The spiritual world of Vietnam: an introduction to the Len Dong ritual


Vietnam is a country of vibrant culture. Come to Vietnam and you can see that clearly. It is an exotic land of mysteries where you can come and experience something new every day. It has an excellent cuisine with many unique dishes to offer. There are also so many sites of exquisite beauty to see. It also has many intriguing traditions and practices. One of them is the “Len dong” ritual.

Len Dong is a sacred practice that has been carried out by the Vietnamese for decades. There are controversial comments surrounding the practice. Still, it is a recognized item of Vietnam’s cultural heritage. Now, international visitors can take part in this ritual through a Vietnam culture tour. Are you interested? Then before booking your culture tour in Vietnam, here is a brief introduction to Len Dong. There is so much to that it could not be covered in just a single piece of article. But hopefully, this one will help you gain the basic understanding of this deep-rooted practice.

Len Dong (Vietnamese: Lên đồng) is also known as “hầu bóng”, “hầu đồng”, or “đồng bóng”. These names can be roughly translated as “going into a trance”, “mounting the medium” or “serving the shadow”.


A young man who serves as a medium

It was banned by the French colonial and Vietnamese authorities in the past for a few decades. But now, with its revival, the ritual has gained recognition by the UNESCO as a part of Vietnam’s intangible cultural heritage.

The ritual has been performed for centuries and lives on as a part of the spiritual life of the people. This is certainly a deeply-rooted practice of the Vietnamese culture. There has been information claiming that it is dated back to as far as the 13th century. It was carried out by members of the Mother Goddess Religion(Vietnamese: Đạo Mẫu) – one of the main religions in Vietnam.

It is a ritual based on the belief of the Vietnamese in the Mother of the Universe and the worshiping of her. It is believed that Mother Goddess is incarnated in up to 36 deities. These deities represent the three realms: forest, water, and heaven. They also protect and bless people with health, happiness, and prosperity.


Len Dong ritual is held at sacred locations

Len Dong is essentially the Vietnamese shaman dance. It takes place at sacred locations – usually at the temples. During the ritual, the mediums let the spirits enter their bodies. The mediums claim that they are not themselves anymore during such moments. The ritual usually takes a few hours to complete.

The ancient custom involves several artistic elements. Its most distinctive feature is the invocation songs (Vietnamese: “hát văn”). Through these invocation songs, different deities can be represented. The songs also evoke an array of emotions to strengthen people’s trust.

According to folk music researcher Bùi Trọng Hiền from the Vietnam Academy of Culture and Art, “invocation music has turned into a great treasure, which inherits its predecessors, including Cheo opera, Tuong or Classical Theatre, and other traditional folk music of the northern region. Invocation music reflects the soul of the entire Vietnamese nation”.The musical invocations are used to lure spirits into mediums and connect the dead and the living.

It is not hard to explain why Len Dong persists until the present time – it poses itself as a cure for all ails. The Vietnamese rely on Len Dong to solve many of their problems. Common troubles are stress over financial matters, conflicts between family members or spiritual possession. It is a practice of the people of all classes of society.


Len Dong is a traditional practice

There have been lots of stigmas around it but Len Dong’s presence persists till today. This religious performance holds both spiritual and artistic values to the Vietnamese culture. Take careful consideration before making your decision. This ritual is essential to the Vietnamese culture. There are still questions surrounding the matter. But we cannot deny that Len Dong offers penetrating insights into the spiritual life of the locals.


Visitors can now book a Vietnam private tour to learn more about the practice

If you are interested then wait no longer and book your Vietnam culture tour!

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