This is similar to the folklore of rural America in which people tend to judge an individual almost entirely by first appearances. There are also such people as the shaman and the astrologer or caster of horoscopes. Normally the astrologer is, reputed to be the best educated, trained and most popular of all those who predict the future with the possible exception of the various monks who engage in this art also. [Source: The Religions of South Vietnam in Faith and Fact, US Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chaplains Division ,1967 ++]

Among the various chores of Vietnamese fortunetellers are such things as choosing wedding dates; funeral dates for prominent persons; and the choice of proper dates for many official occasions. Many people will not start a new business or a journey without first consulting this "artist" to ascertain if the cosmic forces are in harmony with their plans. Such a practice is not confined of course to the Vietnamese. The ancient Hebrews had to face this issue and the Scriptures tell how it was done; a casual look at American newspapers and newsstands reveal that many Americans must also believe in this art, for otherwise such items or magazines like HOROSCOPE would not be evident. It soon becomes obvious that much of the Vietnamese art of astrology is based upon Chinese writings with the most famous being a fifty three volume set titled, So-Ly Tinh-Uan. The patron saint of Chinese astrology was an individual named Quy Coc Tien Sinh, who was reputed to be able to see the past, present and future; others claim the system of astrology based on the star Tu Vi did not come into existence until about 1,000 A. D. ++

Often mediums are sought to help cure sick relatives. The mediums put themselves into trances. Sometimes they hurt themselves in some way. They may slice their tongue, burn themselves or poke a hole through their cheek. Then they attempt to cure the person by communicating with the spirit the medium believes will help find cure the sick person.

Influence of Fortunetellers in Vietnam

According to Encyclopedia of Sexuality: "Another very strong influence on sexual behavior is the belief that the specific constellation of stars at the time of one’s birth can reveal one’s destiny. The thay boi (the mostly female fortune teller) is the first resource to consult if something goes wrong. [Source: Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2.hu-berlin.de/sexology \*/ ]

A good example of thay boi influence is the following statement of a 30-year-old transvestite (Bao, Long, & Taylor 1998:20): "In my childhood when my father was alive, he forced me to wear shorts, but I did not and he fought me. My mother resorted to the fortune teller and knew that was my fate. It means that she must have such a child, no one expected that. My father who was a government officer felt shy and did not agree and said "the male should be male and the female should be female." My mother could not stand it and said to my father you could not fight me any more. If you fight him I will leave. She said to my father you can not prevent him from that and finally he accepted me. I have always been like this when I was growing up. All my relatives did not accept me. I think that is my fate. What problems I suffer because I can’t wear male clothes. I only wanted to be a girl." \*/

One might suggest that the astrologer seems to be as important for Vietnamese society as sex therapists, psychologists, and marriage counselors are for Western societies. Even today, nearly two thirds of the couples in the south and (because of the stronger influence of communism in the north) a smaller part in the north have their horoscopes matched before marriage (Goodkind 1996). Since geomancy is believed to reveal if the location of one’s house is the reason for quarreling in the family or even for sterility, asking a geomancer is also regarded as helpful. According to Young (1998), the third precise way to measure the energy believed to cause change in the fortune of any individual is to study the shape of the person’s face. Although it cannot be changed by reading the face of others, one gains intimate knowledge about them. \*/

Fortunetelling Peaks Before Tet

According to yourviet.blogspot: "Fortune telling seems to be in its peak time of business when the traditional New Year (Tet) festival approaches, and superstitious people are inclined to seek for their advice and predictions for their personal and professional lives in the next year. On the morning of January 6 many people had already arrived for help from the clairvoyant Sau at her house, which is nestled elusively in overgrown fields in Hoc Mon — a suburban district of Ho Chi Minh City. Her 12 square meter working room was packed with 15 people, amongst whom she sat, clad in a long-sleeved shirt, performing the job with her various tricks. [Source: yourviet.blogspot ==]

"These people say they frequent Sau’s home, and they hold high confidence in Sau’s predictive ability. She is famous for her unique capability of raising the spirits of the dead, accompanied by the imitation of voices of children, teenagers, and the elderly. In one case, after being provided with basic information by a withered mother on her own ill-fated son, Sau suddenly sat up and spoke as though she had just become a child, to the great delight of the woman, who began to converse with Sau, or with her seemingly dead son. "How is the life in the underworld going?," she asked with an ear-to-ear grin; Sau folded her arms in response. In another case, a middle-aged man demanded that Sau conjure up the soul of his late grandmother so he could inquire about health, matrimony, and business success in the new year. After five minutes in silence, Sau replied by producing inarticulate sounds that are expected to be heard from women in their eighties. ==

