THE MOTHER GODDESS LIỄU HẠNH

Post date: 04/02/2018 | 11:04 - Posted By: VietTheatre - Category: Vietnam's Mother Goddesses

In the Viet beliefs of the Mother Goddesses of Three – Four Realms or in The worshipping of the Mother Goddess, we can’t help but mention Mother Goddess Liễu Hạnh or Liễu Hạnh Princess. Her legends began in the 15th century after other Mothers’stories.

It was said that Liễu Hạnh was the second daughter of the Jade Emperor, named Quỳnh Hoa. She broke her father’s treasured cup and was banished to earth. She was reborn as a daughter in the Lê family (an area in Nam Định province nowadays). She was named Giáng Tiên (means a fairy descending on earth) because of her beauty.  Her life on earth lasted no long. She married and had a child at 18, then died when she was just 21 years old.  

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Bronze statue of Liễu Hạnh Mother Goddess (Thánh Mẫu Liễu Hạnh) Province in 1871,
at Quảng Cung Palace (known as Nấp Palace or Quảng Nạp Palace), Vỉ Nhuế hamlet,
Ý Yên district, Nam Định. - Photo by: N.X.Diện

However, she loved her life on earth so much that the Emperor allowed her to be reincarnated two more times. During these, she named herself Liễu Hạnh and travelled all over the country for enjoying beautiful sceneries, meeting people, particularly writers and well-known men, for example, Phùng Khắc Khoan, one of her special relationships.

There are many stories and legends about these two lives of hers. It is said that she spent her own money in building dams to against floods, constructing bridges, roads. Moreover, she used her magic to help people against invaders. Legend has it that her third reincarnation was in the period of Trịnh – Nguyễn War. She travelled everywhere to save miserable soul and punish the victimisers.  So, people here built a temple to worship her right in the place, where she was reborn. That is Sòng Temple in Thanh Hóa province.

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A medium in the red of Mother Liễu (Liễu Hạnh Mother Goddess). - Source: Internet

In another version of her story, she was said to run a shop at  Ngang Pass. Rumour about the beautiful owner, who lived alone in a deserted area, came over the country and drew many people, including a prince.  The prince came in bad intention but quickly was defeated by her and went mad.  His father king asked people to arrest her, however, she was released due to her irrefutable arguments.

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In The Mother Goddesses Religion, Mother Liễu Hạnh is worshipped as The Supreme Mother Goddess
or The First Mother of Heaven’s incarnation and seated in the middle of Three Altar Thrones. - Source: Internet

The legend about Quỳnh Hoa with the broken cups and three reincarnations took on variations due to people’s imagination.  The series from Giáng Tiên to Liễu Hạnh princess or The First Mother Goddess was told by people everywhere with many speculative details. There are many ceremonies, activities of her every year, from Dầy (or Giầy) Palace in Nam Định province to Bắc Lệ in Lạng Sơn or Tây Hồ in Hà Nội, Sòng Sơn in Thanh Hóa province, Ngọc Trọng in Huế, and even Đà Lạt in Central Highland.

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In folk beliefs, Mother Liễu is one of the four immortals of Vietnamese mythology,
appearing in the middle of social and political crisis as a moral support for people
and the emblem of girl-power.
Picture: A scene of a ritual of hầu đồng in Tứ Phủ Show by Viet Tu Director & Viet Theater

In The Worshipping of Mother Goddesses, she is worshipped as The Supreme Mother Goddess or The First Mother of Heaven’s incarnation, who sits in the middle of Three Altar Thrones.  She is one of the four immortals of Vietnamese mythology, appearing in the middle of social and political crisis as a guardian to people's suffering, at least psychologically and spiritually.  She is the symbol of feminine power which is opposite to the “Three Obedience, Four Virtues”, the set of moral principles for women in Confucianism. Her lives as a mortal represent effectively the love for life with both joys and pains. She is an idol of Vietnamese women with the freedom in action as well as independence in thought. This is the explaination of her immortality in the Vietnamese conscience.

Three Obedience: to obey her father as a daughter, to obey her husband as a wife, to obey her sons in widowhood; Four Virtues: wifely virtue, wifely speech, wifely manner/appearance, wifely work.

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