Vietnam Educator's Guide Activity: Rights of Passage

Rites of passage are ceremonies that mark transitions from one stage of life to another. The photos below show rites of passage ceremonies of the Yao of Vietnam. Discuss rites of passage with students. Explain that they are important ceremonies, such as weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, and Sweet 16 parties, which mark different stages in our lives.

Ask what rites of passage students have participated in or witnessed.

Ask them to research one rite of passage, answering the following questions:

  • What are the main elements of the event?
  • Who are the main participants and the audience?
  • What is needed to perform the rite?

Ask students to present their findings to the class, and discuss why rites of passage are significant in cultures.


In this Yao initiation ceremony, a thirteen-year old boy initiate climbs to the top of a ladder from which he can descend only by jumping into a net suspended below. His body falls, but his soul travels to divine realms. He will then be ready to learn the Taoist teachings appropriate to the first level of initiation. 

Photo: VME


During a Yao initiation ceremony the host dances with all participants who know how to perform several traditional dances. The dancing is accompanied by drums, gongs, bells, and singing. The vests worn by the initiates are modeled on women’s clothing. 

Photo: VME/La Cong Y

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