Values of the Dao's ancient books

(VOVworld) – Ancient books of the Dao people are a valuable key to the Dao culture. Each Dao hamlet in Vietnam possesses hundreds of ancient books.

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Lo Quay Van in Lao Cai province possesses an invaluable collection of the Dao's ancient book. (photo: phaply.net.vn)

The Dao’s books are written in pictographic words similar to Chinese words. The books document their ancestors’ immigration history and how they encountered various natural disasters. The books also talk about the Dao’s development history and family trees of the Dao clans. Some books explain the worship of Bảng Vương, the progenitor and supreme God of the Dao. Phan Cẩm Thượng, a critic and researcher of Vietnamese fine art and culture, said: “The Dao people worship Bảng Vương and practice Taoism. The books carefully recorded how the Dao immigrated to areas of Vietnam and details of their lives.”

Each Dao village preserves a small library of books about their group and each family keeps books of its clan. They are all children of Bang Vuong who practice one belief, use one language, and share the same customs.

The Dao’s books give clear instruction in the practice of Taoism and other rituals. Chẻo Tả Phụng is Secretary of U Si Sùng hamlet’s party cell in Tải Phời commune, Lao Cai province. “Ancient books are precious. They suggest good days to build houses and hold weddings. They also teach us how to organize rituals such as funerals.”

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Lo Quay Van has preserved several worm-eaten books which date hundreds of years.

The ancient books talk about social etiquette, morality, weather, choosing land for cultivation, using medicinal herbs, and medical treatment.  The Dao believe all things have souls. They believe there are gods of wind and rain, and that Emperor Shen Nong is in charge of cultivation and husbandry. They have special rituals to worship the gods. Phung again: “The rites are written in the books. People who can read the Dao language can practice the ceremony. We always refer to the ancient books to hold ceremonies.”

Many other ethnic groups in Vietnam don’t have writing. They pass down poems and songs verbally. But the Dao use Chinese pictographs to transcribe the Dao language. Researcher Phan Cam Thuong says: “The Dao’s books are made of straw-paper in a square shape and written with brush pens. A book has several dozen pages. They have books on soothsaying, worshiping, medicine, and instructions on how to migrate to other localities through the mountain passes.”

The ancient books documenting the social and cultural lives of the Dao are a treasure of Vietnamese ethnic culture.

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