Life Life

09/02/2019 - 17:59

Small, beautiful and delicate

A friend once told me: Everything of Hue is small, except the piece of pork in a bowl of Hue noodles is ... very big. I have to explain that it is not correct.

Colors of Hue Sweet Soups

A friend once told me: Everything of Hue is small, except the piece of pork in a bowl of Hue noodles is ... very big. I have to explain that it is not correct. When I was a student, my biggest dream was the thin piece of pork in the bowl of noodles in Kho Ren – which was so thin that when you picked it up, you could see through it the face of the person sitting opposite you – the meat should be a little bit, a little bit thicker, never did I wish it to be as thick as it is... today, which was never possible. The moment I put the piece of meat in my mouth, even before chewing... it had disappeared.

It is true that there are noodles stalls in Hue that have very thick, big pieces of pork, but most of them sold noodles to tourists. And truly, I cannot understand why these Hue noodles restaurants, which are completely non-Hue in style, have appeared!

Everything of Hue is small, especially the cuisine. Eating is both materialistic and artistic, both culture and consciousness. Vietnamese people once used the eating manner to evaluate people. Eating rudely, cooking big pieces and cooking salty food were the style of ordinary people, who were even called uncultured. More sophisticated, delicate and subtle ways belonged to the nobility. Not all Hue people are aristocrats, but the way of processing, presenting and enjoying food are rich in aristocratic style.

A lot of people have to say, it is dazzling just looking at a Hue-style feast. Everything is in harmony, from colors, ingredients, tastes to display. Very small bowls and plates are used. The food in each bowl and plate is also very little. However, there are many dishes. They are all presented in a whole that is characteristic of Hue - small, beautiful, delicate and elegant.

I really like the winding little alleys in the Hue garden houses. They are so thoughtfully small. The sun spots are also small, as if contemplating with the alleys. There, life is slow. Butterflies don't even bother to flap their wings when people touch. It is such peace that makes one hesitant and makes one feels as if he is smaller. People nestle in nature, politeness and moderation, and as if to dissolve, to be clear and calm.

Not everything in Hue is small. There are very big roads, big pavements, big bridges... but strangely, when reflecting upon them, both people and things, become strangely small.

There is some unexplainable thing that makes Hue small, quiet, thoughtful. Like the Perfume River, it is very wide, but looks still small, as if it still hesitates to flow. Like Truong Tien Bridge, it is long and wide, but looks still very small, like a comb nestled on the hair of the Huong River. Le Loi Street is the same. In fact, it is quite wide; once it was considered very wide. But it is still mixed somewhere between the green trees, between the delicate Hue figures at after school time ...

Perhaps what has not yet been interpreted can be called the Hue’s soul, which is also a way to call it, but it is also very vague. The only sure thing is that, when one touches this soul, he has to reflect and ponder himself, to leave his self-conceitedness, self-centeredness somewhere else. It is the only way he can be harmonious and find himself, with confidence and reservation, be self-conscious and self-questioning, a form of hesitation to perfect himself and to grow.

Following the Huong River towards the sea, we meet an overwhelming Tam Giang lagoon. When I was a child, I often heard the phrase, "Be afraid of Ho's forest roads, be afraid of Tam Giang lagoon".   Oh well, now Tam Giang is small, peaceful and still. The delicate ‘dạ’ (polite yes) sound in the middle of the long and thin strands of the lagoon is like the hair on the cheeks of a ferry boat girl, which can soften one’s heart in the midst of amber-golden sunshine. The river water is as clear as the eyes of a cat peacefully lying on the green windowsill, watching the clouds flying over Thuong Tu moss-covered gates...

And there are the gentle small streets of Bao Vinh, which many times have made the hearts moved and passerby stopped. In the past, there was a dormitory for students from Quang Nam coming to Hue to study. The other day sitting in Da Nang, I asked my friends if they knew why Da Nang voice is lighter than the neighboring regions’ tone. That was because the ‘dạ’ sound of many Hue girls' voice had softened that Quang voice. "The students of Quang region came to Hue for examination could not leave it when seeing Hue girls”. However, there were still many Hue girls who packed their things and moved across the pass to become the bride of Quang region, and they contributed to softening the very proud Quang voice, to produce a combined, a hybrid accent of the two sides of the pass...

Hue has a very magnificent system of palaces, temples, and king’s tombs, but strangely, when arriving at these places, there is something still very humble. Well, there is an actual humble palace. It turned out that the architecture hidden among the trees in the forest has made the bulky things soft and the big things smaller.

Knowing oneself, knowing others, being delicate, small, or deliberately making oneself smaller, to harmonize with nature, to become surest of oneself among the Huong river and Ngu mountain, to still take a proud stance with the temples and tombs, with the long winding roads, moss-covered walls and old trees... is this all what it means to be Hue? Is it the Hue’s soul? Is it its philosophy? 

Hue is still a mystery - that is certain. And that is exactly what makes Hue so enchanted, making people yearn to come back...

Story: Hoang Huong Giang

Photo: Hanh Phuoc