August Heaven: Unreasonable Yet Inexorable Belief in Vietnam

vi1by Virginia Carraway Stark

The belief in the origin of all Vietnamese people that they sprang from the union of a dragon and a ‘fairy’ is one that is both seemingly inexplicable and difficult to shake. The creation story that the Vietnamese people believe in so firmly causes them to believe that they all come from ‘one womb’ and that they are all brothers and sisters.

The story is both vague and inexplicable. There are several things that we can figure out although a lot of things were modified down the line.

Since the 1970’s and the rise of communism, it has been forbidden for people to worship deities since then all the names of deities, gods or goddesses have been altered to being called ‘spirits’ or ‘fairies’. This explains the mystery of half of the myth. The actual parent of the Vietnamese is believed to be a deity rather than a fairy.

vi2This belief is unshakable even though there is absolutely no evidence of it being true and it is obviously a little far-fetched. In fact, no one is even clear on how the mating occurred and whether or not anything else happened afterward. Even though many different religions exist in Vietnam, it seems that this is part of their original creation story that they refuse to eschew to profound is the concept to their identities that it has become inherent. Nobody who is from Vietnam is willing to say that this isn’t true, even if they are incredibly scientific, rational or belonging to another faith.

Much of these beliefs seem to step from a concept known as “August Heaven”. August Heaven is a complex concept. It is a person more than a place but it is more than anything else a divine emanation from which came all life and creation. It is innate to Vietnamese beliefs and is all pervasive.

vi3Ceremonial drums that are connected to the concept of August Heaven feature a sun at their center and it is wondered if August Heaven is actually a form of sun worship. This concept seems to be high lighted by later mentions of “August Moon” that would seem to match the sun. The sun and moon concept are also matched by the phoenix and dragon symbols seen not just in Vietnam but all over many parts of Asia.

There are stories about a phoenix and a dragon mating in a sort of yin-yang connection. The dragon representative of the male emanation of the universe and the phoenix of the female emanation. Too much has been lost to discover definitively if the ‘fairy’ was actually a Phoenix Goddess. It seems that Long Quan, the dragon prince, fell in love with Au Co, who may have been the phoenix. They had a hundred sons but then something came between the parents who decided to go their separate ways and split the sons fifty-fifty.

vi4Much of these creation myths spring up around a romance. The goddess wakes up in the world and discovers that she is alone and is so lonely that she weeps until she has wept all the oceans of the earth. It is only then that she discovers that she is not alone. After she discovers that she is not alone she decides that the god she has met isn’t really worth her time and forces him to do task after task, putting mountains into a neat line (the mountains that form the ‘spine’ of Vietnam) and dozens of others. This is what causes the world to be formed in the shapes we have come to know