Forest worship of the Dao

(VOVWORLD) - On the first full moon day of the new lunar year, the Red Dao ethnic minority people in Bao Thang district, Lao Cai province organize a forest worship ceremony at the Forest Deity temple in Dong Cam hamlet. The temple is built next to a huge tree on a hill offering vast views.
Forest worship of the Dao - ảnh 1Shaman Trieu Huu Phau prepares for a forest worship ritual. (photo: VOV)

The ritual begins with Shaman Trieu Huu Phau reading the prayer in Dao language written in an old book. The offerings include liquor, meat, fruit, and votive paper.

The Dao observe the ritual to pray the supernatural forces to protect the whole village and bless them with good weather, bumper crops, peace, and health, according to shaman Phau.

“The custom has been observed since the formation of our group. I have been in charge of this work since 1980. We worship deities of the forest and mountain to bless us good health and prosperity,” said Phau.

The worship is simple. Every family contributes something such as a chicken, a bottle of liquor, steamed glutinous rice, votive paper, and money to prepare a pig. Only men are allowed to attend the ceremony.

While the shaman recites the prayer, young men plant small trees in the surrounding areas. Triệu Văn San said the perennial tree next to the temple is a sacred tree. Wherever the Dao form a village, they find a huge tree in the forest and worship it. All villagers are banned from cutting trees and hunting in the protected forest around the sacred trees.

They only plant new trees, San said: “Every forest has a deity, which resides in a huge tree.  We protect and worship the sacred tree. We will continue to preserve our customs and hand down to the next generation.”

Forest worship of the Dao - ảnh 2People plant small trees during the ritual. (photo: VOV)

Nguyen Di Ta, Secretary of the Party Committee of Dong Cam hamlet, said the hamlet has 170 households of both the Kinh and Dao people. When the Dao organize forest worship at the beginning of the year, the Kinh people also join the spring event.

 “The local administration and community have joined hands to organize the ritual and promote the Dao’s tradition and respond to the national tree planting movement,” Ta said.

The Dao in Dong Cam hamlet have changed their cultivation mindset and habits to convert underdeveloped forests to plants of higher value. Cinnamon forests and cassava terraced fields have earned them higher income and changed their lives.

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