Hero and Deity: Tran Hung Dao and the Resurgence of Popular Religion in Vietnamby Mekong Press
By Pham Quynh Phuong
“I suddenly understood that I had overlooked the big, bold, and wild Tran Hung Dao who was still ‘alive’ in the streets, in dreams, who shook bodies and left them exhausted or energized. . . . Clearly something much more interesting was going on in people’s lives than could be discovered by mapping temple floors.”
Hero and Deity is an eloquent and fascinating journey into the world of the worshippers and the cult of Tran Hung Dao. The legendary fourteenth-century hero and savior of Vietnam has evolved as a key symbol of the nation as well as an efficacious deity in its spiritual pantheon. He is today a ubiquitous, multivalent symbol of the contradictions of contemporary Vietnamese society. Mapping the cult of Saint Tran “bottom up” and “top down” through the rituals, pilgrimages, and lives of his devotees, Pham Quynh Phuong traces and uncovers the sources of the contestations over the meanings of Tran Hung Dao/Saint Tran.
Intertwined with this rich ethnography is a work of self-interrogation and engagement with the author's complex and changing “home,” and with the diverse women and men—intellectuals, Communist Party cadres, and market sellers alike—whose lives are centered to a significant degree around the cult of Saint Tran and other deities.
For specialists, this book is a tremendous contribution to the ethnography of Vietnam, cultural studies, and Asian studies. For the general reader, it is an original and stimulating introduction to contemporary Vietnamese society.
About the Author
is a researcher at the Institute of Cultural Studies, Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences. Her academic interests range over the areas of popular religion, gender, cultural transformation, identity, youth, and social change.