22/03/2005 00:00 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Ancient villages need preservation

The village cultural space and architectures that have taken shape and crystallized themselves after millennia come as a profound manifestation of the Vietnamese wet-rice civilization. One of those valuable collections is the group of Mong Phu, Cam Thinh, Dong Sang and Doai Giap villages in Duong Lam Commune, Son Tay Town, about 40 km from Hanoi.


Mong Phu village gate
with the banian tree nearby.


A corner of ancient Mong Phu village.


The gate of one of the ancient housesin Mong
Phu village.


Most ancient houses
in Mong Phu village are facing with the damages of time.
.


Making sweet soya
source, a traditional craft in Duong Lam,
has been practiced by the couple Ha Nguyen Huyen.


The over 400-year-oldnbsp;Mong PHu village hall.

The village cultural space and architectures that have taken shape and crystallized themselves after millennia come as a profound manifestation of the Vietnamese wet-rice civilization. One of those valuable collections is the group of Mong Phu, Cam Thinh, Dong Sang and Doai Giap villages in Duong Lam Commune, Son Tay Town, about 40 km from Hanoi.

Duong Lam is the birth place of many celebrated figures, including Ambassador Giang Van Minh who lived in the 17th century and former Deputy Prime Minister Phan Ke Toai. Further back in the history, the area is home to two kings, namely Phung Hung and Ngo Quyen.

The Mong Phu village hall was built in the heart of the village about 400 years ago.nbsp; From this, five lanes stretch to the five hamlets. At the end of each lane, there is a watching post. Outside each village, there is a shelter where the remains of those villagers who do not die inside the village would be placed before being buried. Right at the foot of a banyan tree at the gate of the village, there is another shelter, called the Do shelter, where those fatally ill villagers spend their final days.

There is also a well in each hamlet. Mong Phu village now boasts a unique well called the Sui. Water from Sui well is very clear, and this has won the well a board bearing the line "As clear as ice". This figuratively means the soul of Mong Phu villagers are also as clear as ice. In the East and the West of the village hall, there are two other wells described by village elderly as the two eyes of a dragon.

With nearly 400 households, Mong Phu is the largest village in the commune. The main job in the village is agriculture and the side job, sericulture. The village counts over 100 houses described as old, roofed with tiles that resemble fish scales. The age of the oldest house is over 400 years, and a record on the house written with Chinese ink on a wooden board helps lead scientists to such a conclusion. We visited a house aged over 200 years owned by Pham Van Thu and his wife who have lived together in the house for nearly 70 years now. As we came, the old man was reciting the Kieu poem to the enjoyment of his wife who was preparing vegetables for their meal. Only a stone throw from Thu's house is the oldest one owned by Nguyen Van Hung and La Thi Thao. Hung said the house had been left to him by his ancestor who lived in the early years of the 16th century. The house is in disrepair but the couple does not have enough money for the repair as their source of income comes only from a 1,500-sq.m rice field while they have to support their two children. Hung said the basis for the determination of the age of the house is a record made in 1649 which states that the house was built one generation earlier.

Unfortunately, the group of old villages in the town has fallen into disorder as a result of the poor planning work. In one of the villages, in only a couple of years, as many as 40 new-style multi-storey houses rose to the sky, overshadowing 30 houses aged 200-400 years old.

Learning of the situation, the Cultural Legacy Preservation Department of Japan recently cooperated with the Ministry of Culture and Information of Vietnam to finalize a project on the planning for those villages. Village lanes and gates have been refurbished and a new car park built at the village gate.

Mong Phu, Cam Thinh, Dong Sang and Doai Giap villages, with their typical sketches and as ancient and romantic as they are, need to be preserved for our descendants.

Story: Tran Dinh