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Journal Article

Dynamics of memory and religious nationalism in a Sino-Vietnamese border town


Ngo,  Tam T. T.       
Religious Diversity, MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Max Planck Society;

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Ngo, T. T. T. (2020). Dynamics of memory and religious nationalism in a Sino-Vietnamese border town. Modern Asian studies, 54(3), 795-829. doi:10.1017/S0026749X18000185.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-ADB2-0
This article analyses the dynamics of official and unofficial religious nationalism in the Vietnamese border town of Lào Cai. In 1979 it was one of many Vietnamese towns that were reduced to rubble during the short but bloody war between Vietnam and China. The normalization of Sino-Vietnamese relations in 1991 allowed a booming border trade that let Lào Cai prosper, while the painful memory of this war continued to haunt the town and the daily experiences of its residents, both humans and gods. Since the Vietnamese state forbids any official remembrance of the war, Lào Cai residents have found a religious way to deal with their war memories that skilfully evades state control. By analysing narratives about the fate of the gods and goddesses that reign in the Father God Temple and the Mother Goddess Temple—two religious institutions located right next to the border—this article shows that it is in the symbolism of the supernatural that one can find memories of the war and of the changing social landscape of Lào Cai and reconstruct its history.