Dương Vân Nga (English version)

French version


One speaks rarely of Dương Vân Nga in the history of Vietnam. Her name is not as often cited as that of the sisters Trưng Trắc Trưng Nhị or that of Triệu Ẩu. However she was an outstanding woman, the great queen of the first two dynasties Ðinh and Tiền Lê ( anterior Lê ) of Vietnam. Her life and works can be summed up in the following four verses which have been transmitted by oral tradition to our days and left on the wall of Am Tien monastery by a mysterious monk exactly 1000 years now, at his encounter with Dương Vân Nga:

Hai vai gồng gánh hai vua
Hai triều hoàng hậu, tu chùa Am Tiên
Theo chồng đánh Tống bình Chiêm
Có công với nước, vô duyên với đời

On her two shoulders two kings were carried
Queen of two reigns, she retired in Am Tien monastery.
Accompanying her spouse, she had beaten the Song and pacified the Cham
Service she rendered to her country, yet bad luck she got in her life.

Among the ten queens of these two dynasties, she was the only one to be allowed a statue bearing her effigy. During its restoration and transfer in the temple dedicated to King Lê Ðại Hành at the beginning of the Hậu Lê dynasty the statue oozed strangely, perhaps due to it being exposed suddenly to the sun after having been put in a humid place. At that time, it was said that this phenomenon was attributed to atrocious sufferings life has reserved to Dương Vân Nga during her lifetime.

Dương Vân Nga

Her real name was Dương Thị. Vân Nga was the name attributed to her by combining the first word of the name of the region of her father Vân Long and that of her mother Nga Mỹ. She was issue of a very poor background. At her very young age she had to collect wood in the forest and fish in the river to provide to the subsistence of her family in a mountainous and uneven region which is our Hoa Lư. Early morning in the forest, late evening in the river, she became without delay a young hard working, energetic and trouble shooting girl.

She had an innate sense of organization that allowed her to become in the following years the leader of a band of young girls in the area. She arrived at coping with a rival band constituted mainly of young boys led by the buffalo tender Ðinh Bộ Lĩnh by completely disperse his herd of buffaloes by using firecrackers and by her perfect mastery of round floating baskets that helped rapid transport of her troops across swamps and streams. But Ðinh Bộ Linh finally had the last word thanks to his scheme of recourse to poles and light craft of bamboo mat to pierce and immobilize all the round floating baskets of Dương Vân Nga. From then on Ðinh Bộ Lĩnh not only conquered Duong Van Nga’s admiration but also her love. That is why nowadays to evoke conjugal union and predestined love of a couple, it is often referred to the following popular expression: Bamboo mat craft crush round floating baskets ( Thuyền tre đè thuyền thúng )

Thuyền thúng

Thanks to their association, they arrived at gathering under their banner all the young of Hoa Lu and eliminating without delay their opponents in the conquest of power. Thus Ðinh Bộ Lĩnh became the first king of the Ðinh dynasty often known as Ðinh Tiên Hoàng. He was very authoritarian. He used ranks and appointments to buy loyalty of his subordinates. He also used force and cruel and unimaginable punishments to punish his adversaries and those who dared criticize him.

Despite Dương Vân Nga’s advice, he remained unruffled and made several enemies to himself even in his family. Instead of appointing his eldest son Ðinh Liễn, the one who had helped him for several years in his fights for the unification of the country, he chose his youngest son Ðinh Hạng Lang as his crown prince. This provoked Ðinh Liễn’s jealousy and incited him to assassinate his younger brother. Dương Vân Nga was at first witness of the fratricidal fight among her children, then the death of her husband, king Ðinh Tiên Hoàng assassinated by Ðỗ Thích a crank who, after a dream, thought the kingdom should belong to him and the eldest son Ðinh Liễn killed by the rebel troops.

