The purpose of this paper is to study the political utilization of the ethnic minorities’ folk-literature in Socialist Vietnam.
In Vietnam, folk literature is being considered as the soul of both the nation and the proletariat and under the Socialist regime, the collection and publication of folk literature was promoted. Especially, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, some of the ethnic minorities’ legends drew attention as moral lessons for achieving national unity, since they highlight that each and every Vietnamese of various ethnic groups is born from the same parents. The Muong people’s legend is a fine example in this case. Originally, male faith healers had inherited the ethnic Muong’s funeral prayer, Mo, in the oral tradition. Under the guidance of the provincial cultural bureaus, a part of Mo was collected during the 1960s, and subsequently was published in a book entitled The Birth of the Earth, the Birth of Water （Đẻ đất đẻ nước, ĐĐĐN） in the mid-1970s. Prior to this, the Association of Vietnamese Folklorists, the Institute of Literature, the Ministry of Culture and other related agencies sanctioned the draft of the book, which was to make it the “official legend” of the Muong people. At that time, performing Mo in funeral ceremonies was prohibited by governmental instruction promoting “the new way of life （nếp sống mới）,” which included the elimination of superstition and the simplification of funeral rites, wedding ceremonials and festivities. Therefore, the intention of publishing ĐĐĐN as folk-literature was to separate Mo ‘text’ from its ‘performance’ at the funeral.
From the end of the 1980s, as the Doi Moi policy goes on, the meaning of ethnic / national culture has been re-evaluated in terms of “national unity in diversity.” Consequently, the Mo began to be seen not as a form of superstition, but as a symbol of Muong ethnic culture. Accordingly, a number of books on the study of Mo were published introducing it as a whole, including both the text and performance. Since the funeral rites of the Muong people were simplified and shortened due to the implementation of “the new way of life” policy, some parts of Mo were omitted and faith healers already gave up handing it down to the younger generation. Currently, a growing sense of crisis that they would lose their traditional Mo among the local people, has led them to collect and publish it for preservation though the faith healers are facing difficulty to maintain memory of some parts of Mo that are no longer used in their rites today. In conclusion, the collection and publication of Mo, as a symbol of ethnic / national culture （heritage）, continues to be a means of promoting national unity.