Life Life

09/06/2019 - 08:27

Once at a village of metallurgy

Many people often think of Phu Bai as a village once well known for metallurgy. The village is conserving not only precious architecture and Sino-Vietnamese documents, but also many interesting stories. Besides, there is another very different Phu Bai today.

Boat racing is a cultural activity that inhabitants in Phu Bai preserve

Respecting origin and rituals

In the old days, Phu Bai (Thuy Phu Commune, Huong Thuy Town, more than 10km from Hue City) was a large village where many Vietnamese people came to live very early. The three big surnames are Ngo, Le, and Nguyen, which were attributed to establishing and expanding the village with many stories connected with Lord Nguyen Hoang.

Mr. Le Can, headman and Party Secretary of the village, told us many stories about those forefathers. No one in Phu Bai Village does not know anecdotes about them.

The temple dedicated to Mr. Ngo Thu (Ngo Phu Quan,) who is worshiped as the patron of the village, is a majestic ancient structure considered very important in villagers’ spiritual life. It is said that in Mac Dynasty’s era, Mr. Ngo Thu from Duong Lam went to Thanh Hoa and Nghe Tinh, then followed Lord Nguyen Hoang to the south. 

This man used magic to shoo away spirits, bringing peace to the village. The name Phu Bai originated from that story. Mr. Ngo Thu together with Le Trai, a man very good at martial arts, and the Nguyen ancestors established Phu Bai Village.

In the past, Phu Bai was well known for its career of metallurgy with many legends and stories. The village, located in the south of Phu Xuan, on the national highway, with rich resources and abundant labor force due to waves of immigrants, was a favorable place for the development of the career.

The career throve in the 18th century and the village became the biggest center of metallurgy in the Inner Realm. This career attracted almost all strong people in the village.

“There remain now many precious documents in Sino-Vietnamese about secrets of the career with many strict regulations,” revealed Mr. Can. Besides documents about metallurgy, Phu Bai is preserving many other valuable cultural documents such as administrative documents and documents about regulations of the village and other hundred-of-year-old artifacts.

People in Phu Bai take worshipping and rituals very seriously. Every year, the village celebrates three great events: New Year’s Day, Ky Phuc Ceremony and Ancestors Day. Death anniversaries, ceremonies and ancestors’ tombs and graves are always well noticed. 

People in the village consider their clan as standards to adjust their relationship with one another and the bond that ties them to their homeland. Villagers in Phu Bai believe in Feng Shui. Everything related to temples, tombs and graves are regulated by written documents and of great interest to dignitaries in the village. 

Walking around the village with Mr. Can, I saw the well-tended communal house and temples, especially the temple worshipping the village patron Ngo Thu. Besides, we stopped at Tien Thanh Temple, Temple of Literature and Temple of Martial Arts, built on a mound called land of Mr. Trong.

The Temple of Literature is to the left of Tien Thanh Temple. It is to worship Confucius and other saints. The Temple of Martial Arts is dedicated to His Highness Tran Hung Dao. “These very important places are where we honor our good students every year. These are like our roots,” said Mr. Can.

Developing based on cultural and educational origin

Phu Bai is different today and metallurgy is now just a thing of the past. Villagers by the river of Cu Giang are now living their completely new lives. Phu Bai Village now becomes Thuy Phu commune with 12 hamlets, which meet the criteria of a new countryside. “We are trying our best to make ours a typical one,” affirmed Mr. Ngo Toan Phu, Party Secretary of Thuy Phu.

Not mentioning the development of its economy and good infrastructure with brand new, beautiful and clean concrete roads or features of a new countryside, we can see that it is simply stories about culture and education in Phu Bai that make the village exciting.

Raising fund to encourage education has been prevalent in others places, but in Phu Bai it becomes the responsibility of not only the authority, but the whole community. Almost all hamlets, clans, former student groups, co-ops have fund that assists and encourages students.

“Awarding scholarship to good students is now an annual event. It is done by the whole community and agreed upon by all the people,” said Mr. Toan.

Phu Bai is a typical village, which has been preserving their customs, beliefs and traditional festivals of historical value for over five centuries. The ceremony dedicated to the patron Ngo Thu is an illustration of a cultural institution that has been existing for hundreds of years in the village.

It is not sufficient if we do not mention the boat race, a special cultural event for Phu Bai people. The team of Thuy Phu has taken part and won in many competitions, both town and province levels. This 500-year-old village has a traditional race of its own, which has once occurred right on poetic Khe Loi Lake. 

This sport event is organized on traditional Ancestors Day. Everything from thoughts to action of people in Phu Bai originate from their cultural roots. 

Phu Bai today has changed a lot. It looks more civilized thanks to commercial services along Highway 1A, Provincial Road 18 and the bypass. But people remain the same. They always respect tradition and remember their origin. 

Story and photo: LE THO