Superstition plays a major role in Vietnam. There are people all over the world who have a lucky routine or a particular thing that brings then good luck. In Vietnam, superstition is more important than the odd idiosyncrasy. It plays a role in everyday life for things as important as health. For generations, one of the ways to keep a child healthy has been regarded as a particular necklace that will keep away evil spirits. Similarly, there are days of the particular month, a particular number that someone might feel is unlucky; that someone is unlikely to do much that day and will certainly not go to work.
The opposite is the case as well with some numbers being regarded as lucky and therefore actions will be adjusted accordingly. The whole thing may seem strange to those travelling in Vietnam but such customs and traditions have been passed down through generations.
Few in rural Vietnam understand modern sciences so perhaps it is natural that superstition is still strong; after all, 80% of the population still live and work in rural areas where their ancestors lived before them. Superstition manifests itself in such important ways that it will prevent a betrothal if the woman was born in the wrong year. Similar to astrologers who say that certain birth signs blend better with some than others. If a young man goes against his family’s wishes on the subject the consequences are potentially a break with the family. Even though many villagers live a subsistence life, they may still save up to buy a consultation with a soothsayer, palm reader or astrologer.
Knowing the strength of superstition, one American commander during the Vietnam War actually consulted a Vietnam astrologer in order to try to anticipate the enemy’s next move. Centuries before, two Vietnamese generals used their soldiers’ belief in superstition to motivate the troops against the Chinese invaders. They wrote messages in grease on large leaves. Ants ate the grease, revealing the messages for the soldiers to read. They believed them to be divine messages. One of the generals was Le Loi who later became emperor. Tourists are likely to visit the ‘’Lake of the Returned Sword’’ in Hanoi on Vietnam travel packages. It was named to commemorate a legendary interaction between Le Loi and the Gods.
Superstition has not always worked in a positive way of course; how could it? It did in the 60s when an old Senator warned that the day selected for the opening of the Senate would bring bad luck. Four months’ later a senator was assassinated and the old Senator believed his prediction had come true.
Some of the young, educated Vietnamese would like to see superstition forbidden by law but that would make Vietnam a duller place. One of the reasons why so many overseas tourists are booking Vietnam tour packages is because of its tradition and culture, and that includes superstition. Whatever the stance of the authorities, superstition will not disappear any time soon.
Read more: Vietnam culture