Friday, 7 November 2008

The Mekong Delta

The Mekong River is one of the great rivers of the world. Taking its source from Tibet plateau, the roof of the world. It twists and turns for about 4,900 kilometers - flowing through the mountainous South-western China, between Laos and Myanmar (formerly Burma), through the jungles of Laos, between Thailand and Laos, traversing Cambodia and finally fanning out across the delta in Vietnam before splaying into the South China Sea.
Beginning from Tan An (Long An province), the Mekong Delta spreads over the territory of nine provinces from north to south: Long An, Tien Giang, Ben Tre, An Giang. Cuu Long, Kien Giang, Can Tho and Minh Hai. Two main channels of the Mekong River: the Tien Giang (the mainstream of Mekong) and the Hau Giang (or Bassac River) flow through the 3,723,189 hectares of the delta. Before reaching the sea, they have fanned out into nine branches - which accounts for its name of Cuu Long (Nine Dragons) in Vietnam.
The Mekong Delta is the richest agricultural region in Vietnam and it is usually called 'the rice bowl of Vietnam". Thanks to the area's great natural reservoir, Cambodia's Tonle Sap, this Mekong alluvium-deposited plain never gets dry, and the ebb and flow of the water levels are moderate all the year round. Since ancient times, water on the delta has been controlled by a useful network of canals. Rice, sugarcane, fruit and coconuts are the main crops. Shrimps and fish of various kinds are bountiful. The delta people consequently enjoy a rather standard of living.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

One - Pillar Pagoda

Hanoi capital has "The One - Pillar Pagoda" which was built in the Ly dynasty in the early eleventh century. Ho Chi Minh City has "The One-Pillar Pagoda" located on Dang Van Bi street in Thu Duc. The One - Pillar Pagoda in HCMC was founded and built by senior monk Thich Tri Dung. The great supporter is Mrs. Do Thi Vinh. Both of them are in charge of the total expenses of construction. The work was started on April 8, 1958 and it was completed in 1977.
The Southern One - Pillar Pagoda is modeled exactly after that of Hanoi, highlighting the dream of the Ly dynasty kings. They built this pagoda with a view to helping the Southern Buddhist faithful to pay tribute to the Buddha recalling the origin of our ancestors and nourishing the hope for the people's welfare and the nation's prosperity.
The pillar of the pagoda is made of reinforced concrete. The pagoda has curved tiled roofs like those of Hanoi's. Around the pagoda is a square lake called Long Nhan Lake. (In the lake there are tortoise and multicoloured ornamental fish abound in the lake). The compounds of the pagoda are vast and shady thanks to the belt of century - old trees. The Buddhist faithful and foreign tourists from all part of the country often frequent pay a visit to the pagoda.

Thien Mu Pagoda

The Thien Mu Pagoda is built on the Ha Khe hill on a flat plot 5 km to the west of Huong Long village. The pagoda is surrounded by a stone wall.
The pagoda compounds is divided into two areas: the area in front of the Nghi Mon gate includes such architectural works as the concrete wharf with 24 flights of step, the porch with four pillars built near the road. Fifteen flights of steps from this entrance is the Huong Nguyen Communal House. (Now only an earthenware foundation remains). Behind the Huong Nguyen Communal House is the seven - story Phuoc Duyen Tower. The rear area consists of two hexagonal pavilions: one for the stele and another for the bell. Here there are also such temples as The Dai Hung (All Mighty) Temple, The Avalokitesvara Temple. Besides there are guest houses, and flower gardens. At the far end of this area is pine forest.
Thien Mu is the most ancient pagoda having the biggest structure and it is the most beautiful pagoda in Hue. King Thien Tri classifies The Thien Mu Pagoda as one of the twenty scenic spots of the imperial land in the poem entitled The Sound of The Thien Mu Pagoda Bell.
From 1943 to 1945 the Thien Mu Pagoda fell into ruin. With great efforts. Senior Monk Thich Don Hau re-built the historic pagoda.
Coming here, tourists are captivated by the enthralling beauty of a natural masterpiece with a seven-story tower casting its shadow on the Huong River (mirroring itself on the Perfume River) weaving its peaceful way Eastward. The beautiful sight reminds us of poems and no one forgets:
The yellow bamboo branches sway in the wind.
One catches the sound of the Thien Mu Pagoda bell and Tho Xuong cockcrow. (One hears the sound...)

