Life Life

19/02/2021 - 09:01

Leaving green heritage for posterity

A while ago, I heard about the idea of building Hue into a city with four seasons of flowers with the hope that flowers would be planted all over the city such as on streets, in parks, at offices, schools, hospitals, etc. I live in Da Nang, and I do not have much land. But I supported the idea by designing for myself a typical Hue garden on the terrace with camellia, banana magnolia, Hue rose, etc., and call it “my royal garden.”

People taking a walk in parks along the Perfume river.

We grow trees to dream. As put by Mr. Phan Thien Dinh, Party Secretary of Hue City on his Facebook: “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, knowing that it must run faster than the fastest lion, otherwise it will die. Every morning in Africa a lion wakes up, knowing that it must outrun the slowest gazelle, or else it will starve. And every morning in Hue, you should get up early, walk gently, breathe slowly and deeply to enjoy for yourself the vitality that is as gentle as compassion...” 

In my “royal garden” there is a kind of grass, both familiar and strange, named thach xuong bo, the legendary grass that gives the river its fragrance and its name. I saw an abundance of that grass for the first time at the water source of the river. 

A while ago, the researcher Nguyen Huu Thong made an effort to find this legendary grass and brought it home. He planted it, then distributed it to those who were interested in. 

So for the first time, I suppose, the grass crossed the Hai Van pass to Da Nang to reside in my "royal garden.” “I am bringing Hue and the Perfume river home,” talked I to myself.

Also in my garden there is a big pine tree in a pot. It is Hue two-leaf pine, not three-leaf pine in Da Lat or rare red pine on sacred Yen Tu Mountain in the North. It is the species of pine that, over a hundred years ago, during a Nam Giao Festival, emperor Minh Mang wanted the princes who joined the festival to grow one at Trai Cung behind Nam Giao Esplanade.

Then 20 years later when returning to Trai Cung, Tuy Ly Vuong (Prince Mien Trinh then) spotted the tree that he had planted was still alive. He was so happy that he composed a poem about that. But he also felt depressed because he knew he could not live as long as the pine tree. He wished to be a crane in his next life so that he would fly back and live together with the pine tree. 

In my garden, there is also a parasol tree brought from Hue. The royal parasol tree is connected with the legend of King Fu Xi in China. He saw five stars fall down on the tree and the phoenix immediately arrived perching on it. 

King Fu Xi thought that the tree gave precious wood that could be used to make musical instruments. He had people cut the tree into three parts, representing Heaven, Earth and Human. The upper part gave clear sounds but so light, the lowest part gave too heavy sounds. Only the middle part gave good sounds. They soaked the middle part in the river for 72 days and nights. After that it was dried in the sun. On a good day, they asked the skillful craftsman Luu Tu Ky to make it into the musical instrument named Dao Cam based on Cung Dao Tri.

According to Dai Nam Nhat Thong Chi, Emperor Minh Mang once received two parasol trees as a gift from Guangdong, China. Because he liked them a lot, he had people grow them at Can Chanh Palace in the Imperial City.

After that, out of his love for that so beautiful parasol tree, the emperor had people go searching for it on Truong Son Mountain. It turned out that this species could be found everywhere in Vietnam.

After that, Emperor Minh Mang had people grow this kind of tree all over palaces and royal mausoleums. He then ordered people to carve the image of the parasol tree on Nhan Dinh, the urn represented himself, implying the stability of the Nguyen Dynasty. 

Of course, I cannot bring all the plants of Hue home because Hue is now the greenest city of the country with more than 64,000 trees of hundreds of species, exceeding the standard of trees for grade-one cities. Out of 7.100ha of public area, 750 hectares are covered with trees with the percentage of 18.5m2/person, not mentioning trees in home gardens, nurseries, offices, historical relics and landscape woods.

Hue was also recognized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) as the first National Green City of Vietnam in 2016 in a competition with the participation of up to 125 cities from the 21 countries around the world. 

Hue has been aiming at building a forest ecosystem in the city to make a difference. As put in a letter to the people recently by Mr. Phan Ngoc Tho, Chairman of Thua Thien Hue Provincial People’s Committee: “Probably it takes time for the economy of the province to keep up with other regions, but what we can be proud of now is that Hue is compatible with any other cities in terms of culture, history, people, and cleanness. Why not?” 

And Mr. Phan Ngoc Tho has even a bigger dream: “High-rise buildings can be a highlight for a developed city in this era. They are like standards for civilization and modernization of a city. But a green and clean city can make a difference. If we live in harmony with environment, we can leave green heritage for future generations.”

But the dream about woods in the city and the green heritage for posterity is not just about cleaning up and growing flowers as Hue has been doing. We can make even a bigger difference if we recover routes and spaces with local trees which have entered poetry such as poon tree, parasol tree, crimson bottlebrush, etc.

Story: Hoang Van Minh

Photo: Vo Thanh