She soon had the pains and sufferings of her daughter, princess Phật Kim, deserted by her husband Ngô Nhật Khánh who, being one of the sons of Ngô Quyền, took refuge in Champa and requested this country to launch a maritime attack against his own land Vietnam in the goal of reconquest of power. Because of the age of her son Ðinh Toàn ( 6 years old ), she had to assume the regency with Lê Hoàn, a generalissimo, head of Vietnamese territories.

But she soon faced the armed resistance of her assassinated husband’s partisans who wanted to eliminate Lê Hoàn at any cost and also the imminent threat of the Song as well as Champa’s. She was placed in front of a dilemma that appeared to be difficult for a woman to overcome alone when she lived in a Confucian era and when Vietnam was just liberated from Chinese domination for about a dozen years. She had the courage to take a decision which appeared doubtful at that time and heavy of harmful consequences for the Dinh dynasty in yielding the throne to Le Hoan and associating with the latter in managing the Ðại Cồ Việt ( ancient Vietnam ).

Pictures gallery of Hoa Lư

This permitted Lê Hoàn to have a massive adhesion of a great part of population and restore not only the confidence but also the unity of the whole people. He thus succeeded in putting down the rebellion, wiping out the Song on the Bạch Ðằng river, starting the Nam Tiến movement ( or descent toward the South ) and restoring peace all over the country. One should place oneself in this troubling political context that Dương Vân Nga experienced in order to see that it was an act well thought out and courageous from the part of a woman who, trained up until then to be submissive to a Confucian yoke, dared accept the dishonor and scorn to assure that our country would not pass under Chinese domination and that Vietnam would not prolong in political chaos.

Her combat appeared to be more arduous than that of the Trưng Trắc Trưng Nhị sisters because it is the matter of not only a struggle against the invaders, but also her own interests, her personal sentiments for the love of this country.
During the reign of Lê Ðại Hành ( or Lê Hoàn ), she ceaselessly advised the latter to practice a politics of magnanimity towards his adversaries, to ban cruel punishments established by Ðinh Tiên Hoàng and to call on talented monks ( Khuông Việt, Ngô Chấn Lưu, Hồng Hiến, Vạn Hạnh ) to the management of the country. Being a warrior by nature, bearing the name of Great Expedition ( Ðại Hành ), he continued to enlarge Vietnam by leading not only a maritime expedition that destroyed the Cham capital Indrapura in presently Central Vietnam in 982 and killed the Cham king Bề Mi Thuế ( Paramec Varavarman ) but also a politics of pacification all over the place in the ethnic minority territories. It was in one of these battles that the last son of Dương Vân Nga and Ðinh Tiên Hoàng, Ðinh Toàn, died assassinated at the place of Lê Hoàn by the Mán. This death was followed by the suicide of her daughter, princess Phật Kim and the death by illness of her son Long Thâu that she had with Lê Ðại Hành. She was taken up by the disappearance of her entourage without complain. She preferred to live her last days in Am Tiên monastery and burry the personal sufferings of a woman facing her destiny.

Is it fair for a patriotic woman like Dương Vân Nga overwhelmed by destiny, not to be cheered and cited like the Trưng Trắc Trưng Nhị sisters in the history of our Vietnam? Is there anything to do with a deliberate omission because of a sacrilege committed by Dương Vân Nga for having married and served two kings in a feudal Confucian society which is ours? One cannot erase the truth of history especially these details, said the Chinese historian Si Ma Qian.

It is time to give back to Dương Vân Nga her notoriety and her place she deserved long time ago in our history pages and make known to future generations the courageous and full of wisdom decision. This one, even though it seemed doubtful and immoral for a Confucian society, was made in the moment where the situation exacted more than ever the cohesion and unity of the whole people facing foreign invasion, but also a man of valor and talent that was our great king Lê Ðại Hành. Without him, the Nam Tiến movement would not have taken place.

Hoa Lư (English version)








French version

Hoa Lư is the old capital of independent  Vietnam under the reign of  Ðinh,  early Lê and Lý dynasties  until  1010 before the transfert to Thăng Long. It is located in  the Red River Delta region of Vietnam. It distinguishes itself from other tourist attractions by an magnificent environment made up of 3 caves (Tam Cốc) and karstic sharpen peaks as Hạ Long bay.