Hotel reservations in Hue

Monday, 3 November 2008

Vietnam Culture

VAN MIEU, The oldest school in Vietnam
The most important historic site in the Dong Da section of Hanoi is the Van Mieu or Temple of literature, the oldest school in the country. The term Van Mieu is applied to temples in each province that were dedicated to teaching the proper Confucian ways of thinking and behaving. The Vietnamese tradition of respect for learning is concretely represented in the Van Mieu complex of building erected at the southern gate of the old city of Thang Long. The temple was established in 1072 on this site to honour Confucius and 72 wise men who served as exemplary models in correct thinking. Scholarly Chinese texts were also studied in the temple. In 1076, Vietnam's first university, Quoc Tu Giam, was founded and located in the Van Mieu complex of buildings, The sons and daughters of the emperor and of high-ranking officials attended the school. In pre Confucian times, private tutoring was customary and Buddhist clergy were responsible for the education of youth. By the 11th century, Confucianism successfully competed with Buddhism. The university broke the Buddhists' monopoly on education, allowing Confucianism to expand and reinstate the examination system from an earlier time. A new type of examination was held in the 1230s under the Tran Reign, and in 1253 the school was enlarged and renamed Quoc Hoc Vien, or National Institute. Te school became accessible to children of commoners who had achieved high scores on regional examinations. Once underprivileged, these graduates of the common people began to hold public offices. From its inception, Confucian scholarship was intertwined with professional ranks. Consequently, the Van Mieu is a place both of worship and of training for state office. Under Le Loi, the University expanded to include a new library and lecture halls. Examinations were refined to include poetry competitions. Le Loi is also noted for a comprehensive legal code aimed at bringing some structure to the chaos in Vietnam after the Chinese were finally routed. Efforts were made to restore written works of history and literature destroyed or stolen in the war against the Mings. Successful candidates in the triennial examinations were recognised by having their names, places of birth, and achievements recorded permanently on stone bias, called steles. This practice continued until 1778 and, during that time, 116 examinations were held. Eighty-two steles remain, each carrying 20 names of outstanding laureates. The oldest of these slab dates from 1443. Emperor Gia Long re-established the school in his new capital at Hue, but this system of recruiting civil servants finally ended in 1915 in the North, and in 1919 in central Vietnam. The French encouraged the simpler quoc ngu form of writing, which was more suited to Western printing capacities.

First surfacing in the water-rich areas of Hanoi as early as the tenth century, the roi nuoc, or water puppetry, is a uniquely Northern Vietnamese art-form especially designed for depicting scenes from rural life and many episodes of national history. Later, interest in water puppetry expanded under the explosion of arts encouraged by the Tran Dynasty. Although considered an art form of the "village pond" (or, of the common people), water puppetry shows were performed at royal celebration such as the crowning of a queen or the birthday of a king. Water puppetry is performed in the open air using a pond at the stage. The audience sits in front of the stage on the water's edge. Standing waist deep in the water, the puppeteers, or manipulators, deftly control the wooden puppets from the concealed manipulators' room with rods, wires, and strings hidden under the surface of the water. The pond is not only a natural setting for blending illusion with reality, the water also amplifies stage sounds for a natural stereophonic effect. Nearby trees, the blue sky, and the occasional passing cloud are reflected in the water, adding enhancement to the liquid stage. In the hands of master manipulation, stiff, lacquered wooden puppets, about 45 to 90 centimeters high, are magically transformed into graceful characters that walk on the water. Puppets appear unexpectedly from the aquatic stage and then, just as suddenly, disappear in a flash to the delight of the audience.

Vietnamese New Year
We often call "Tet", which means the first morning of the first day of the New Year, is the Vietnamese New Year. The celebration lasts for 7 days. Like the Chinese, the Lunar New Year is one of the most celebrated holidays. Preparation for Tet starts weeks before New Year's Day. Homes are cleaned to get rid of bad fortune associated with the old year. Families paint their homes to give it a new look. Everyone gets new clothes and new shoes. Pay your debts and resolve differences between family and friends. A special ceremony is held at the mid-night hour (Giao Thua) on New Year's Eve. The ritual involves firecrackers and gongs and other festive items that make loud noises to usher out the old and welcome the new. Like the Chinese, Vietnamese people are very careful about what they do on New Year's Day. The events on New Year's Day determine your luck for the rest of the year. Therefore, everything and everyone you are in touch with on New Year's Day should symbolize good fortune. Don't visit people who are in mourning because they are associated with death. Children should not fight or cry on New Year's Day. Homes are decorated with Mai flowers, a yellow blossom that represents spring. Family members exchange gifts and pay homage to the Kitchen God. They also visit local temples to pray for prosperity and good health. During Tet, Vietnamese families plant a New Year's tree called Cay Neu in front of their homes. A bamboo pole is often used as a Cay Neu. All the leaves are removed from the tree so that it can be wrapped or decorated by good luck red paper. Legends have it that the red color scares off evil spirits. On the seventh (the last) day of Tet, the Cay Neu is taken down.

