So Japanese porn star Maria Ozawa is scheduled to visit Vietnam. I’m sure that there must be a lot of guys in Vietnam who are excited about this, but there are some spirits who are definitely not pleased. However, very few people (or perhaps no one?) can hear those spirits anymore, even though not all that long ago they used to speak loudly and clearly from the heart of Hanoi.

ngoc son

One hundred years ago, Ngọc Sơn Temple, in the heart of Hanoi, was at the center of an effort to “improve” the morality of people in Vietnam.

Today when you visit Ngọc Sơn Temple, you see Trần Hưng Đạo sitting in the front hall. That is a very recent (nationalist) development (i.e., post 1945). Up until that point, Ngọc Sơn Temple had been devoted to Văn Xương Đế Quân 文昌帝君, Quan Thánh Đế Quan 關聖帝君 and Lã Tổ Sư 呂祖師, that is, the three (“Chinese” – hence the nationalist transformation of the temple after 1945) spirits, Wenchang, Guan Yu and Lü Dongbin.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Ngọc Sơn Temple published an astonishing quantity of texts that were aimed at getting people to live according to certain moral standards. The “authors” of these books, were the three spirits mentioned above. Many of their texts had been revealed earlier in the Qing empire, but they were quickly acquired by people at Ngọc Sơn Temple and republished there.


Getting back to Maria Ozawa, I came across a text that was published by Ngọc Sơn Temple in 1907 called “Patriarch Lã’s Ten Methods for Abstaining from Licentiousness” (Lã Tỏ Sư giới âm thập pháp 呂祖師戒淫十法). It is a text that had been revealed earlier by Lü Dongbin in the Qing empire, and in reading it, it is amazing to see how detailed Lü Dongbin was in examing “licentiousness” (dâm 淫).

For instance, Lü Dongbin differentiates between “looking/viewing in a licentious manner” (mục thị chi dâm 目視之淫) and “thinking in a licentious manner” (ý tưởng chi dâm 意想之淫) and he encourages men to “abstain” (giới 戒) from both.


What does it mean to “look/view in a licentious manner”? According to Lü Dongbin, a man can look at a beautiful woman in a “proper” (chính 正) way or an “improper” ( 邪) way. If he looks/views her in an “improper” way, then all kinds of “improper” thoughts will enter his mind.

So in order to avoid looking at a woman in an improper way, according to Lü Dongbin, what a man should do is to picture her as either his mother, sister or daughter, depending on her age.

Good idea!


What then does it mean to “think in a licentious manner”?

According to Lü Dongbin, if a guy sees a beautiful woman in the daytime, then he might have thoughts of her at night. However, if he does this, then he will head down a very destructive road, because he will not be able to sleep, he won’t eat, and he will end up destroying himself. So Lü Dongbin advises men to avoid having such unrealistic thoughts.

Hmmm, that’s much easier said than done.


In any case, as I said, if you visit Ngọc Sơn Temple today, Lü Dongbin is not as important there as he once was. Instead, the Vietnamese general, Trần Hưng Đạo, is. And if you read the main chronicle of Vietnamese history (the Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư) you will find that the first mention of Trần Hưng Đạo in that work (as Trần Quốc Tuấn) concerns a time when he secretly entered the room of his relative (I can’t remember if it was his sister or his cousin) at night to. . .

So what is the point of all of this? What am I trying to say?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are a lot of contradictions between politics, history and morality.


And I guess I’m also trying to say, hey Maria, if you ever read this blog, feel free to email me. . .