Comedy icon builds 5,000-sq.m Mother Goddess Worship museum in Hanoi

March 27, 2024 | 04:00 am PT
Comedian Xuan Hinh has amassed millions of historic bricks and tiles to construct a 5,000-square-meter museum dedicated to Dao Mau (Mother Goddess Worship) in Hanoi.

Xuan Hinh shows his guests around Dao Mau Museum. Video courtesy of Xuan Hinh

Located within a 50-year-old orchard, the museum is encircled by a 20-year-old wall covered by creeping fig trees. During construction, the architects and construction team carefully built walls around the existing trees to preserve the natural surroundings as much as possible.

To create the museum, Hinh, 64, spent 5 years to collect more than 6 million pieces of genuine historical bricks and tiles from around 500 households across Vietnam.

As a former tile maker in his younger days, Hinh got the inspiration of recycling the materials while witnessing the demolition of numerous historic old houses during the Vietnam’s expansive urbanization process.

The museum features altar rooms dedicated to the goddesses, and a sacred shrine called "Uong Nuoc Nho Nguon" (Remember the source when you drink your water).

Additionally, there is also an artifact gallery housing a rich collection of ancient items: Dao Mau paintings, poetic panel couplets, costumes, and straw mats.

"I have collected these items for many years, with the hope that younger generations will appreciate the cultural heritage of our country," Hinh said.

Xuan Hinh in one corner of the museum. Photo courtesy of Xuan Hinh

Xuan Hinh in one corner of the museum. Photo courtesy of Xuan Hinh

The museum also boasts a library, stocked with Dao Mau literature and traditional folk art resources. Hinh said he plans to host events at which experienced artisans can pass on their craft to underprivileged gifted children, and ensure cultural continuity and the development of traditional historic Vietnamese skills.

Beyond the sacred spaces devoted to Dao Mau’s mother goddesses, Xuan has also dedicated spaces in the museum to honor contemporary Vietnamese women. In a dedicated area, he exhibits statues and objects associated with their lives, such as mills, pots, pans, and sieves.

The museum, home to ponds and traditional clay pots, also features a living space and kitchen for his family.

The museum is built within of an orchard. Photo courtesy of Xuan Hinh

The museum is built within of an orchard. Photo courtesy of Xuan Hinh

In 2023, the Dao Mau Museum was ranked among the top 14 best projects of the year by Italy's renowned architecture and design magazine Domus.

Architect Nguyen Ha, designer of the project, was honored with the Moira Gemmill Award, which recognizes promising architects under 45 years old worldwide.

Dao Mau, a Vietnamese folk religion venerating the mother goddesses, has been an integral part of Xuan Hinh’s life. Over the years, he has been invited to perform at many Dao Mau rituals and festivals. Its rituals include ceremonies like "len dong" (trance ceremony), singing and festivals.

Vibrant cultural expressions are demonstrated at the festival, including costumes, music, dance, and folk performances, reflecting Vietnamese heritage that has been developed and passed down for generations.

In 2016, the traditional worshiping of the Mother Goddess of the Three Palaces was recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage.

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