Vietnam: Life after Death

I just got back from Vietnam. I would have loved to spend longer in the country, primarily to learn more about its people, who have fought wars and have tilled fields.

There is so much to learn from the Vietnamese … war tactics, the desire to live, the strength of one’s beliefs. In the little time that I had, I got a small peek into the beliefs of the locals. What intrigued me the most was their belief in life after death and traditional practises that carried out to appease the deceased. Read on to know what spiked my interest…
1. Most Vietnamese practise Taoism and not Buddhism … in the sense that they worship their ancestors and not Buddha. Offerings are kept on a pedestal to appease the departed souls. 
2. The Vietnamese bury dead in their fields with the belief that the souls of the ancestors will protect them. Also, a grave on a parcel of land makes it more difficult to sell, ensuring that it handed down from one generation to the other.

3. Here is something very interesting practised by certain tribes in North Vietnam…While the deceased are buried, the process does not end there. The remains are dug up again after about two years, the bones are cleaned and the remains are buried again.

4. Vietnamese believe that the deceased have gone to a happier place and many a times, celebrate death.

5. The belief that the spirit needs worldly goods to stay ‘happy’ in the other worldly place is strong. Vietnamese burn fake money, fake cars and even fake iPhones to send them to the spirits!

I want to know so much more about Vietnam and plan to revisit the country again this year. Have you been to Vietnam and have some interesting stories to share?

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16 Responses

  1. I always though the Vietnamese practice Buddhism not Taoism until I read this. It’s interesting to read that the deceased are buried and the remaining bones are dug up after two years. Looks like there’s a lot to know about Vietnam.

  2. I would love to visit and explore Vietnam too, for the same reasons you’ve stated. I have read a lot about Vietnam but I want to learn more. Immersing yourself in the culture as part of your travels is definitely one way to do so.

  3. Riely

    The spiritual practices Vietnamese take part in is really interesting! I had no knowledge until now of their burial traditions. I have never heard of bodies being dug up to clean their bones and bury again. Very interesting post!

  4. Wow very interesting post. That’s fascinating about how land is harder to sell if there is a grave on it, which therefore ensures the land stays within the family. Clever thinking. Really interesting insights into the culture and rituals regarding death, especially cleaning the remains and re-burying 2 years later!

  5. Having lived in Vietnam for some time myself, I really can emphasize with what you are saying. Certainly, given the country’s extremely traumatic history, I was constantly taken aback by how warm and open they were to foreigners and I was constantly greeting with smiles and “hellos.” A truly humbling experience

  6. I just spent 2 weeks in Vietnam. Definitely not enough to go below the surface and understand the culture, but thanks to your post I discovered many things I didn’t know. Thank you !

  7. I love Vietnam! I have only been to Hanoi though so I would still want to go back and explore Ho Chi Minh, Hoi An, and Dalat. The food, the vibe, the people… everything about Vietnam makes me want to live there! I wrote some blog posts about my Hanoi trip. You can check out my blog if you have time. 🙂

  8. Such interesting facts – I hadn’t realised the shrines were for their ancestors, but it makes sense that burying them on a patch of land would make it more difficult to sell, thus ensuring it is handed down through the generations. I’m not sure how I feel about the digging up phase though!

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