"The conversation with his grandmother, and many other departed relatives, ended with the man, on Sau’s advice, giving her VND500,000 (US$24) by way of her expense on his behalf on houses, cars, and clothes for those souls to use. This belief is popularly subscribed to in Vietnamese society. That morning also witnessed an entire extended family assemble around her, and await communication with their putative relatives who had passed away. After talking to their utmost content, Sau massaged the family’s backs, thighs, and abdomens, and stroked their hair, in an effort to ward off evil spirits. ==

"As mid-day approached, the number of people gravitating towards the house grew greater and greater, resulting in lines of parked motorbikes reaching as far as the gate at the building’s edge. There were already over 30 guests that morning alone, and on every Sunday the place invariably enjoys an overflow of visitors. Quite understandably, it was Sau’s money-pocketing practice that she appeared to be retrieving souls of the deceased, and allowing them to take up temporary residence in her body, then making requests to their living relatives for paper versions of such expensive objects as villas and high quality cars, which are subjected to burning for the hereafter. In this way, she has derived much money from these credulous people. Besides giving her predictions for personal lives, fortune teller Sau also offers her clients massaging to ward off evil spirits. ==

"Unlike Sau, Moi, another fortune-teller in the same district, began to shuffle cards in her hands with legerdemain, and boasted, "It has been several decades since I first did this job. When the Tet holiday is near, people flock to my house for my divinations."In addition to the above personal residential places, the superstitious can also find help at the gates to pagodas in Hoc Mon and Districts 3 and 10. There, books and discs with superstitious content are sold in a flagrant fashion and with a brisk trade. It often happens that fortune tellers improvise their own statements in the absence of necessary information. ==

"Hien, who lives in Tan Binh District, expressed her disbelief at their words. She pretended to tell Sau about her lost relative to verify her talent, and Sau even gave advice to her on how to find her lost child, despite the fact that he had been found previously. Chau, a fortuneteller in Binh Thanh District, fell into embarrassing word-groping while proffering a prediction to a man that he would receive part of the fortune from his paternal or maternal side, while in fact both sides were in penury. ==

Astrology in Vietnam

According to astrological beliefs in Vietnam stars belong to either a northern half or a southern half of the system into which they are divided, with either half being ruled by a major star. In addition there is a pre-arranged chart with many items of life on it; if the chart which has children in the square has more of the southern stars, you are to have more boys than girls; if, to the contrary, the northern stars predominate, then your children will be mostly girls. Such factors must be carefully weighed while the family is planning a marriage. [Source: The Religions of South Vietnam in Faith and Fact, US Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chaplains Division,1967 ++]

Each star is believed to be related to one of the major elements of earth, fire, metal, wood and water. There are other stars believed to produce either happiness and prosperity or their opposite numbers which bring woe, tragedy and decline of fortune: the stars so control the future that one might as well conform-otherwise failure will greet every effort. The system continues to exert an influence on many who have been educated in Western institutions, even if apologetically they say, "We go through the form to please our parents".When a child is born, one of the first acts will be to have his horoscope prepared without delay in order to be prepared for what the future holds. From then on, either the prepared horoscope is carefully studied, or else an astrologist is consulted again and again until burial finally removes that individual from the scene. ++

Chinese Zodiac in Vietnam

In Vietnam, on the Chinese zodiac the rabbit is not a rabbit at all but a cat, which failed to make the top 12 in China, according to legend.

The names of the animals of the zodiac are applied to the twelve years which repeat themselves endlessly. Visits to a number of temples or shrines will usually reveal somewhere a picture of the animal which stands for the current year. When an individual is born, regardless of his sex or social status, he is believed to have his destiny tied to the animal of his birth-year.

Below is a listing of the animals and the approximate year for which it stands because the Chinese new year comes at a different time than does the Western or Julian new year.

The Vietnamese signs are the mouse (1948, 60, 72, 84, 96, 2008), buffalo (1949, 61, 73, 85, 97, 2009), tiger (1950, 62, 74, 86, 98, 2010), cat (1951, 63, 75, 87, 99, 2011), dragon (1952, 64, 76, 88, 2000, 2012), snake (1953, 65, 77, 89, 2001, 2013), horse (1954, 66, 78, 90, 2002, 2014), goat (1955, 67, 79, 91, 2003, 2015), monkey (1956, 68, 80, 92, 2004), rooster, (1957, 69, 81, 93, 2005), dog (1958, 70, 82, 94, 2006), pig (1959, 71, 83, 95, 2007).

