Drinking blood, Vietnamese villagers vow for honesty, filial piety

By Vu Ngoc Khanh, Thanh Nien News

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Pham Van Cuong, a Hoa Lieu villager in Hai Phong, reads the village's oath about not stealing for others and from common assets at a festival on March 4, 2015. Photo: Vu Ngoc Khanh Pham Van Cuong, a Hoa Lieu villager in Hai Phong, reads the village's oath about not stealing for others and from common assets at a festival on March 4, 2015. Photo: Vu Ngoc Khanh

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People at a small village in northern Vietnam held their annual blood oath festival on Wednesday, as usual pledging to be good and true.
The festival, known locally as Minh The, attracted thousands of natives and tourists to Hoa Lieu Village in Hai Phong, honoring a tradition that is believed to be around five centuries old.
Pham Van Cuong, a well-respected senior villager in a traditional ao dairead the oath out loud: “May gods support those who use common assets to serve common affairs. For those who use common assets to serve private affairs, may gods bring them death."
“May gods also destroy servants disloyal to their rulers and children disloyal to parents,” the oath continued. 
All villagers from 18 years of age joined the ceremony. They promised never to steal from neighbors and harbor criminals in their families. 
Pham Phu Oanh, another elder who led the ceremony, said the village first made the oath in the 16th century when Empress Vu Thi Ngoc Toan used royal money to restore a 300-year-old pagoda in the village and granted paddy fields to local farmers. 
Families receiving the fields had to donate profits back to the maintaining of the pagoda and to public affairs, including building roads and bridges.
The reading of the oath was disrupted for sometime during the war, before being revived into an annual festival in 2002.

People in festival clothes exchange cups of blood wine. Photo: Vu Ngoc Khanh

More than ten elders are selected to lead the ceremony. They have to clean themselves carefully and abstain from meat and sex days before the event.
After the reading on Wednesday, Oanh made a knife dance pointing to the sky and the earth as to seek for witness from the universe. 
Then someone slit the throat of a rooster, mixing its blood into wine for the elders to drink as a commitment to the oath.
Local officials also joined the festivals, but they did not drink the blood wine. 
Pham Dang Khoa, who records the village’s history, said: “We really hope that the officials and government leaders will share the drink to take the oath with us in the next years.”
He also expressed his wish that the festival is held across the country.

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