The worship of progenitors, a fundamental tradition of Vietnamese craft villages, expresses villagers’ gratitude for those who created jobs for locals.
The temple to worship Truong Cong Thanh, the progenitor of Chuon Ngo mother-of-pearl inlay village in Hanoi’s Phu Xuyen district.
Through the worship, villagers hope to further develop the craft and have a prosperous and happy life. Every year, death anniversaries of village founders are held.
Vietnam has more than 5,400 craft villages, 2,000 of which are passed on from generation to generation. The majority of craft villages worship their founders. Villagers can set up an altar to worship the craft founder at home but it is more common to build shrines, temples, or communal houses to conduct the ritual. Many founders have even been honored as the village tutelary gods who watch over the villages, are the village guardian spirits, and bless the villagers.
Dr. Nguyen Vi Khai, Deputy Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Vietnam Craft Village Association, said “Craft villages and the worship of craft founders are closely linked with each other, accumulating and spreading tangible and intangible cultural values.
Worship is common in Vietnam, Japan, China, and the Republic of Korea. The worship of craft village founders in Vietnam is associated with festivals and exchanges among guilds and troupes for mutual development.”
Each craft has a founder. But sometimes there are several founders of one craft and several crafts have only one founder. Although there haven’t been official statistics, it’s estimated that Vietnam has about 130 craft village founders. Hanoi has the most craft villages in Vietnam. The greatest among these is Hung King, the founder of the Vietnamese nation.
Kim Ngan temple in Hanoi
Researcher of history and culture Nguyen Duc To Luu said “We have 2 great founders. The male founder is Hung King and the female is his wife Queen Lang Thi Tieu. Kim Ngan temple in Hanoi is the place to worship the great founder Hung King who taught the people many crafts like building houses, farming, and writing.”
The custom of worshipping craft founders is a sacred ritual practiced by villagers, on particular days – birthdays, the death day of the founder, or village festivals.
Villagers believe that they gain the blessing of the founder in preserving and developing the craft if they conduct the worship. The custom is similar to the Vietnamese tradition of ancestral worship which binds people together.
Teacher and culturist Vu Ngoc Khoi told VOV, “The filial piety is closely linked to the worship of craft founders.
The practice demonstrates the descendants’ gratitude to their predecessor’s efforts in launching a new trade for the locals. It’s thought that expressing respect and gratitude can help villagers become well-off in the future.”
The custom to worship founders in craft villages illustrates the Vietnamese people’s filial piety as expressed in the proverb “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls”, or “Drinking water, remembering its source”.