Appalachian State University Boone, North Carolina
I do not have any relevant financial / non-financial relationships with any proprietary interests.
Participants should be aware of the following financial/non-financial relationships:
Cuong Mai: No disclosure data submitted.
Scholars of Vietnam have long studied the various compilations of stories about the marvelous (kỳ) and uncanny (quái), such as Nam ông mộng lục, Truyền kỳ mạn lục, Truyền kỳ tân phả, Vũ trung tùy bút, Tang thương ngẫu lục, Lan trì kiến văn lục, and others. Much of prior scholarship has focused on these texts to flesh out the history of dynasties or local cults, or the history of literary genres and styles. This study takes a different approach. That is, rather than reading around the supernatural motifs and tropes, I will examine how stories about past-life karmic connections (duyên) between fated lovers, between parents and children, and between enemies, shed light on important aspects of the lived world of premodern Vietnamese popular religion. Conducting close readings of about twenty-three narratives, in addition to other premodern sources, I argue that these stories reflect the discursive repertoires which comprised a widely shared religious imaginary, one based on an ethical metaphysics that offered rich ways of representing the deep bonds of lust, love, and hate connecting various moral agents, whether human, ghostly, divine, or demonic, whether living, dead, or yet to be born. Finally, I offer several conclusions: In Vietnamese popular religion karma is not just individual but also deeply social and familial. This shared religious world cannot be understood through the paradigm of the Three Teachings (tam giáo). Moreover, this religious imaginary appears in traces of practice too, such as in the language of donative inscriptions and commemorative steles.