Vietnamese Ritual Gong
Gongs (congs) are a vital element in the indigenous cultures of Vietnam because they possess essential powers. It is believed that they are inhabited by the spirit (yang ching) and therefore can only be beaten at ritual ceremonies and feasts. They are the means of communication between humans and the immortal beings, the ties between the two halves of the community, the past and the present, the visible and the invisible worlds. The person who owns the greatest number of gongs is highly respected, not as a possessor of worldly wealth, but as one who is protected by numerous spirits.
Gongs animate all important activities. When the newborn is one hundred days old, a gong representing an epic hero is brought to him. The eldest man of the village beats three rolls of the gong, as in combat, if it is a boy and three rolls of the gong, as in the harvest ritual, if it is a girl. These rolls blow sacred air into the childıs ears. It is believed that the newborn is a gift of the sky and that the ears are blocked until they are opened by the gong ritual. This initiation rite connects the sky and the earth. A transmission takes place between the new community member and the community of the past.
The gong accompanies the child and the adult in the choice of land for cultivation, in the construction of houses, in the feast of the young rice, and in the asking for peace. It is rung at the feast of embarkation, the feast of closing the granary, the marriage feast, repairing the communal house, the buffalo sacrifice and the victory celebration. In all these activities the gong bearer circles around in a procession. The gong follows the deceased to his grave and guides his soul to the kingdom of ancestors after the ceremony of abandonment of the funeral house.
Even poor families possess a series of gongs. Powerful and rich families may have many ensembles of gongs, which each set forming a system of particular tones. The system of tones differ from one ethnic group to another and from one region to another. An ensemble of gongs can be accompanied by a drum and a set of cymbals. The drum represents the sun and the gong represents the earth (or the female moon). These symbols illustrate the dynamic of yin and yang in the fertility cults of agricultural peoples.
Culture: Animist / Ancestor Worship
Age: Each piece old and experienced in ritual