Home » Continuity and transformation of rural communal temples in Vietnam: A case study of Tân Chánh village, Long An province

Continuity and transformation of rural communal temples in Vietnam: A case study of Tân Chánh village, Long An province

ABSTRACT

Vietnamese communal temples (đình làng) were primarily established with two functions: (1) as a state-patronised institution to organise and control the village politically and culturally and (2) as a place of worship of village deities and meritorious predecessors. Both functions interact and complement each other – in many cases, the second serves as both a “means” and “technique” to deploy the first. However, nowadays the administrative role is no longer available; instead, the spiritual aspects are on the rise as a response to the increasing interaction of Buddhism, Caodaism, and folk beliefs as well as the impact of economic development and urban migration. Village elders learn to organise the temple into a communal socio-cultural institution, whereby cross-village temples have formed a cultural nexus of “power”. This study finds that while several transformed into the form of “temple of heroes”, Tân Chánh temple has been mobilised and transformed into a civic “religious and socio-cultural centre” at the grassroots level. The socio-economic background of the area has caused such transformation. While the practical demand for communication and emotional exchanges among village members vividly ensures the continuity of the temple’s tradition, the loss of direct state control paves the way for its transformation. Both continuity and transformation govern the current religious activities of Tân Chánh temple but there is always a challenge to compromise and integrate these two directions. However, the remaining function of god worship by which rituals are performed as “cultural agents” still binds the villagers together and gives them access to crossing boundaries.

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