At the dawn of mankind humans worshiped mostly natural phenomena, and supernatural forces such as spirits of nature and celestial deities. Deities of trees, forest, mountains, sea, rivers and other symbols of fetishism. Therefore worship of the celestial deities has generally been considered the origin of the belief. Gradually over time and human development many forms of religion and belief became secularized. Believers have to enrich their shrines. This is how in many place “human deities” first appeared.
While celestial deities and deities of nature are created by human’s rich imagination, people made deities out of real people who once people made deities out of real people who once existed in their community and in history. Human deities are represented at different levels of superiority; the best known of these would be Buddha or Jesus Christ. Beneath most famous two we have deities that were of people who served their nation well, noble and famous for their good virtues, charitable actions and deeds. Or, according to some folk belief, a human deity can be some ordinary person who died at a holy hour.
Among Vietnam’s religions and beliefs, the Four Place Shrine combines different gods and deities from different religions and belief, such as Buddha, Heaven, Holy Mothers, Mandarins, etc. The worshipping statuses are placed on different levels following a strict ranking ordered the most revered deity of the shrine. Under her, there are Mandarins, Assistants Ladies, princes, and a Young Boy and Girl.
According to the Four-Place belief system instrumentalist play an especially important role in all rites. It is them who have created endless worshipping texts then set them to music called “chau van” songs, which have become a very special religious music category in Vietnam’s music library. That means, the Four-Place instrumentalists the human deities of the Four- Pace belief system. The appearance of “human deities” on one hand increased the realism of spiritual life; on the other hand it affirms the indigenousness of the belief, as a counterweight against other “imported” religions and belief systems.
In the Place, the human deities have a clear origin and many are worshipped in separate temples. Some are known for their brilliant is Saint Tran (Hung Dao Royal Highness, Tran Quoc Tuan), who is worshipped as the Father King in the Four-Place Shrine. Besides him, there is Bat Nan Lady worshipped in Thai Binh province, legend has it that she was one of the female generals under the leadership of Queen Trung Nhi (40AD); Also we have Lady Muoi in Dong Mo – Chi Lang (Lang Son province), a female general from Tay ethnic minority who had King Le Loi in his resistant war against the Chinese Ming’s invasion. “5th Tuan Chanh Mandarin” fought against Trieu Da’s troops from the North. Prince Doi and the mandarin Trieu Tuong in Thanh Hoa who had helped King Le to quell the revolt of the Macs. Prince Luc during General Tran Luu in Ly Thai To’s reign, Price Muoi is also a Le dynasty’s general, coming from Nghe An province, etc.
Among the female characters worshipped, the most significant one is Holy Mother Lieu Hanh. She was a real person born in Le family from Nam Dinh province. When she was alive, she proved to be a noble person with good virtues, and she became holy after her death, thus she is widely worshipped. Legend has it that she descended from Heaven three times and appeared in different places. Today, her major temples are in Phu Nap, Phu Day (Nam Dinh province), Tay Ho Palace (Hanoi), Den Song, Den Pho Cat (Thanh Hoa province). Besides, there are also other goddess like Lady Nam from Suoi Lan (Lang Son province), who is believed to be a Ly dynasty’s princess, she later became a nun in a remote forest area; Lady Chin from Bim Son (Thanh Hoa province), Lady Be from Bac Le – Tan Thanh – Huu Lung (Lang Son province),
Among those glorified “human deities”, it is interesting to find an ordinary face: Miss Doi Cam Duong. Originally, this goddess was a young trader between Dinh Bang village, Kinh Bac and Cam Duong – Lao Cai province. Unfortunately, one day she was killed mid-way by robbers. After her death, her spirit used to appear to help travelers and traders passing by, so people built a temple in memory of her in Cam Duong. She is worshipped for her godly character and because of her trade, which is a major reason why people worship in the Four – Place Shrine i.e.; a person character and their deeds.
Besides their glorious feats, the characters in the Four –Place are still very normal human beings in people’s eyes. Many of them enjoyed the simple pleasures of life such as having a drink or enjoying other simple hobbies. They can be considered as examples reflecting some aspects of human life. Together with the fascinating “Chau Van” music it is this mixing between reality and legends the create a strong oration of believer, and it never fades away.
This article is written by lan nguyen