Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 11.COM 10.B.37

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Viet Nam has nominated Practices related to the Viet beliefs in the Mother Goddesses of Three Realms (No. 01064) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

To meet spiritual needs, everyday wishes and gain help in achieving good health and success, communities in Viet Nam worship the Mother Goddesses of Three Realms: heaven, water, and mountains and forests. The Mother Goddesses include Liễu Hạnh (a nymph who descended to earth, lived as a human and became a Buddhist nun) referred to as the Mother of the World, and other spirits considered legendary heroes. The traditional practice involves daily worship and participation in ceremonies, rituals like the spirit possession ritual and festivals such as Phủ Dầy that take place at temples dedicated to the Mother Goddesses. These activities associated with the practice help to maintain part of the community’s history, cultural heritage and identity with some aspects incorporating traditional costumes, music and dance. Bearers and practitioners are members of the public, temple guardians, ritual priests, spirit mediums, assistants and musicians who transmit knowledge and skills orally to newcomers and family members. The practice of shared values and strong beliefs in the compassion and grace of the Mother Goddesses provides a basis for social relations connecting members of participating communities. The worshipping of the Mother Goddesses also contributes to the appreciation of women and their roles in society.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List:

R.1:   The file presents the element as an important conduit for communities concerned to express their historical memory, cultural identity, sense of togetherness and spiritual expectations. From a social perspective, the open nature of the element promotes inter-ethnic and inter-religious tolerance. The element has been transmitted since the 16th century among temple guardians, priests, and lay believers. It is compatible with international human rights instruments and there are no restrictions on its practice;

R.2:   The file indicates that inscription of the element would contribute to the visibility of intangible cultural heritage in general and raise awareness of its significance at diverse levels, given the cultural similarities of communities and groups who participate in the worship of the Mother Goddesses as symbols of compassion and grace elsewhere in the world, and the combination of Taoism, Buddhism and other religious dimensions which this element represents. Since the element is shared by diverse ethnic groups in Viet Nam, its inscription would also enhance dialogue and promote respect for cultural diversity locally. Human creativity would also be enriched, as it is an important component of the festival, where artistic elements such as costumes, dance and music play a major role;

R.3:   Since the 1990s, Mother Goddess adherents and others have been mobilized to contribute money, maintain temples, and support festivals. The submitting State has issued a number of policies to manage the festivals. Proposed safeguarding measures include supportive policy-making, the establishment of local preservation clubs, revitalization of the traditional festivals, academic research, documentation and exhibitions, curricula design for formal and informal education, and recognition of excellent singers and temple guardians. They reflect the commitment of the State, communities and professional groups to safeguard the element. The overall objective is to ensure the viability of the element against external and internal constraints, such as the over‑commercialization of rituals;

R.4:   The nomination can be regarded as a result of extensive consultations and cooperation of individual practitioners (temple guardians, singers and spirit mediums), community representatives, and academic scholars, along with various non-governmental organizations and governmental organs. The documents annexed to the file indicate they gave their free, prior and informed consent to the nomination. The file demonstrates that concrete measures have been taken to respect customary practices governing access to the element;

R.5:   The file provides an annex demonstrating that the element was included in the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013. This inventory is managed by the Department of Cultural Heritage (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) in collaboration with the Viet Nam National Institute of Culture and Arts Studies, and is annually updated. The inventory was drawn up with the participation of local communities, village elders, religious adherents and temple guardians.

  1. Inscribes Practices related to the Viet beliefs in the Mother Goddesses of Three Realms on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.