ClockTuesday, 19/02/2019 08:01

Missing Hue

TTH.VN - It can be said that my knowledge of and my love for Hue come from my close Hue friends, who work in various fields such as museology, art, teaching and researching, antique collecting, etc.

5 newborns at New Year’s EveChưng cakes (cubic sticky rice cakes), Tét cakes (rolled sticky rice cakes) on spring daysTet Holidays in the capital of Phu Xuan

Simple happiness

To S. and B.

At midnight, my friend called: “Come to Hue, everyone is asking about you.” Oh God, it took me long to be able to get to sleep; my friend’s phone call made me awake almost all night through.

Yes, Hue... I haven’t dropped by Hue for such a long time. Don’t get hurt when I said “dropping by”, but not “arriving in, returning or coming to” Hue. They know well my job, which makes me always on the move, but doesn’t allow me to stay anywhere for more than some weeks, or even just some days. To the places I’ve been to, I never think I’m qualified to say I “returned,” though I did have lots of memories there. But it wasn’t arriving as a stranger either. And Hue is one of those places.

I’ve been to the Central strip of land too many times to count, by car, by train (not mentioning the times I flew over,) and every time I came, I always dropped by Hue, for work, but also many times just to meet my friends, sat with them over a cup of coffee or some glasses of wine, then continued to the North or the South. Now and then I stayed in Hue for some days, just long enough for a visit to the Citadel, museums, some pagodas, or farther to Gia Long, Minh Mang Mausoleums, etc., when they were still not tended as well as now.

I saw Hue for the first time in an evening in May, 1975. Cars running from Hanoi to Saigon soon after the liberation. It took us four hard days to reach Hue. Our cars arrived in the early evening. People yelled when recognizing Truong Tien Bridge over the banks of the Perfume river, which was very quiet at the time.

That night we stayed right in the cars parking on the riverbank. People hung their hammocks around their cars. I, a 17-year-old Hanoi girl, did not feel strange at all. I wandered along the river, looking at the boats anchoring near the riverbank, listening to Hue accent, which sounded both strange and familiar, trying to find where Ngu Binh Mount was located. The night passed so quickly; we continued our journey to the South in early morning.

The first time to Hue left me a sad feeling.

I do not know why, but I always felt the same whenever I was in Hue though I had always had fun memories there. For example, I challenged my friend in Hue to find for me a place that sold Hue beef noodle soup. He said it was easy. But eventually he had to treat me to a round of coffee because there were places that sold beef noodle soup, but not “Hue beef noodle soup” just like in Saigon and other places.

Or, after praising banh Hue (kind of food speciality in Hue), I asked my friend if she knew why banh Hue was so delicious. My friend all at once lectured as if she had been an expert in cuisine. I then explained: “Banh Hue is delicious because it is so little. It is a shame if you eat lots of it, which can be shown by looking at the pile of leaves, the tower of small bowls and the empty jar of fish sauce.) Because you eat so little, you will feel wanting more, and so banh Hue is always delicious.” “How intolerable you are!” my friends shouted at me lovingly. 

My friend always laughed at me because I could not stand hot chilli, but always asked for a special bowl with no chilli for me, then watched me eating it with water in my eyes and my nose, then complained “Hue food is hot like hell, isn’t it?”

My friend was surprised to see me never wanting to visit Hue during festivals. But he never complained because he knew I never liked such festivals at that time. In recent years, again he said “Come for festivals?”, “Let me see,” snobbishly I answered. He never feels hurt because he knows I always love Hue.


Deep in me, Hue and I have some “relation,” but I cannot say clearly what it really is.

After 1975, many times I heard my relatives in the Southwest say “This girl doesn’t speak Vietnamese, but the language of Hue country.” Why the language of Hue country? The question made me research the Nguyen Lords’ era and the Nguyen Dynasty, the historical stage with its figures that had never been taught at school before.

But then, on my field trips throughout the South, I found places worshipping talented historical and cultural figures of the Nguyen Dynasty everywhere. In people’s minds, including my relatives’, are only those memories about the Nguyen Lords’ era: “At the time, our ancestry followed the Nguyen Lords here...”

No one knows exactly which lord, but they know he was from as far as Hue. Those who speak the language of Hue country are living in a far-off place; far away, but not strange. It is the place which their grandparents often mentioned in their historical stories to remind them of their origin.

Many years later, through work, I became close with many friends in Hue. Hue-Phu Xuan thus became more and more familiar. My modest knowledge of Hue came mainly from books, but though there are heaps of them, they fail to attract me due to their similarity in content.

It can be said that my knowledge of and my love for Hue comes from my close Hue friends, who work in various fields such as museology, art, teaching and researching, antique collecting, etc. Each of them is a different character, but they all are “very Hueish”. They have given me more knowledge of Hue history and culture, which is also my origin over generations.

Though most ancestry in the Five Quangs (Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Quang Duc (i.e. Thua Thien-Hue now), Quang Nam and Quang Ngai) originally came from Thanh Hoa and Nghe An, who followed the Le Kings to the South, it was the Nguyen Lords who enlarged the territory and took people to the far South. Is it the relation between me and Hue? We are so far away from each other, but we have at least a drop of red blood in common.

Every time I met my Hue friends either in Hue, Saigon or Hanoi, or in any other places, I often shut myself up to listen to them. Even if I want to say something, I feel impossible to talk back. People of our profession often tease each other: “In conferences in Hue, those from Hanoi present their theories in the morning, those from Saigon go to drink in restaurants at noon, leaving those in Hue debating with each other in the afternoon.” No problem; my colleagues, either from Hue, Saigon or Hanoi have been with one another for more than a half of our lives.

Keep being like that my friends; just like the lyrics by my favorite songwriter from Hue: “You need a heart to live in this life.” We come together with nothing else except the sincerity of those who need no titles.

Story: Nguyen Thi Hau

Photo: Hang Phuoc


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Conference on Phu Xuan under the Nguyen Lords and Tay Son reign

On the morning of October 17, Thua Thien Hue Provincial Association of Historical Sciences held a science conference on Phu Xuan under the Nguyen Lords and Tay Son reign. Vice Chairman Phan Thien Dinh attended and delivered a speech at the conference.

Conference on Phu Xuan under the Nguyen Lords and Tay Son reign
Hue mosaic art

In the 17th century, the Nguyen Lords enlarged the territory to the south, forming the cultural center of Phu Xuan-Thuan Hoa, bringing with them the career of clam shell inlay.

Hue mosaic art
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