Filed under: Vietnam
I was riding my piece of junk bicycle along a hilly road in Hue late this morning, having finished my interviews on the Buddhist struggle movement of 1966, when I heard some extraordinarily frenetic traditional music emanating from an elegant modern four-story house. I asked the kids lounging in the courtyard if I could come in and record it. They took me up to the top floor, where the family altars were, and where the following event was taking place.
I have no idea what this is. The family would only explain that it is "a Vietnamese custom" ("phong tuc cua Viet Nam"). I find this completely unsatisfactory, but of course that's exactly what makes it so great. Incomprehensibility is the spice of life. It's like a Zen koan, or lemon juice squeezed over salt and pepper with chopped chilis: it leaves an unsatisfied tang in your mouth, reminding you that you are alive.
UPDATE: apparently this is a shamanistic ceremony called "len dong". I'll post more info when I can find my copy of Philip Taylor's "Goddess On the Rise", which is kicking around the house somewhere.
More pix below the fold.
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