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The Religions of South Vietnam in Faith and Fact, US Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chaplains Division [1967], at

Choosing Life's Partner

The cyclical calendar of the Vietnamese is used in choosing marriage partners. The names of the animals of the zodiac are applied to the twelve years which repeat themselves endlessly. Visits to a number of temples or shrines will usually reveal somewhere a picture of the animal which stands for the current year. Then below is a listing of the animals and the approximate year for which it stands because the Chinese new year comes at a different time than does the Western or Julian new year.















When an individual is born, regardless of his sex or social status, he is believed to have his destiny tied to the animal of his birth-year. Now while some of the animals can live on good terms together, others cannot: but it is generally accepted that the tiger and the pig, the cat and dog, the serpent and the monkey, the horse and the goat, the mouse and the buffalo and the dragon and the cock can do so. Yet most of these cyclical animals cannot stand one another, and according to the matchmakers guidebooks, this animosity is expressible in four degrees of difference. These degrees are luc sung (disagreement), luc hinh (argument), luc hai (violence or harm), and juc tuyat (kills).

The first of these degrees of continuous disagreement is between:

(a) The mouse and the horse

(d) The tiger and the monkey

(b) The cat and the cock

(e) The serpent and the pig

(c) The dragon and the dog

(f) The buffalo and the goat

The second degree is that of struggles between:

(a) The goat and the dragon

(d) The pig and the monkey

(b) The horse and the cock

(e) The buffalo and the dog

(c) The serpent and the tiger

(f) The cat and the mouse

The third degree of inflicting physical harm of the first to the second is:

(a) The mouse to the goat

(d) The dragon to the dog

(b) The buffalo to the horse

(e) The serpent to the pig

(c) The tiger to the monkey

(f) The cock to the cat

The fourth and most permanent degree is that of killing of the second by the first:

(a) The mouse kills the serpent

(d) The dragon the dog

(b) The buffalo the goat

(e) The horse the pig

(c) The tiger the cock

(f) The monkey the cat

Analysis of these tables makes it apparent that a man born under the auspices of the tiger might find happiness with a girl born in the year of the pig. He should avoid marriage, however, with a girl born in the year of the serpent, the monkey or the cock. The tiger-serpent alliance would be quarrelsome; the tiger-monkey would result in fisticuffs; and the tiger-cock union might result in death for the girl.

While Communism might well have begun to make changes in the thinking of the Chinese in Red China, the consultation of a "learned man" or fortune teller is sought in much of rural Vietnam, and perhaps even in the cities more than generally admitted.

Vietnamese normally count age from the first day of the year in which the individual is born with that year being numbered one. This is true even if born just before the end of the year, for on the first day of the new year, they become two years of age. This of course is quite similar to the way that the racing stables count the age of their stock. This does not infer, however, that the genuine birthday is not celebrated, for often it is an occasion of special prayer to the ancestors, extra flowers or food on the god-shelf to be found in almost every non-Christian home, and perhaps the invitation of special friends for the occasion, sometimes including a meal.

Next: Consulting the Astrologers