Culture Culture

11/07/2022 - 07:19

Stories told from the rivers

Each ceramic artifact carries in itself a story, and thus many of them make a series of stories about a world beneath the river beds. Huong River and O Lau River – the two long rivers in Hue carry in them a huge number of salvage ceramics, reflecting the prestigious history of the land.

Salvage ceramics from the Huong River and O Lau River surprising viewers

When those artifacts were exhibited, they brought big surprises to viewers not only for their delicate design but also for the mysteries and cultural features of each historical era behind them.

There was an exhibition at Thua Thien Hue Museum of History in June. With over 300 salvage ceramics from the Huong River and the O Lau River on display, the exhibition themed as “Stories Told from the Rivers” interested many people, from experts and researchers to visitors and ordinary people.

Viewers seemed to hear stories told by the poetic Huong River about the salvage ceramics made in the reigns of Ly, Tran, Later Le and Nguyen Dynasties, between the 11th and 20th centuries. Each artifact has in itself a story and special characteristics about Vietnamese life in general and ancient Hue in particular.

Ceramics from the Huong River and the O Lau River are both artifacts and cultural evidence

The artifacts excavated from the O Lau River such as clay containers and lime pots also have mysteries about the “ancient relics by the O Lau River” that remind viewers of the remaining ceramic kilns of Phuoc Tich and My Xuyen villages.

Most of the artifacts discovered under the O Lau River were dated from the 17th century to the late 20th century and carried many historical and cultural values, being anecdotal evidence for the development of traditional craft villages of the area.

Many visitors were amazed by a dense layer of cultural sediments since a very long time ago because they used to think that there were only shrimps and fish in the river.

“I was impressed by the lime pots with various beautiful patterns. The more I looked at the artifacts the more curious I became. I was surprised that these artifacts had been excavated from the river of my childhood and of many other people in Hue,” said Nguyen Long, an exhibition viewer.

Mr. Nguyen Duc Loc, Director of the History Museum, said that each artifact bore in itself a story. All of these stories have made an essential part of the history of cultural heritage, proving the existence of cultural patterns through different historical stages, and the development of the ancient capital.

He added, “The exhibition not only reminds us of the rivers historically recognized, but also gives well-wishers of Hue culture a good chance of meeting and exchanges.

Having some ceramic artifacts in her collection displayed at the exhibition, Prof. Dr. Thai Kim Lan, Director of the Museum of Huong River Ancient Pottery, said that the artifacts told stories of rivers. The rivers that exist together with many generations carry in themselves the sediments which could tell their own stories.

Those rivers have carried traces of civilization and culture of people in Thuan Hoa area, and the non-stop exchanges between the natives and the outside world, in Vietnam and in (its) far-away lands. They have also connected the present with the last millennium and the next one, and more.

According to Prof. Thai Kim Lan, the rivers have embraced all sediments and preserved a treasure for humans, told historical and cultural stories about the common culture or the traditions of private houses. The rivers have remained unchanged, being tolerant and confidential, in order to contribute to a prosperous and peaceful existence.

Therefore, the ceramics presented to the public is probably a way of spreading stories about the people, bridging the gaps, showing the respect to beauty and aesthetics, and thus preserving culture and civilization for community.

Prof. Thai Kim Lan expressed her hope: “We are connecting story-telling rivers. In the future, mountains on this planet will together tell stories about a horizon of peace and optimism. Who knows?”

The cooperation between state-owned and private museums

This exhibition of ceramics is co-organized by the state-owned Thua Thien Hue Museum of History and private Museum of Huong River Ancient Pottery. It gives the two agencies an opportunity to network, cooperate and share experiences. It also a place for researchers and visitors to Hue to have more information for their studies and conversation of values of the underwater heritage. In addition, it has honored researcher and antiquity collectors who contributed to the cause of conversation, preservation and promotion of the value of antiques in the present time.

Story and photos: Phan Thanh