Buddhist factors in the cult of Tianhou in the Mekong River Delta, Vietnam

  • Nguyen Ngoc Tho


The cult of Tianhou (Vietnamese: Thiên Hậu) originated in Putian, Fujian Province in Southern China, was officially entitled Furen, Tainfei and Tianhou by Song, Ming and Qing dynasties, finally become the popular sea goddess in Southeast China coastlines. At around the late seventeenth century, Southern Chinese immigrated to Southern Vietnam, including the Mekong River Delta, hence the cult was introduced into the region. The whole region has got a total of 74 Tianhou temples (of which the Chinese built 57, the Vietnamese built 17 and around 100 temples of gods in which Tianhou is co-worshipped. After over three hundred years of cultural integration and social development, Tianhou has changed from the main functions of a sea protector to powerful multi-functional Mother Goddess of both ethnic Chinese (also called “ethnic Hoa”) and a great number of Vietnamese people. This paper is to explore the structure and connotation of the cult of Tianhou in the Mekong River Delta from the perspective of cultural studies, and applies Western theories of hierarchy of need, superscription and standardization in popular religion and rituals as well as concept of distinction between acculturation and assimilation to analyze the transformation and adaptation of a symbolic faith under the specific background of the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam. The research also aims to investigate the principles of reshaping and constructing contemporary cultural identity of the ethnic Chinese people in Vietnam as well as the activeness and flexibility of local Vietnamese in dealing with the external cultural practices. This case study plays an important role in shaping a systematic look of cultural exchanges and multicultural harmonization in Vietnam nowadays.


Tianhou Buddhist factor Superscription Identity marker 


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Copyright information

© Academy for International Communication of Chinese Culture and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National UniversityHo Chi Minh CityVietnam

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