Thủ đô Đại Cồ Việt

Galerie des photos



Beautiful landscapes of Vietnam

French version


The landscape of Vietnam is really magnificent and exceptional.  For an avid photographer, it is the ideal place where he can make beautiful pictures for  immortalizing his trip. From North to South, the landscape is so  contrasted that it is impossible to remain indifferent to the  breath-taking beauty of nature.

Pictures gallery

Phong cảnh hữu tình 

In the North, one is amazed by atonishing and majestic  peaks emerging    from clean waters and islets with various forms in  Along and Hoa Lư bays and  rice terraces used by minority ethnic groups  in the heart of the mountains (Sapa, Mộc Châu, Hà Giang). In the central region, in addition to Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng and Sơn Động  stalactite caves and world heritages of Unesco (Huế, Mỹ Sơn, Hội An),  there are beautiful beaches (Mỹ Khê, Hội An, Nha Trang ) and national parks (Yok Don, Nam Cát Tiên).  In the South, the natural beauty is no less, in particular in the Mekong delta.

Here, thanks to the hand of man, panoramas are revealed magnificent: large rice fields as far as the eye, luxuriant orchards (Bến Tre) and beautiful traditional villages along watercourses without forgetting the mangrove forest in Cà Mau peninsula.

Paysages du Vietnam (Phong cảnh Quê Hương)

English version

Le  paysage du Vietnam est vraiment magnifique et exceptionnel. Pour un passionné de la photographie, c’est l’endroit  idéal où on peut  faire de beaux clichés  pour immortaliser son voyage. Du nord jusqu’au sud, le paysage est tellement contrasté qu’l est impossible de rester indifférent   devant l’étonnante beauté de la nature.

Phong cảnh hữu tình 

Dans le nord, on est émerveillé par les pics ahurissants et majestueux  émergeant des eaux limpides et les îlots de formes diverses dans les baies d’Along et Hoa Lư  et par les rizières en étages pratiquées par les minorités ethniques au cœur des montagnes (Sapa, Mộc  Châu, Hà Giang). Au centre, dans les zones montagneuses et les basses plaines côtières, outre les grottes stalactites de Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng  et Sơn Động et les patrimoines mondiaux de l’Unesco (Huế, Mỹ Sơn, Hội An), il y a de belles plages d’un bleu azur ( Mỹ Khê, Hội An, Nha Trang, ) et des parcs nationaux de Yok Don et Nam Cát Tiên. Dans le sud, la beauté de la nature n’est pas moindre, en particulier dans le delta du Mékong. C’est ici que  grâce à la main de l’homme, des panoramas se révèlent magnifiques: des vastes champs de rizières à perte de vue, des vergers luxuriants (Bến Tre)  et des beaux villages traditionnels tout le long des arryos (cours d’eau) sans  oublier la mangrove de la péninsule de Cà Mau.


Mandarin road (English version)

Version française

Mandarin road

If a tourist has a chance to travel by car from Saigon to Hanoï, he has got to take the “mandarin route” (or route No.1 ) as it is the only one that exists on the road network in Vietnam. We owe the name of “mandarin route” to the French who named it in 19th century because it is certain that it was the road taken by mandarins and high functionaries to travel rapidly and easily between the capital and their provinces. This route is born in the swamps of the Mekong delta infested with mosquitoes. It begins at Cà Mau and ends at the post of Ðồng Ðằn on the Sino-Vietnamese border in the region close to Lạng Sơn. It is often said that this route is the country’s backbone that looks like a sea horse. This route is 1730km long, linking several cities, in particular Saigòn, Phan Thiết, Nha Trang, Qui Nhơn, Hội An, Ðà Nẵng, Huế, Ðồng Hới, Hà Tịnh, Thanh Hóa and Hanoï.

