The Custom of Worshipping the Mother of the Nation

Very few nations in the world have the custom of worshipping the mother of the country, as is done in Vietnam . This custom not only reflects the Vietnamese people’s traditional culture and belief but also their gratitude and respect for the loyalty to the ancestors.

For thousands of years, the Vietnamese people have considered Mother Au Co as an immortal symbol of the spiritual life’s roots. She is considered Mother of the Nation who was credited with giving birth to the Vietnamese. Particularly, this respect has imbued the Vietnamese people’s cultural consciousness and has become a unique religious form which is connected with the Vietnamese people’s custom of worshipping the mother. According to researchers, this special faith and worshipping originated from the custom of worshipping the ancestors, which have existed for thousands of years and practised by people of the Red River wet rice civilization.

Today, coming to Phu Tho, visitors will have an opportunity to visit the temple dedicated to Mother of the Nation, Au Co, in Ha Hoa District. The temple was built in 1465 in the dynasty of King Le Thanh Tong. There is Loan Well o­n the left side of the temple and Phuong Well o­n the right side. In front of the temple is situated Giac Mountain which looks like a table and behind the temple is the winding Red River which looks like a sacred dragon. Around the temple there are verdant trees with aroma spreading all year round.

The temple dedicated to Mother Au Co consists of five compartments for worshipping rituals and three harems which are decorated with valuable wooden carvings of four sacred animals and four seasons. The statue of Mother Au Co is 0.95m high, in the shape of the mother sitting imposingly o­n the throne, wearing a red shirt with a white brassiere, a crown adorned with diamonds and a golden necklace and holding a pearl o­n her hand. It is a statue of high artistic and aesthetic values, which was carved during the Le Dynasty. Inside the temple, there are many precious relics, such as the statue of Duc o­ng, dragon throne, worship table, etc., which are carved with delicate patterns. Mother Au Co Temple is not large but has a large concentration of engraved art, which is reflected in the architectural design and antiques.

Mother Au Co Temple is an address attracting visitors and pilgrims from all parts of the country. Every year, Mother Au Co Temple Festival is organized o­n the 7th of lunar January, providing an opportunity for Vietnamese people to come to offer prayer to Mother Au Co.

The story of Mother Au Co is known to everybody. However, in our recent trip to Phu Tho, a cultural researcher introduced to us a relic site considered the place worshipping the progenitor of the mother of the nation, i.e., the first progenitor of the Vietnamese. Introducing the biography of King Kinh Duong Vuong, the book “Dai Viet su ky toan thu” (A complete history of Great Viet) writes: “The King (Kinh Duong Vuong) married the daughter of Dong Dinh Quan, namely Than Long who gave birth to Lac Long Quan”. Thus, according to this book, Than Long is the mother of King Lac Long Quan (who is considered the founder of the Vietnamese nation) and the paternal grandmother of King Hung. It also means that Than Long was the mother-in-law of Au Co, Mother of the Nation.

After many ups and downs through history, the temple worshipping Than Long has been re-built o­n the old foundation in Tien Cat Ward of Viet Tri City, Phu Tho Province by the local people. In the past, the temple was Tien Cat Palace , a large palace among 50 palaces built by King Kinh Duong Vuong to present as a gift to Queen Than Long when she gave birth to Prince Sung Lam (or Lac Long Quan later). When Queen Than Long died, people honoured her as the ancestor of the Mother of the Vietnamese Nation and considered her death anniversary as the nation’s death anniversary. Tien Cat Palace was renamed Tien Cat Tomb which has been traditionally called Tien Temple until now.

Vietnam has two persons who have been honoured “Mother of the Nation”. This not o­nly shows a pride about the roots and ancestors but also reflects a deep cultural knowledge in the mind of each Vietnamese.

Vietnam Pictorial