HUNG NGUYEN MANH1
Ambassadors pay their homage to Lord Trịnh
On the third day, in the North, in mid seventeenth century, Lord Trịnh contacted missionaries and foreigners according to a feudal rite. Following is a passage written by a Jesuit priest: “On the third day of Tết, lord Trịnh Tạc received the foreigners who came to pay their respect on the occasion of Canh Tý year, the third year of Vĩnh Thọ reign (1660). The chinese mission wished him longevity first according to Chinese rite then bowed to him according to Vietnamese rite. The Dutch mission wished more years of age to the Lord according to Dutch rite. The Jesuit priests Onuphre Borgeøs (Swithzerland) and Joseph Tissanier (France) bowed to him according to Vietnamese rite.”
“That day, the Lord’s mansion was packed. The two priests fortunately managed to enter a big yard to bow to the Lord. They also wore violet robes, hexagonal hats and kowtowed before the Lord four times in front of four thousand people. When Tây Định Vương Trịnh Tạc saw the two priests, he motioned them to bow to Vương Thái Hậu (his mother) sitting beside him, then Borgès and Tissanier also kowtowed to Vương Thái Hậu four times2.”
Ceremony to wish Elderly Persons Longevity
Ordinarily, one has to be 60 years old to reach the age required to be a village elder. However, this convention is accepted only in localities having many people reaching very old age. As for places with very few people reaching an old age, the age of 50 can be considered as fit to be a village elder. According to the custom, those reaching the age required to be village elders must bring offerings to the communal house to give notice to the village authorities and to worship the genie, so as to be officially registered on the list of village elders and be exempted from all social contributions. On this day, all village elders and village officials gather together to witness and offer one another wishes by means of some poems or some sections of rhymed prose. The offsprings of the person reaching the required age must also attend the ceremony, but besides the fact of sharing the joy, they must also serve at the communal house just like they should do in a feast. The longevity wishing ceremony is usually organized at the village communal house. The officials used to prepare some gifts called gifts to wish for longevity. How are these gifts? At some places, it is a portion of ricefield for the elder to gather the yields of the earth just like at Mai Tùng (Thanh Hoá, Phú Thọ); at other places the gifts maybe a red tunic and a violet mitre if the elder reaches the age of 80 just like at Sơn Vi village (Phú Thọ), or only a few delicious shaddocks or a yellow hand of bananas. However, there are villages that organize the “ceremony to wish for longevity” accordingly to a strict hierarchical defining – based on the old age reached.
– From the age of 60 to 70, the old man is called “Hương trung kỳ lão” (Middle-class village elder) and is offered a cup of wine by the village people.
– From the age of 71 and over, the old man is called “Hương thuợng kỳ lão” (Highclass village elder) and is offered a cup of wine along with an old-age tunic (made of red silk) by the village people.
– People over 90 years old are called “Thượng thượng thọ” (Extreme ripe old age) and, besides being treated by the village people as those of 71 and over (being offered a cup of wine and an old-age tunic), are also offered parallel sentences (written on paper or on silk) depending on their social positions.
– People over 100 years old are called “Bách Tuế thọ dân” (Centenarians) and with regard to these people, on the first Tết day, the Village Chief must necessarily represent the whole village to bring betel and alcohol to their houses to “wish for much longevity”.
As a special feature among the various forms of “wishing for longevity”, we ought to mention the one applied at a place built to serve as the “communal house for aged people” at the Liễu Đôi village.
The “communal house for aged people” is made of bamboo, it has a thatch-roof and walls made of bamboo lattices. The courtyard of the communal house has many steps with mats carefully spread. The highest step is reserved for the oldest village elder who is entitled to an individual tray of dishes (which he can take home when not eaten up). The other lower steps are arranged depending on the various ages, higher or lower. In this ceremony, all the officials always show their warmness and pay their respects to the village elders in the spirit of “Kính lão đắc thọ” (One gains longevity when respecting the aged people) i.e. those who respect the aged people, these aged people shall leave them their old age.
