Culture Culture

01/04/2018 - 10:33

Under An Hien’s roof

Escaping the chaos of life, I went to Kim Long, a place where writer Hoang Phu Ngoc Tuong had spent his days under the leafy greens of An Hien, a place he lovingly called, “the shelter of the soul.”

Tourists strolling under the green leaves of An Hien

Kim Long came into sight, with a green color and gentle cool air from the river, caressing lightly the visitor’s skin. Upstream, the Huong River kept widening, like the generous hands of a mother. The dragon boats carrying tourists kept getting smaller, reflecting against the spring’s sun like specks of nacreous mosaic on the calm water.

An Hien also came into sight, with its ancient gate. It has been more than a century since 1895, when An Hien was the residence of the 18th Princess of King Duc Duc. I wonder what An Hien looked like in those early days. But with what Mr. Tuong had portrayed in the memoir "Flowers around me" (1983), An Hien today is still the same.

There is a gate leading to an earthen pathway, a dome of laurel leaves curves overhead. The Asiatic apple trees still greet spring with its little clusters of red flowers, and the mangosteen trees with their luxuriant foliage and muscular branches. Next to the pond reflecting like a mirror, water lilies and apricot blossoms glow silently like an old friend.

And this season, the Northern lychee trees are flowering freely. The white flowers are like dozing puffs of clouds, dreaming among the green leaves. With trees, age seems to be non-existent.

That day, many people came to An Hien like me, perhaps because they were looking for a little rare silence. Under the roof of the old house, bare feet strolled innocently and unwarily. We listened to the laughter of the fruit trees and felt the melody of the cool earth, absorbing into the soles of our feet. Unfortunately, that day, we did not meet Ms. Hoang Oanh, the next generation of An Hien. This year, she is over 90 years old but is still very lucid, and she often takes care of the trees herself.

An Hien is a precious garden right on the tourist route to Thien Mu Pagoda, but why is it not on any tour’s itinerary? The family said Ms. Hoang Oanh does not like the noise. She worries if too many people come, An Hien will no longer be tranquil.

In the quiet leaves, fragrant pomelo blossoms signaled a new season. I heard somewhere the gentle footsteps of Ms. Lan Huu, echoed from the flowing memoirs of Hoang Phu Ngoc Tuong. There were even footsteps of the poet Nguyen Du in the gardens of Kim Long when he embodied Kieu.

Under the old veranda, Hoang Phu Ngoc Tuong had tucked himself in the leaves and trees and watched the Huong flow as he wrote “The river, who gave its name”…

It is no coincidence that Hue is called the green city. It originated from these gardens - the heritage site of Kim Long, the large green gardens which were planted with the life philosophy of Hue people.

There, we can return every time life gets a little too hectic, to sit under the trees and feel “the serenity of Mother’s lap.”

Story and photo: Tieu Muoi