Goddess on the Rise: Pilgrimage and Popular Religion in Vietnam
344pp. March 2004
Goddess on the Rise: Pilgrimage and Popular Religion in Vietnam
Author: Taylor, Philip;
Since the early 1990s, the shrine of Ba Chua Xu, the Lady of the Realm, has become the most visited religious site in southern Vietnam, receiving more than a million visitors annually. Mother, benevolent creditor, healer, relationship advisor, business consultant, the Lady of the Realm is one of a group of goddesses whose shrines attract devotees from all corners of rural and urban society. Goddess on the Rise follows these pilgrims' pathways, taking readers on a journey through a cultural landscape of popular rites, beliefs, and exegesis into a world where female deities reign supreme.

Philip Taylor's in-depth study of pilgrimage introduces readers to the practical expectations, passions, and controversies that surround the goddesses, bringing to life the effervescence, creativity, and flux of modern Vietnamese religion. He offers important insights into people's everyday experience of the profound economic, cultural, and social transformations underway in this socialist country.

"An important and sophisticated contribution to the growing literature on popular religion in contemporary Vietnam. . . . A fine book that is of obvious importance to scholars with interests in gender, pilgrimage, and Vietnamese or Asian popular religion, but with its sociological clarity, ethnographic richness, and theoretical nuance, it is an important book for all scholars interested in the ways in which religious practices and people’s engagements with those practices are changing in the contemporary world." —Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2005

"An enormously engaging and informative account of pilgrimage and popular religion in Vietnam. In his ability to interweave historical research and textual materials with ethnography, in his capacity to encompass a broad range of concerns from the workings of the late socialist economy to the intricacies of feminist theory and the idiosyncracies and intensities of religious worship, and, crucially, in his zest for storytelling, Philip Taylor emerges as a major talent. . . . Essential reading for those interested in Vietnam, in East Asian religion, in gender and nationalism or in late socialism. It should also be read by anyone who wants to appreciate the depth of talent in contemporary Australian anthropology." —Australian Journal of Anthropology

"Solid research . . . detailed and vivid descriptions . . . indispensable on the bookshelf of anyone wishing to understand Vietnamese society and religion in general." —Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 161 (2005)

"This captivating and powerful book will be greatly welcomed not only by a readership interested inVietnamese Studies but also as an invaluable addition to the study of religion and society in Southeast Asia, and for scholars interested in the intersection of popular religion with Buddhism." —H-Net Reviews, December 2004 (Read full review)

"Because goddess worship can be given a cultural nationalist interpretation [unlike established universal religions] it has been allowed to flourish in ‘late Socialist’ Vietnam. Taylor’s rich study shows well why the socioeconomic conditions of southern Vietnamese society have been particularly conducive to this flourishing." —Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, December 2005

"Philip Taylor’s engagingly written study of pilgrimages to the ‘Lady of the Realm’ continues his unique investigations into social and cultural changes in the south since the communist revolution. . . . This work is vital for understanding southern Vietnam today." —Grant Evans, University of Hong Kong

Author: Taylor, Philip;
Philip Taylor is research fellow in the Department of Anthropology, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University.
Read the preface (PDF).

Introduction: An Outline of the Quest

1 Spiritualizing the Borders

2 The Ethnicity of Efficacy

3 Embodying Market Relations

4 Reinscribing Rural Religion

5 Familiar Journeys

6 The Experience of Festival

7 Magical Fame and Symbolic Ambiguity

8 The Lady and the Buddha

9 Goddess of Freedom

Epilogue: On Pilgrimages and Freedom in Late-Socialist Vietnam