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Vietnamese family tree: Learn about the hierarchy system

13/03/2024 5.614

The rich tapestry of Vietnamese culture is revealed through the intricate web of family ties and generations. Discover the importance of the Vietnamese family tree and the nuances of addressing family members.

Vietnamese family tree

The Vietnamese family tree stands as a testament to the Vietnam's rich cultural heritage, intricately weaving together generations with deep-rooted traditions. Family holds utmost significance in Vietnamese society, shaping individual identities and values. From ancestors to descendants, this familial tapestry reflects a profound reverence for lineage, fostering strong bonds and a sense of belonging within the community.

1. About the generations in Vietnamese family tree

In Vietnamese families, the practice of addressing family members plays a pivotal role, reflecting respect and hierarchy deeply rooted in tradition. Originating from Chinese culture, these conventions have evolved over time, adapting to various historical periods. Here is a detailed breakdown of the Vietnamese family titles according to the Vietnamese family tree:

  • Kị (great-great-grandparents): The furthest generation in the Vietnam family tree, denoting the fifth rank onwards from one's own generation. In the North and Central, there are “kị ông” (for male) or “kị bà” ( for female), while in the south, they are referred to as “ông sơ” or “bà sơ” respectively.
  • Cụ (great-grandparents): The fourth generation from oneself. These are the grandparents of one's parents. In the North and Central, they are commonly addressed as “cụ ông” (for male) or “cụ bà” (for female), whereas in the South, they are called as “ông cố” and “bà cố” respectively.
  • Ông - bà (grandparents): The third generation from oneself in the Vietnamese family tree, encompassing one's paternal or maternal grandparents, depending on the side of the family. 
  • Ba - mẹ (parents): This generation comprises one's own parents who gave birth to and raised oneself. Depending on the region, the terms used to address them may vary. For instance, "mẹ" (mother) might be referred to as “u”, “má”, or “bầm” in some areas, while "ba" (father) could be addressed as “bố”, “cha”, or “tía”.
Vietnamese family tree

>>> More about: Vietnam culture unveiled: Fascinating facts you need to know

2. How are members in Vietnamese family tree addressed?

The way family members are addressed within the Vietnamese family tree varies slightly across different regions in Vietnam. Here are the specifics:

2.1. In the Vietnamese paternal family

  • Ông bà nội (paternal grandma and grandpa in Vietnamese) and their siblings: Typically, the highest-ranking members in the Vietnamese family tree are the paternal grandparents, referring to one's paternal grandparents. Their siblings are also addressed as "ông" (for males) or "bà" (for females).
  • Ông cố nội/bà cố nội (paternal great-grandparents): In some families, the highest-ranking members might be the paternal great-grandparents.
  • Ba/bố (father) and his siblings: Following the hierarchy, next comes one's father and his siblings. The Vietnamese family titles for them vary significantly based on gender and position:
    • An older brother of one's father is addressed as "bác" or "bác trai". His wife is also addressed as "bác" or "bác gái".
    • An older sister of one's father is addressed as "bác". Her husband is addressed as "bác trai" in the North or "dượng" in the South and Central regions.
    • A younger brother of one's father is addressed as "chú". His wife is addressed as "thím".
    • A younger sister of one's father is addressed as "cô", and her husband is addressed as "chú". In the North and South, the addressing convention for a younger sister of one's father is often "o", and her husband is still addressed as "dượng".
  • Anh/chị/em họ (paternal cousins): Lastly, come the cousins from the paternal side. The addressing for them follows the position rather than age. For example, even if a paternal cousin is younger, they may be addressed as "anh" or "chị" because of their higher position within the family hierarchy.
Vietnamese family tree

2.2. In the Vietnamese maternal family

  • Ông bà ngoại (maternal grandparents) and their siblings: Similarly, the highest-ranking members are the maternal grandparents, referring to one's mother's parents. Their siblings are typically addressed as "ông" or "bà", with variations such as "bà dì", "ông cậu", "bà bác", "ông bác", etc.
  • Ông bà cố ngoại (maternal great-grandparents): In some maternal families, the highest-ranking members might be the maternal great-grandparents.
  • Mẹ/má (mother) and her siblings: Following the hierarchy, next come one's mother and her siblings. The Vietnamese family titles for them also vary based on region and gender:
    • An older brother of one's mother is usually addressed as "bác" in the North, "cụ" in the Central region, and "cậu" in the South. His wife is addressed as "bác gái", "mự", or "dượng", respectively.
    • An older sister of one's mother is addressed as "bác" in the North and "dì" in the Central and Southern regions. Her husband is addressed as "bác trai" in the North or "dượng" in the Central and Southern regions.
    • A younger sister of one's mother is typically addressed as "dì". However, her husband's addressing convention varies, being "chú" in the North and "dượng" in the Central and Southern regions.
  • Anh/chị/em họ (maternal cousins): Lastly, the cousins from the maternal side are addressed similarly to those from the paternal side, based on position rather than age, following the addressing conventions described earlier.

>>> Read on: Vietnamese family dinner: Fun facts and must-know dining etiquettes!

3. Why is Vietnamese family tree culturally important?

The Vietnamese family tree holds significant cultural importance as it defines the way family members address each other.

In Vietnamese family traditions, the system of addressing relatives is a distinctive feature across all regions. These addressing customs cultivate a strong sense of mutual respect, responsibility, and duty within the family lineage.

Vietnamese family tree

A resilient family is influenced by many factors, and the addressing system within the family is undeniably crucial. These conventions serve as a way for parents to impart etiquette, respect, and adherence to social moral standards to their children, thereby fostering personal growth and character development.

By observing the addressing conventions and behaviors within each family, Vietnamese people can assess the level of this family’s discipline and cultural refinement. These seemingly minor practices contribute significantly to shaping a cultured life in Vietnam, both within the family and in broader society.

>>> Learn more: Vietnamese Family Day: Origin, significance and more

Exploring Vietnam's cultural heritage extends beyond its scenic attractions, inviting visitors to delve into the intricacies of Vietnamese family traditions. By understanding the Vietnamese family tree, travelers gain profound insights into the values that underpin Vietnamese society. As you embark on your journey through Vietnam, immerse yourself in its rich cultural tapestry, and consider the profound significance of familial bonds that transcend generations.

While you are in this S-shaped country, discovering captivating destinations like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Hoi An, and Ha Long allows you to delve deeper into Vietnam's culture and natural beauty. 

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Vietnamese family tree

Furthermore, no visit to Vietnam would be complete without exploring VinWonders, the ultimate chain of entertainment complexes. With thrilling rides, immersive attractions, and captivating shows, VinWonders promises endless fun for visitors of all ages.

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