It is generally covered with asphalt, but often on some sections, it was badly paved and weighed down by a multitude of trucks, bicycles, pedestrians, buffaloes, cows, and troops of ducks walking on. The bitumen breaks often, causing the grandmother perching side-saddle on the baggage carrier and girls leaning on too big bikes, to jump. Those are the familiar scenes often encountered on this road.

One also finds harvested rice and manioc left to dry on asphalt heated by the sun in the North. On this route, one can see on a side of Sa Huynh, the salt fields or mounds of salt recovered from the foliage and set up alongside of the road. The further one goes north, the more one sees peaceful landscapes of flooded rice paddies.

One often crosses children leading herds of buffaloes daubed with mud. At the edge of Hoa Lư, the ancient capital of Viet Nam, the silhouettes of rocky hills emerge from the bluish mist.

Despite its bad condition especially in North Vietnam, it continues to be the axle road vital to Vietnam. For those who like to know the history of Vietnam, the history of the long march toward the South, it is suggested that this route be borrowed because one would find not only the vestiges of a lost civilization in the whirlwind of history, the kingdom of Champa,but also the marks and traces that Vietnamese settlers, for the past decades, succeeded in carving during their passage.

Pictures gallery

Quốc lộ số 1

To know this route is to know not only the immense rice paddies, rubber tree plantations, beautiful sightseeing points on the coast of Vietnam, very beautiful panoramic views from one delta to another, superbs passes (in particular the Hải Vân pass) and wooded hills, almost desolate waste lands, but also an intensity of a Vietnamese agricultural life through hamlets located alongside of the route.


To know this route is to also know the Hiền Lương bridge. It was built by the French in 1950, destroyed by an American airplane in 1967, 178 meters long. It certainly evokes an episode when Viet Nam was divided and when one-half of the bridge was painted red and the other half yellow. It is located at the 17th parallel, in a zone where one of its sections, known during the Indochina war as “the Road without Joy” as French troops encountered fierce resistence there.

To know this route is to know the Hải Vân pass. It is located at 28km north of Ðà Nẫng ( or Tourane ) and only 495m high. As its name indicates, it is always in the clouds because it is close to the sea, which allows it to receive important masses of humid air. In the old days, it marked the frontier between the North and the South and protected the Chams from the Vietnamese appetite for land.

Composer Phạm Duy has evoked this route through his work entitled “Con Ðường Cái Quan“.


Route mandarine (Version française)

English version

Route mandarine

Si le touriste a l’occasion de voyager de Saïgon à Hanoï en voiture, il est obligé de prendre la “route mandarine” (ou la route No 1) car c’est la seule qui existe sur le réseau routier du Vietnam. Ce nom “route mandarine”, on le doit aux Français qui l’ont appelé car c’était la route prise autrefois par les mandarins et les hauts fonctionnaires pour voyager rapidement et aisément entre la capitale et leurs provinces. Cette route est née dans les marécages du delta du Mékong,  infestés de moustiques. Elle commence à Cà Mau et se termine au poste de Ðồng Ðan de la frontière sino-viêtnamienne dans la région proche de Lạng Sơn.  On dit souvent qu’elle est la colonne vertébrale du pays au “look” d’hippocampe. Cette route est longue de 1730 km, reliant plusieurs villes, en particulier Saïgon, Phan Thiết, Nha Trang, Qui Nhơn, Hội An, Ðà Nẵng, Huế, Ðồng Hới, Hà Tịnh, Thanh Hóa et Hanoï.

Elle est recouverte d’une manière générale d’asphalte, mais mal bitumée et encombrée souvent sur certains tronçons d’une multitude de camions, de vélos, de piétons, de buffles et de vaches et de troupeaux de canards qui trottinent. Le bitume explose souvent, faisant tressauter la mamie grimpée en amazone sur un porte-bagages et les mômes juchés sur des vélos trop grands. Ce sont des scènes insolites rencontrées fréquemment sur cette route.

