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The Hoa Hao messianic sect emerged in Vietnam under the social, economic, and political conditions engendered by colonization and World War II. Hoa Hao was influenced by the peasant psychology of the pioneers in the Cochinchina region of South Vietnam, revealing a new form of popular nationalism clustered around the figure of a Vietnamese Buddhist messiah.

In 1939, while on a pilgrimage to heal persistent illnesses, the young peasant Huynh Phu So—native from the village named Hoa Hao—became enlightened. He then began preaching about the apocalypse to peasants and also offered his healing powers.

As a communitarian and considerably autarkical movement, Hoa Hao represents a semifossilized form of a local myth that presages a new millennium and the arrival of the “Future Buddha” (Maitreya). Hoa Hao Buddhism ...

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