Dao Dang Phong, a US-based expert on Vietnamese culture, told AFP: " No one knows the real origins of the Chinese horoscope representing the cycles of the lunar year, but there are many different interpretations, according to Phong. One Chinese legend has it that the Jade Emperor asked for twelve representatives of the animal species on earth to be brought to his heavenly kingdom. He then classified them in order of merit. However, another version says the order of the 12 animals was decided thousands of years ago by Buddha, who called for a New Year's meeting of animals. The first to arrive was the rat, followed by the ox. Then came the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the chicken, the dog and the pig. However, the Vietnamese prefer the buffalo to the ox and the cat to the rabbit. [Source: Agence France Presse, January 30, 2003]

Chinese Zodiac, See China

Use of Astrology in Vietnam in Choosing Marriage Partners

Astrology is an important consideration in choosing a marriage partner among ethnic Vietnamese. Compatible mystical affinities among bride and groom will allow them to marry in keeping with the harmony of the universe; incompatible readings indicate discord which will result in serious martial difficulty. This question of mystical affinities is based on the Chinese concept that three essential factors must be considered: 1) the influence of the earth, 2) the influence of nature, and 3) the actions of the planets. [Source: The Religions of South Vietnam in Faith and Fact, US Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chaplains Division,1967 ++]

The five major planets with a significant influence on human lives and the items that represent them on earth are: a) Venus, metal; b) Jupiter, wood; c) Mars, fire; d) Mercury, water; e) Saturn, soil. Each of these elements can build up or destroy one another according to this theory. That is to say: Fire helps soil but destroys metal while soil helps metal. Wood destroys soil while water helps wood. Water destroys fire while metal helps water. Metal destroys wood while wood helps fire. ++

Since individuals at birth come under the auspices of at least one of the above planets, it is imperative to make sure that two which oppose each other are not united. A man born under Venus marrying a girl of Mars would find arguments, unhappiness, etc., whereas the same man marrying a girl under Mercury's influence would be happy. Similarly, if the man is of fire influence and the wife of water, countless arguments, poverty and perhaps divorce is their predetermined fate; but if man is under influence of fire and the girl of wood, they will have many children and prosperity. ++

If both are born under the influence of the same planet or its earth representation, things begin to get complicated. Many books and "authorities" have to be consulted in order to determine the exact situation. However, astrology is only one of the three major factors which must be pondered in considering marriage. Strange to the western ear, the thought of romance is not a major factor, if considered at all. In fact, several lovely Buddhist young ladies informed the interviewer that the question of love would not be discussed inasmuch as marriage is a family affair and not the personal affairs of two people. One of them speaking for the group said that she would marry whomever her mother chose for her regardless of what she might think of the groom. She added that it would be better to be married to a poor man, an ugly man, or a bad man than to bring unhappiness to her mother. How different are the ideas of many young women in other parts of the earth with which we are acquainted! ++

Choosing a Marriage Partner in Accordance with Chinese Zodiac Sign in Vietnam

The cyclical calendar of the Vietnamese is used in choosing marriage partners. Now while some of the animals can live on good terms together, others cannot: but it is generally accepted that the tiger and the pig, the cat and dog, the serpent and the monkey, the horse and the goat, the mouse and the buffalo and the dragon and the cock can do so. Yet most of these cyclical animals cannot stand one another, and according to the matchmakers guidebooks, this animosity is expressible in four degrees of difference. These degrees are luc sung (disagreement), luc hinh (argument), luc hai (violence or harm), and juc tuyat (kills). [Source: The Religions of South Vietnam in Faith and Fact, US Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chaplains Division,1967 ++]

The first of these degrees of continuous disagreement is between: a) The mouse and the horse; d) The tiger and the monkey; b) The cat and the cock; e) The serpent and the pig; c) The dragon and the dog; f) The buffalo and the goat; The second degree is that of struggles between: a) The goat and the dragon; d) The pig and the monkey; b) The horse and the cock; e) The buffalo and the dog; c) The serpent and the tiger; f) The cat and the mouse. ++

The third degree of inflicting physical harm of the first to the second is: a) The mouse to the goat; d) The dragon to the dog; b) The buffalo to the horse; e) The serpent to the pig; c) The tiger to the monkey; f) The cock to the cat. The fourth and most permanent degree is that of killing of the second by the first: a) The mouse kills the serpent; d) The dragon the dog; b) The buffalo the goat; e) The horse the pig; c) The tiger the cock; f) The monkey the cat. ++

Analysis of these tables makes it apparent that a man born under the auspices of the tiger might find happiness with a girl born in the year of the pig. He should avoid marriage, however, with a girl born in the year of the serpent, the monkey or the cock. The tiger-serpent alliance would be quarrelsome; the tiger-monkey would result in fisticuffs; and the tiger-cock union might result in death for the girl. While Communism might well have begun to make changes in the thinking of the Chinese in Red China, the consultation of a "learned man" or fortune teller is sought in much of rural Vietnam, and perhaps even in the cities more than generally admitted. ++