On trouve aussi des récoltes de riz ou de manioc mises à sécher sur l’asphalte chauffée de soleil dans le Nord. Sur cette route, on peut voir du côté de Sa Huynh, des marais salants ou des monticules de sel recouverts de feuillage et dressés le long de la chaussée.

Plus on s’avance dans le Nord, plus on rencontre des paysages paisibles de rizières inondées. On croise souvent des enfants menant des troupeaux de buffles laqués de boue. Aux abords de Hoa Lư, l’ancienne capitale du Vietnam, les silhouettes des collines rocheuses émergent d’une brume bleutée.

Malgré son mauvais état surtout dans le Nord du Vietnam, elle continue à être l’axe routier vital du Vietnam. Pour ceux qui aiment connaître l’histoire du Vietnam, l’histoire de sa longue marche vers le Sud, il est conseillé d’emprunter cette route car on retrouve non seulement les vestiges d’une civilisation disparue dans le tourbillon de l’histoire, le royaume du Champa mais aussi les marques et les traces que les colons vietnamiens, depuis des décennies, arrivèrent à imposer lors de leur passage.

Galerie des photos

Connaître cette route c’est connaître non seulement des rizières immenses, des plantations d’hévéas, de beaux points de vue sur la côte du Vietnam, de très beaux panoramas d’un delta à un autre, de cols superbes (en particulier le col des Nuages ) et de collines boisées, des landes presque désolées mais aussi une intensité de vie agricole vietnamienne à travers les hameaux qui longent la route.

Connaître cette route c’est connaître aussi le pont Hiền Lương. Celui-ci construit par les Français en 1950, détruit par l’aviation américaine en 1967, long de 178m, évoque certainement une époque où le Vietnam était divisé et où la moitié du pont était peinte en rouge et l’autre moitié en jaune. Il est situé au 17ème parallèle, dans une zone où est situé un tronçon, connu lors de la guerre d’Indochine sous le nom “Rue sans Joie” car les troupes françaises y rencontrèrent de farouches résistances.       

Quốc lộ số 1

Connaître cette route c’est connaître le col des Nuages. Celui-ci est situé à 28 km au Nord de Ðà Nang (ou Tourane) et seulement 496 m d’altitude. Comme son nom l’indique, il est toujours dans les nuages car il est proche de la mer, ce qui lui permet de recevoir d’importantes masses d’air humide. Autrefois, il marquait la frontière entre le Nord et le Sud et protégeait les Chams des appétits territoriaux vietnamiens.

Le compositeur Phạm Duy a évoqué cette route à travers son oeuvre intitulé Con Ðường Cái Quan.

Dalat (English version)

Version française

  Thành phố sương mù

Located on the Vietnam’s Central Highlands, about 250 kilometers from Saigon and  1500 meters above sea level, Dalat continues to keep the charm of the 1920s.

In 1893, the discoverer of the plague bacillus and the Pasteur’s disciple, Alexandre Yersin has founded at the Lang Bian mountain plateau  a fertile ground for the establishment of a sanatorium. His project was followed several years later by that of Governor Paul Doumer in transforming Dalat into  the  most select climate  resort of South East Asia.
Here is found the little Paris of the Viet Nam with its buildings erected during the colonial era:  high school Yersin, convent of the sisters named “Couvent des Oiseaux”, private villas whose style is borrowed from Basque country, as well as from to  Savoy and Normandy.

The railway station of Đà Lạt is a replica of the Deauville train station in miniature. Even the small red and white iron lady, the small Eiffel Tower is there to remind its Parisian colleague.

 Little Paris in Vietnam

Pictures gallery 

Thanks to the temperate climate (10 degrees in  winter) and 25 degrees in  summer, one can cultivate here  all citrus fruits and vegetables. That allows Dalat to become the  leading vegetable provider of the country. Flowers greenhouses are also in the honour  for the region. Known as  “the city of eternal spring”, Dalat is characterized by a large number of “no”: no air conditioning, no traffic lights, no cycle ricksaws, no cops in  the streets, no supermarkets, no motorcycle taxis (xe ôm) etc..

