Culture Culture

22/01/2020 - 08:14

On the heritage river

Nature creates for Hue a gentle and romantic river which has become an exquisite highlight of the city. It is right for someone to say that Hue is no more if one day the Perfume river vanishes.

The Perfume River - a special highlight of Hue City

1.  It is the Perfume river that shapes the character of Hue people. Thu Bon wrote in his poem Goodbye “Con song dung dang, con song khong chay/ Song chay vao long nen Hue rat sau.” (“The river hesitates; the river does not flow/ The river flows within; so Hue is deep.”) These two lines best describe the river and the character of Hue people.

The Perfume river is considered heritage in literature, music and painting. The poet Huy Tap uttered: “Neu nhu chang co dong Huong/ Cau tho xu Hue giua duong danh roi.” (“If there is no Perfume River/ It is like a poem that drops halfway.”) The river has been so far a theme for artists.

In the development process of Hue, the Perfume river has always been a special highlight. It shapes the city, making it become gentle and soft. It divides the city into two contrastive parts and then forms a heritage city along the river.

No need to tell Hue people about the value of the Perfume river. They all know it, and so do Hue lovers living far away from home.

Among the changes that have taken place on the river, I am impressed with the life of boatmen on the river in the past. It was part of the development of the city, part of the river, part of the history and culture of Hue.

In 2028 Hue Festival, the writer Nguyen Quang Vinh reproduced the life of those people in a show named “Echoes of the River”. The show chronicled the life of a man on the river. The echoes of the river came from simple things which helped form the river running through the city. 

2. Following the development process of Hue City, we recognize the importance of the Perfume river. It is the river that helps make the royal mausoleums of the Nguyen dynasty along the river special.

“The historical and ecological reserve in the area at the source of the Perfume river is very special. In Eastern Asia, such a well-maintained reserve is rare,” said Prof. Dr. Satoh Shigeru from Tokyo Metropolitan University in a recent international conference.

The royal mausoleums of the Nguyen dynasty at the source of the river is valuable in many aspects. They deserve to be recognized as world heritage for diverse elements which are connected with the natural ecological system along the river from Hue Citadel to the royal mausoleums and villages. It is the place which preserves diverse tangible and spiritual heritage, including agricultural produce and spiritual values.

Not only in literature, music and painting, the Perfume river is also where the processions of Hon Chen Festival take place twice every year in the 3rd and the seventh months of the lunar year. It is the time when followers worship Thien Y A Na, the Cham Mother who is Vietnamized. Boats with flags, dressed-up people and the tune of Chau Van flow on the river to Hon Chen, a sacred temple next to an abyss in the river.

3.  Someone has carved the sentence “Perfume River gives cool and clear water” on a board and put it at Kim Long Wharf. On a scorching summer day, when crossing Gia Vien Bridge and looking toward Kim Long Park, I felt so peaceful to see many people swimming in the river. It is hard to find another place other than Hue where people can swim in the river like that. 

One can see this everywhere from Tuan to Sinh in summer. Children follow their parents to work for their living in the river. How spectacular to see them stand on the boat then jump into the water! The sounds of water splashing after each jump, of children giggling, and of boars rowing all recall the peaceful childhood on the village river.

Even the most difficult men are “softened” by the river just like Nguyen Trong Lien who “voc tay say voi dong Huong/ Nhon chan nguoc buoc neo duong tim tho.” (“scoop water from the river with his hands to get drunk with it/ then goes looking for poetry.”)