Life Life

22/10/2019 - 08:43

Hoa Xuan - a fishing village by O Lau River

My Dai Loc village is a long field away from the banks of O Lau River (40km north of Hue city center). Therefore, not many villagers do fishing. But across O Lau River is a small village of about thirty houses, and it is a fishing village with a beautiful name Hoa Xuan.

When I was in elementary school, there were five or seven kids from this fishing village, Hoa Xuan, who sailed across the river to study every day. But by middle school, those friends of mine had dropped out or transferred schools.

Hoa Xuan Bridge across O Lau River

Hoa Xuan fishing village used to be very poor. I remember going to O Lau River to swim with my buffalo-herding friends. From the side of Hoa Xuan village, a silver buffalo swam across and joined in the black buffaloes of my village. Because the buffalo was white, it stood out in the middle of the river.

When dusk fell, the buffaloes began to find their way home. The silver buffalo swam back to the other side of the river; then oil lamps from river boats and small houses by the river had just been lit; as the fishermen threw the fishing nets into the water, the sounds of their hitting the sides of the boat rang out, echoing over the river. Perhaps it was the most vivid moment of this fishing village's day...

Suddenly one day, Hoa Xuan fishing village became lively when the cooperative built a brick kiln right at the edge of the village by the river. The reasons to build a brick kiln were also simple, because the land by the river was clay, the material for firing bricks, and transporting bricks by boat was the most convenient.

Then a huge smoke rose across the river when the first batch of bricks entered the furnace. People around the area were very happy, because there would be bricks to build houses without having to buy from the city. But producing pink bricks was not easy, even though the cooperative sent people to Nam Thanh brick village to learn the techniques. The early batches of bricks of Hoa Xuan brick kiln were produced and little profit was made.

I remember once my father let me go on the boat to the other side of the river to visit Hoa Xuan brick kiln. That afternoon, Mr. Su, the head of the brick kiln, treated my father and I to a lunch with fresh river fish braised with chili. Mr. Su spoke a lot about the future of the brick kiln, about houses built on the banks of the river. However, only a few months later, the brick kiln was closed because the bricks produced were not of good quality and could not be sold.

Among my classmates in Hoa Xuan village, Hieu is now the most successful. He is a wedding keyboard player. He plays the keyboard in a popular style and can play any kind of music. He is excellent at bolero music and thus is highly sought after for weddings in the area. 

Once, Hieu told me that no one could find the origin of his village and asked me to help him. I couldn't do it, but I recommended looking for a village cultural researcher in Hue to find out if they could help...

Through the story of finding the origin of Hoa Xuan village, I learned more interesting things about this fishing village. The oldest people in the village said that the village also had an ancestry tomb, but the stone tablet only recorded some scribbled characters that no one could read at all. Even the beautiful name Hoa Xuan’s origin is unbeknownst. Then the communal house was burnt down during the war and since then all the villagers had felt lost right in their own hometown.

As scheduled, one summer afternoon, about a dozen people from Hoa Xuan village waited for me at coffee shop on Le Loi Street - Hue to go to the house of a village cultural researcher to ask him to find the village's origin. The village chief always wore formal long loose ao dai, with a blue head-dress.

The origin of Hoa Xuan village was answered by Tran Dai Vinh, a researcher, as follows: The original inhabitants of the village were the nomadic people who belonged to the three districts of Hue which was at that time called Dan Dien, Kim Tra and Phu Vang and partly from Quang Tri. Most of them depended upon nomadic fishing on Tam Giang Lagoon.

In 1647, during the reign of Phuc Thai in the Le Dynasty, Lord Nguyen Phuc Lan granted the villagers the privilege of reclamation of the swampy land along the banks of Tam Giang lagoon to do farming and stabilize their lives. And the village was named: Trung Hoa ward.

Lord Nguyen Phuc Tan continued to bless the villagers. After more than 10 years of embankment dam construction, reclamation and restoration, forming fields, the people of Trung Hoa ward had reclaimed 306 acres of land, with a population of 823 households.

Lord Nguyen Phuc Tan also gave the villagers a communal house of the lord in Phu Xuan, to dismantle and set up as the communal house of Trung Hoa ward. The neighboring villagers called it the Ro village communal house.

Under the reign of Gia Long, the name of Trung Hoa ward was changed to Hoa Xuan village with his suggestion that this village would have four spring seasons all year round. That name exists to this day...

Since the completion of the Hoa Xuan Bridge which connects the banks of O Lau River, Hoa Xuan village has also grown, but the villagers still mainly work in fishing and building boats.

It is strange that for decades that small fishing village still only has dozens of households. The only difference is that Hoa Xuan fishing village is now more beautiful than before with pink lotus ponds surrounding the village ...

Story and photo: Phi Tan

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