Communal house (Đình Làng : Part 4)

Version française


Communal house 

Its construction is always operated according to a well-defined layout plan identifiable by some Chinese characters Nhất, Nhị, Tam, Ðinh, Công, Vương etc. . A communal house (đình) who stands alone with a rectangular main building (đại đình) evokes the character “Nhất”. This is the case of “đình” Tây Ðằng.

By contrast, we are led to recognize the character Nhị by adding to the main building a second building (tiền tế) (or building reserved for sacrifices). This one is parallel to the first building and preceding it in the new layout. This is the case of the communal house Liên Hiệp. It is rare to find the character Tam in the construction of communal house. In a general way, the “đình” is frequently encountered in the shape of the character Công.

The posterior building Hậu Cung is connected to the main building by a small corridor or a small court (Ống muống) . This is the case of the communal house Đình Bảng, Mộng Phụ. For the character Vương, it is sufficient to connect three buildings (Hậu Cung, Đại Đình, Tiền Tế) with two corridors (Ống muống). It is in this last building “Tiền Tế” where the official ceremony for tutelary genius is performed by notables wearing a blue suit during the feast days.

Decoration art in the communal houses

Thanks to the communal house (đình), we discover that the village life is intimately introduced in the decoration art. This one tries to liberate itself not only from classic conventional models encountered until then but also Confucian straitjacket that Vietnam has known in the feudal system. That is what we see in wooden carvings which take up all free spaces encountered inside the đình (from roof frame to columns).

All imperfections of the construction are hidden with address thanks to the technique of embellishment. In each carved piece, the motif whether it is animal, character, flower etc. .. is unique and cannot be found anywhere else even if it is the same theme. By contrast, one discovers in these sculptures the coexistence through centuries of two cultures, one being national and scholarly and the other popular. One finds not only in the first all motifs relating to four hieratic animals (Rồng, Lân, Rùa, Phượng) (Dragon, Unicorn, Tortoise, Phoenix), four noble plants, fairies, animals (tigers, elephants etc ..) but also fantasy, imagination, innovation from peasant-sculptor despite his strict obedience to etablished standards. In the popular sculptures, the master craftsman who is, above all, a peasant, let himself be guided by his personal inspirations, his sincere emotions, his frustrations, his spontaneity and his sentiments in the realization of his work with realism and humor. He succeeds in escaping the censoring custom by a unusual aptitude in the description of bawdy scenes through his work of art: a naked young girl taking a bath in the lotus pond or sitting with low-necked dress on a a dragon head (đình Phụ Lão, Bắc Giang) , a young man groping the body of a woman under the watchful eye of his partner (đình Hưng Lộc), a mandarin disturbing a girl who is obliged to hide her body with the lotus sheet in her bath ( đình Ðệ Tam Ðông, Nam Ðịnh) etc …

He dares to denounce the wrongdoings of corrupt mandarins. That is what one sees in the carved piece of the communal house Liên Hiệp. These are taboos and frustrating redtapes encountered every day in the Vietnamese confucian society. Everything found in this popular sculpture largely reflects artist’s freedom of expression, common aspirations and social life of village. The paradox is visible because the communal house is both the garden of Confucian order which is well established in Vietnamese family and social structure and the place where the peasant can find again his freedom of expression and denounce the Confucian straightjacket. By its sculptures and its architecture, the communal house constitutes an inestimable jewel for Vietnamese people. One has the habit of saying in Vietnamese: làng nước ( Village Nation ) because Vietnamese nation is constituted over centuries by the dissemination of villages whose communal house (Đình) is both spiritual, administrative, social and cultural centre. As a consequence, the communal house (Đình) is not only the soul of village but also that of Vietnamese nation.