Vietnam’s "Market Economy'' Temple

In 1999, after the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis, Reuters reported from Bac Ninh near Hanoi: "Thousands of Vietnamese are counting their good fortune and flocking to the famous Ba Chua Kho temple to show gratitude for being spared the worst of the misery. Businessmen in pinstripe suits rub shoulders with pig farmers at the temple, nicknamed the "market economy shrine'' for its reputation as Vietnam's best site to pray for prosperity. "Our business has been good and because of this we must remember and give thanks,'' said Nguyen Truong Son, who owns a hotel in Hanoi 30 kilometers (19 miles) away. The hillside temple was built in the 11th century to honour Ba Chua Kho, who became a heroine for helping fend off Chinese invaders with her masterly organization of provisions. [Source: Reuters, February 4, 1999 <<<]

"Many Vietnamese now believe that if they make offerings to Ba Chua Kho at the beginning of each Lunar New Year, known as Tet, she will provide capital and advice to those seeking to start a business or buy property. Age-old beliefs re-emerging during a decade of market-oriented reforms hold that those blessed with good fortune must return by the lunar year's end to repay their symbolic debt -- partly by burning fake gold bars and $100 bills. For a communist-ruled country that bans superstition, it's an unusual mix. With the current Lunar Year due to end on February 15, thousands of people have flocked from across the country to give thanks at the temple on the outskirts of Bac Ninh town. <<<

"My business and that of my friends has been good and expanded and so we come here more often,'' said Pham Lien, 31, who runs a company in Hanoi making aluminium cookware. As she spoke, people laden with offerings of sticky rice, stuffed roosters, fruit, and of course fake greenbacks and gold bars surged up the steps to the temple grounds. Inside the temple, devotees bowed to the deity of business. The smell of burning incense filled the air. But not everyone at the temple seeks material success "Now that I have a grandchild this year, I pray for him to grow up quickly and have good health, and for the whole family to be safe,'' says 53-year-old Nguyen Canh Sat, a retired government worker. <<<

"Dozens of villagers make their living around the temple as calligraphers writing Vietnamese in Chinese-style characters, since Ba Chua Kho is believed to be unable to understand the language's current romanised form. Nguyen Thai, who wears a long wispy beard like that of revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, has held court as a message writer for 71 years in a small stall en route to the temple. His father taught him to inscribe messages when he was only eight, and Thai has passed the tradition down to his grandson. Each day Thai writes up to 40 messages for worshippers. "People pray for good health, good luck and longevity,'' Thai said as he dipped an old quill pen into an ink jar. <<<

"Up from the temple on the top of the hill is a different shrine, this one to Ho Chi Minh himself, who died in 1969. A band of ageing veterans of Vietnam's war against the French -- which ended in 1954 -- tend the shrine while also guarding the Ba Chua Kho temple. "People come from Ho Chi Minh City and foreign countries such as Canada, America, China and Thailand,'' says Nguyen Van Ngu, 74, who joined the Communist revolution before 1945. "There are more and more people coming here. There are not enough car parks,'' added Ngu, pulling his Russian-style fur hat over his ears to keep out the morning chill. <<<

Vietnamese 'Cheated' by Mediums

In 2000, Owen Bennett-Jones of the BBC, "In Vietnam, people trying to trace relatives who went missing during the Vietnam war have complained that they are being tricked out of money by fake mediums. The mediums claim their powers of extra-sensory perception enable them to locate places where Vietnamese soldiers went missing in action. The mediums say they can conjure up the spirits of the dead. [Source: Owen Bennett-Jones, BBC, December 8, 2000 >>>]

But the Vietnam Veterans' Association in Hanoi says it has received many complaints about the practice. It claims the mediums are increasingly well-organized and utterly unscrupulous. According to a local newspaper, one family was led to a site which turned out to contain deliberately hidden animal bones, rather than human remains. Another man was told his younger brother had been buried in a graveyard which, it turned out, never even existed. In other cases, the mediums simply direct relatives to battlefields, where there was fierce fighting and where many human remains are still in the ground. >>>

"Families can pay hundreds of dollars for the spurious information. The fact that they fall for the mediums' tricks is a reflection of just how desperate they are to find their relatives' remains. Many Vietnamese practice ancestor worship. It is widely believed that if the location of a body is not known, then the dead person's spirit will not find anywhere to settle in the afterlife. The American Government is also trying to find its own troops, which went missing in action. Each year it spends tens of millions of dollars on investigations and excavations to locate the 1,498 Americans still listed as missing in action in Vietnam. >>>

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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