The date chosen to organize this ceremony can be different, depending on each village. The Liễu Đôi Village (Thanh Liêm, Hà Nam) for example, has chosen the 7th day of the first lunar month, the Lương Đài (Vĩnh Tường, Phú Thọ) has chosen 2 days, the 6th and the 7th of the first lunar month, as for the Phương Lan Village (Việt Trì, Vĩnh Phú), it has chosen the 3rd day of the first lunar month.3
Sending off One’s Ancestors
People choose either the middle of the courtyard or a clean corner of a wellswept garden to burn joss paper offerings. At certain places, people burn the joss paper offerings in a very complicated manner requiring the presence of a ritual officiant before starting to burn. The ritual officiant carries out various rites and when the joss papers burn glowingly, the officiant shout aloud a few times, seeming to prove that he had gotten in touch with the spirits; all this is aimed at creating a strong impression with regard to the family head.
The occasion of the third day of Tết
WE BEG TO RESPECTFULLY ANNOUNCE:
To our paternal family: Our ancestors, greatgreat grandfather, great-grandfather, grandfather, father.
To our maternal family: Our ancestors, greatgreat grandmother, greatgrandmother, grandmother, mother.
BEFORE YOUR TABLETS, WE BEG TO RESPECTFULLY INFORM YOU THAT:
We’re on the third Tết day, also at the beginning of the Spring, we sincerely present you with offerings such as fruits and flowers, betel and alcohol, as well as all other required items, hoping that you’ll enjoy them and bless our whole family, young as well as old people, with much health and peace.
We respectfully request our paternal and maternal ancestors, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters to enjoy the offerings.
We also respectfully invite our Genius of the Hearth and our Kitchen God to join our ancestors in the enjoyment.
WITH OUR RESPECTS
… continue in section 2…
1 Associate Professor HUNG NGUYEN MANH, Doctor of Phylosophy in History.
2 J.B. TISSANIER – Accounts of travel from France to Kingdom of Tonkin, Ibid, pp 121 – 146.
3 According to LÊ TRUNG VŨ – The traditional Tết of the Vietnamese – Quoted book.
4 According to HOÀNG THẾ MỸ – ĐỖ HOÀNG DUYÊN – Invocations on Tết days and on the occasions of Tết and death anniversaries.
BAN TU THU
◊ Source: Vietnamese Lunar New Year – Major Festival – Asso. Prof. HUNG NGUYEN MANH, Doctor of Phylosophy in History.
◊ Bold text and sepia images has been set by Ban Tu Thu – thanhdiavietnamhoc.com
◊ From Sketches in early 20th century to traditional rituals and festival.
◊ Signification of the term “Tết”
◊ Lunar New Year Festival
◊ Concerns of PROVIDENT PEOPLE – Concerns for KITCHEN and CAKES
◊ Concerns of PROVIDENT PEOPLE – Concerns for MARKETING – Section 1
◊ Concerns of PROVIDENT PEOPLE – Concerns for MARKETING – Section 2
◊ Concerns of PROVIDENT PEOPLE – Concerns for Dept payment
◊ In SOUTHERN PART of the COUNTRY: a HOST of PARALLEL CONCERNS
◊ The tray of Five fruits
◊ The Arrival of New Year
◊ SPRING SCROLLS – Section 1
◊ The Cult of The Deities of the Kitchen – Section 1
◊ The Cult of The Deities of the Kitchen – Section 2
◊ The Cult of The Deities of the Kitchen – Section 3
◊ Waiting for the NEW YEAR – Section 1
◊ Paying the last honours to CÔ KÍ” (The clerk’s wife) on the second Day of TẾT
◊ Before BEGINNING to WORK – Section 1
◊ Going for TẾT Ceremonies – Section 2
◊ Vietnam Lunar New Year – vi-VersiGoo