I Cannot Explain the Following Clip by mattsteinglass
April 5, 2007, 4:21 pm
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.

Hue family religious ceremony, star performer


Hue ceremony 1


2 Comments so far
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Matt, it’s a LEN DONG ceremony in which the 36 (37?) spirits are re-enacted in an all day all night ritual. The participants play various roles, go into trance, answer questions about the future.

Comment by nhu

Thanks so much! Someone else suggested in Len Dong they may become possessed by ancestors’ spirits, though. Is that right, or are they possessed by/reenacting only these other spirits?

Comment by mattsteinglass

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