Communal house (Đình Làng: Part 3)

Version française

Đình Làng (Part 3)

Armature ( Cấu tạo vì kèo )

In addition to the ceremonies scheduled in the year in honor of the tutelary genius, villagers attach great importance to anniversaries of his birth and death. But there are also other occasional sacrifices caused often by a marriage, an appointment, a promotion or a old or siver wedding (khao lão). This allows you to give rise to feasts in the village and allows you to celebrate in large pump the cult in the tutelary genius. The latter may be a man or a woman. It is easy to identify this genius at the time of the procession. For the genius-man, there is always the presence of a horse in red (ngựa hồng) or white ( ngựa bạch) laquered wood. This one is of natural size and mounted on a wooden rectangular plate fitted with castors. The latter is richly harnessed and it is supposed to bring the genius soul. In the case where the genius is a woman, this horse is replaced by the palanquin in red hemp (võng đào) suspended from the beam having the ends carved with dragon head and based on two easels in the form of three crossed sticks.

Mái cong làng Ðình Bảng 


For the duration of the feast, one sacrifices to the tutelary genius with solemnity by moving its char ( kiệu) accompanied by a large number of culte objects, parade weapons, dais (tán) and pennants (cờ), from the communal house (đình) to the his place of residence (nghè) (1) or from the village to another allied village in the case where these ones are united by the cult of the same genius and by organizing multiple entertainment: fighting of cocks, buffaloes and birds, chess games with human pawns, flat hand wrestling etc.

There is also a important rite which recalls the significant characteristics of genius life. Known as the “hèm” in Vietnamese and kept secret, it is always celebrated during the night for geniuses who have not done an honorable act (genius thief, genius with fists, wast collector genius etc … ).. By contrast, it is celebrated in the great day for the geniuses with a quality or an act of bravery. One avoids to pronounce also the name of the genius during the rite by modifying the pronunciation or by substituting a synonym. This is the case of genius Linh Lang for example. We are obliged to tell “khoai dây” instead “khoai lang” (potatoes), “thầy lương” for “thầy lang” (doctor) etc. .. This singular rite is one of the essential features of communal cults. The negligence of this rite could jeopardize the prosperity of the village. READING MORE


     Palanquin in red hemp   (Đình Cổ Loa)   


(1) ghè: Place of residence of the genius often located at the entrance of the village. At the time of the feast, invited the genius is invited to join the communal house “đình”. It is brought back to its “ghè” when the feast is terminated.


Le Ðình, maison communale du Viêt Nam.
Hà Văn Tấn, Nguyễn Văn Kự,
Editions Thế Giới, 2001

Communal house ( Đình Làng: Part 2)

Version française


Đình Làng: Part 2

We are accustomed to say: Cầu Nam, Chùa Bắc, Ðình Ðoài with the aim of evoking the celebrity of three specific regions concerning the Vietnamese traditional architecture. Ðình Ðoài thus insinuates the region Ðoài (Hà Ðông, Sơn Tây) where there is a large number of famous communal houses. (Tây Ðằng, Mông Phụ , Chu Quyến etc. .. ). It is in this region near the mountain and forests that the precious and resistant hardwood is found essentially  for  the construction of đình.

The word “đình” has its origin in the Chinese ideogram ting. Despite this, the “đình” in the Vietnamese architecture does not correspond to the Chinese description of the ting. The latter is employed over time to designate a isolated house for cultural joys (thưởng ngoạn văn hóa) or a rest home (đình trạm) for a traveller or a mandarin in mission or a temple for the cult of the rampart genius at the time of the Han (Chinese).

In this meaning, there is the same type of ting in Viet Nam with the đình Trấn Ba within the temple Ngọc Sơn (Hànội) or Thủy Ðình ( Ðình on water) in front of the pagoda Thầy (Chùa Thầy) (Hà Tây). Based on the origin of the word Ðình, some specialists do not hesitate to think that the cult of the Chinese “ting” has inspired the Vietnamese “đình”. For Vietnamese writer and journalist Hữu Ngọc, the wall genius have been replaced by the village tutelary genius to adapt oneself to Vietnamese taste. But there are several reasons not allowing to reinforce this hypothesis.

