[The 7-day Tet series] Day 1 – Tet Tao Quan

Dear Beluxcham Members,

Lunar New Year or Tết Nguyên Đán, is Vietnam’s most significant celebration. Across Vietnam, during this time families reunite and honour their ancestors, while praying for luck, prosperity and health in the new year. If you have been in Vietnam and have experienced Tet in Vietnam,  you will find that before Tet and in the days of Tet, Vietnam people have a lot of traditions are preserved and handed down to the present day.

So why have these practices and what is the story behind these practices? To help our members understand more about Vietnamese “Tết” holidays, starting today, we will bring you the 7-day Tet series, every day we will introduce practice and story behind it

Today is the day Vietnamese people send Mr Tao back to heaven. According to Vietnamese’s folk beliefs, Mr Tao or “Tao Quan” is derived from three gods: the God of Soil, the God of House and the God of Kitchen.  However, instead of calling the name of 3 Gods, Vietnamese people generally call them as “Tao Quan” (understood commonly as The God of Kitchen).  And on the 23rd day of the lunar calendar, Mr. Tao drive Golden carp back to heaven to report everything in the house of the owner to the Jade Emperor (emperor of the heavens), the Jade Emperor either rewards or punishes a family based on Mr. Tao’s yearly report. Until noon on the 30th of December (Lunar Calendar) or the moment of New Year’s Eve, The Kitchen God returns every house to continue his job of looking after the stove in the kitchen.

Therefore, Mr. Cong – Mr Tao is the god that governs all activities of the owner, is the god that determines the luck and happiness of the whole family. Also, the God of Kitchen prevents the intrusion of ghosts and devils into residential land to keep the peace for everyone in the house.

The custom of worshipping Mr. Cong Mr. Tao is one of the cultural features of Tet holiday that has been preserved for many generations of the Vietnamese people. This is also the custom of expressing gratitude to the gods who have been taking care of the year-round to maintain family routines, and at the same time remind each person to be more responsible in caring for the family.

In these days, families in Vietnam will clean the kitchen, buy goldfish to worship and see Mr. Cong and Mr. Tao back to heaven.

It is believed that Mr. Cong – Mr. Tao represents three clay cubes used to place the pot on the old stove, two of which are smaller than the other. This is considered the influence of the custom of worshipping fire god, a long-standing custom.

Furthermore, In Vietnam, the legend of “The God of Kitchen” has been orally transmitted and recorded as follows:

Once for a while, there was a very poor family. The husband’s name was Trong Cao and the wife’s name was Thi Nhi. Despite getting married to each other for such a long time, they had no children, which led to their frequent quarrels every day.

One day, Trong Cao was so angry with his wife that he hit her. Being so angry, Thi Nhi left her house and met a man called “Pham Lang” who soon attracted Thi Nhi by his honeyed words. Then, Pham Lang and Thi Nhi set up house together. When Trong Cao was no longer angry with Thi Nhi, he immediately looked for his wife everywhere. However, his wife was found nowhere. Being so disappointed, he gave up his job and went everywhere as a mendicant to seek for his wife.

One day, Trong Cao went to a prosperous household and begged for foods, and the mistress of the house brought some cooked rice to the door to give him. Accidentally, two people recognized each other. Falling under Pham Lang’s suspicion, Thi Nhi was so ashamed that she rushed headlong into the burning fire to kill herself. Trong Cao was sympathetic towards his ex-wife, so he also rushed to the fire to die. Pham Lang also jumped into the fire to die together with his wife.

The God was so touched to see the love of Trong Cao, Thi Nhi and Pham Lang that he appointed three of them to be “Tao Quan” and assigned each person a job:

-Phạm Lang is “Tho Cong” (the God of Kitchen who looks after cooking job)

-Trọng Cao is “Tho Dia” (the God of Soil who takes care of family affairs)

-Thị Nhi is “Tho Ki” (the God who sees to the matters related to shopping in the market)