“Anti-corruption festival” continues long-standing Vietnamese tradition

Minh thề, an anti-corruption festival held annually in Haiphong City, provides local authorities and visitors a chance to take an oath to thwart corruption when they see it.


The oath-taking ceremony

The anti-corruption festival, originally initiated by Queen Mother Vu Thi Ngoc Toan, wife of King Mac Dang Dung, dates back to the 16th century and still is organised on annually basis between January 14 and 16 of the lunar year at Hoa Lieu Pagoda in Kien Thuy District’s Thuan Thien Commune.

The queen mother established Lan Nieu Hamlet, currently known as Hoa Lieu Hamlet. She used her own money as well as funds collected from her family and mandarins under the Mac Dynasty to restore an old pagoda.

She, along with local residents, created the Minh thề festival as well as oath that local officials took, and continue to take, which binds them to the promise that they should work for the public good and not their personal gain. Participants swear to be honest, upright and incorruptible

On the main day of the festival, January 14 on the lunar calendar, residents set up a platform in front of Hoa Lieu pagoda along with the hat of the tutelary god of the village, which is placed on top of the platform, while attendees sit behind.

The oath-taking ceremony starts after solemn rites are conducted by the festival master, an elderly person with a happy family and obedient children and grandchildren.

The festival master uses a holy knife to slaughter a chicken, whose of blood is equally divided into small cups of alcohol. Those who intend to take the oath then drink from the cups. 

Drinking alcohol to prove oath taker’s determination

They repeat the oath, which goes, “Let those of us who use public assets and funding for public causes be supported by the gods, but those who use public assets and funds for private purposes be beaten to death. Those who are unfaithful subordinates and who are disobedient children be annihilated by the gods.”

Do Xuan Trinh, Vice Chairman of Kien Thuy District People’s Committee, said, “The festival is organised with an aim of combining traditional beliefs with an educational and duty-minded lifestyle.”

Pham Dang Khoa, an 80-year-old man, said, “Thanks to these traditions, cadres in our village remain honest and upright. We don’t have many criminal cases and life here is rather safe.”

Vuong Duy Bao, Deputy Department of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s Department of Local Culture, said there are several oath-taking ceremonies in Vietnam, such as swearing to protect the motherland, protect the community and the environment. Such anti-corruption oath-taking festival are good in that they remind those in positions of authority to maintain righteous lives and careers.

“These festivals have a positive impact that contributes to the government and Party’s efforts to fight against corruption,” Bao added

Some members of the public suggest that rituals like these should be conducted in the presence of a people’s council and the National Assembly when state officials and leaders are in attendance.

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