Firstly, the Vietnamese đình which is due to its strength in an ingenious system of columns, tenons and mortices, is built on stilts (without poured foundation). This technique allows to facilitate sometimes its movement or its re-orientation in case its initial installation does not provide prosperity and happiness to the village after several decades of exploitation.This type of construction reminds us that, for some researchers, in particular French researcher Georges Coedes, the Vietnamese “đình” was undoubtedly influenced by Indonesian architectural style.

It does not call into question what one have already discovered on Vietnamese bronze drums with the house on stilts and a curved roof. (Ngọc Lữ ). We know very well that the Dongsonian (the ancestors of the Vietnamese ) were established along the coast of North Vietnam (1 millennium before J. C. ). They were considered as “Indonesian” (or Austroasians (Nam Á in Vietnamese), the Bai Yue.

According to Vietnamese researcher Trịnh Cao Tường, specialised in the study of communal houses (đình), the architecture of Vietnamese communal house on stilts testifies to the echo of the Dongsonian mind continuing to perpetuate itself yet in the daily life of the Vietnamese people. In addition, this building type is similar to sacred common building roong (nhà rồng) that one is accustomed to find among the Austroasiatic populations, in particular highland ethnic peoples (Central Highlands of Vietnam). Analogous to the Vietnamese communal house, the building rôong cumulates a large number of social functions: board room of village committee, accommodation center for casual visitors, rallying point of all villagers etc. ..Some Vietnamese “đinh” are fitted with wooden floors serving as headquarters for meeting or sofa bed for notables and villagers. This is not the case of Chinese “ting”.

Đình Bảng (Bắc Ninh)

In the XVIII century, there are almost 11800 villages in Vietnam. This means that there are communal houses as much as villages. As the Vietnamese have the habit of saying: the water that we drink recalls the source (Uống nước nhớ nguồn), there is always within themselves a recognition, a gratitude for those who have done a great service for them and their country.

That is why nothing is surprising to see a large number of historical figures (national and local heroes) or legendary characters (Mountain genius Tan Viên for example) and benefactors considered to be part of geniuses of communal houses. Those who have done stirring deeds are not forgotten either. In addition, among these ministering geniuses, there are also the children, beggars and thieves. These ones die a violent death with a sacred hour, which gives them the supernatural powers to protect villagers against evils and misfortunes. Thanks to these communal gods, the village found not only tranquillity and prosperity but also rule, justice and morality. They are in some way the personification of this supreme authority which derives its full strength in the village itself.

Depending on their role more or less filled, they can receive royal patent (sắc phong) who grant them the grades of “genius of higher rank (or Thượng đẳng thần)” or “genius of the average rank (or Trung đẳng thần)” or the “genius of lower rank (Hạ đằng thần) “. This institution allows the king to demote those of them failing to fulfill their mission by sowing disorder in the village or letting the villagers perish. Being kept with care and jealousy in the Hậu Cung (or interior palace) these royal patents are the indescribable pride of the whole village. If the latter has not his tutelary genius, it is forced to borrow the tutelary genius of another village or to replace it by the soil genius (thổ thần). In the case where the villages are united by a common cult for the same tutelary genius, they must come to an agreement so that the feast day is fixed at a date agreed in each village and everyone can participate by sending a delegation during the procession. Unlike the temples built and maintained at public expense, the communal houses are charged to villagers because it is in fact a local worship. The wealth found in the decoration of communal houses and their dimensions depend both on the financial prosperity and the generosity of the villagers. One found in every village, some parcels of land called rice-fields of the rites (or tế điền) or rice paddies of geniuses (ruộng thần từ) whose exploitation is used to maintain the communal house and the area of which may reach several tens of mẩu (or 0.36 ha) in some villages before 1945. It is the local hierarchical authorities who are responsible for the administration of communal house and village as “a small court”. The rules, customs and traditions are applied with severity and they are more respected than the king’s authority. Women are not allowed in the đình. That is why we have a habit of saying in Vietnamese “Phép vua thua lệ làng” (the king’s authority yields to the village custom). READING MORE