Through ups and downs, the infiltration of different kinds of culture into our country cannot transform the national culture. One of the popular festivals is the Ullambana when people make offerings to vagrant souls on the 15th of July (lunar year) From time immemorial, the Vietnamese people have known the saying: "On July the fifteenth (of lunar year), amnesty is given to the dead'". That is the day when people turn to the dead (the deceased) (the realm of death) by offering food to the souls exiled in Avici (hell) or to the vagrant souls in this world. According to the Ullambana, July is the time when children show their filial duty to their parents and grandparents. This originates (stems) from the filial duty (filial piety) of Moggallana, one of the great disciples of the Buddha, After attaining Arahatship, he uses his wisdom eyes to scan the hells for his mother and he finds her to be exiled in the hell of hungry ghosts. Having boundless love of his mother (for her) (loving her so much), he uses his miraculous powers to come to her and offers her a bowl of rice. When it is near her mouth it turns into fire. Deeply grieved, he comes to ask the Buddha for saving his mother. The Buddha tells him that because of her sins in the former kalpa, she is exiled to the Kingdom of hungry ghosts. On this day people go to the pagoda to make offerings to Triratna (the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangaha) and to hold the requiem mass for the souls. The Chinese call this day "The Joyful Day" (The Happy Day) because this is the occasion of joy of piteous children.

Festivals have long been considered the living cultural museums of the way people live. They are the crystallisation of cultural, spiritual, and physical activities that have been chosen, maintained and improved over the generations. In Vietnam, festivals often consists of two parts: religious ceremonies and traditional games.

Hoi An Day (14th day every lunar month, Hoi An)
Hoi An looks like it was 600 years ago. Colourful lanterns, music, the smell of incense and the sounds of drums and bells. Even the shops are decorated in traditional style and street vendors dress in period costumes. Cultural performances are also held.
Bodhisattva Festival (March 3, Danang)
One of the main Buddhist festivals is held at Quan The Am at the Kirn Son Mountain, part of the Marble Mountain near Da Nang. Processions, religious ceremonies, games, music and poetry recitals.
Phu Giay Festival (March 27, Kirn Thai, Vu Ban, Nam Dinh)
This is the festival of Lieu Hanh, a legendary princess who helped her people to fight off the invaders. Hundreds of people carrying decorated bamboo poles form groups in the shapes of lucky Chinese characters. The participants join processions and walk between 20 local pagodas. Dragon dances, cockfights and wrestling matches are held.
Chu Dong Tu Festival (April 3-5. Da Trai Hung Yen)
This festival originates from one Vietnam's most loved legends about a poor fisherman named Chu Dong Tu, who conquers all in or to enjoy a happy life with Princess Tien Dung after meeting on a riverbank, Chu Dong Tu is now revered as a saint and the festival to honour him is opened a water procession led by a golden dragon. It's lowed by a palanquin carrying a decorated stick; conical hat (Tu's magic articles) to the riverbank. Water is poured into a jar to symbolise the prince bath and the ceremony is followed by girls dancing and games such as wrestling, cockfights and human chess are enjoyed by all.
Truong Yen Festival (April 3, Dinh and Le temples, Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh)
In honour of Dinh Bo Linh, credited with unifying Vietnam and Le Dai Hanh, who defeated foreign aggressors. The festival has three main parts: burning incense, a mock battle and a play of figures in the form of Chinese characters.
Hung Temple Festival (April 3, Nghia Linh mount, Hy Cuong, Phong Chau, Phu Tho)
This festival is to honour 18 Hung King Vietnam's founders. On that day, a square and round sticky rice cake, (earth and sky) are carried on an ancient palanquin. Following this is a parade of 100 men representing the 100 suns, and another 54 men symbolising the country's ethnic minorities. The festival celebrates the anniversary of the death of the great founders. All of the traditional games are featured.
Ponaga Festival (April 13-16, Ponaga Temple, Nha Trang)
The festival to commemorate a female genie, Po Naga, who gave the people land and rice, and taught them how to farm. The Champa Rarth Mother celebration is held at the towers on the left bank of the Cai river and includes two parts: A clothes changing ceremony and a praying ceremony. A nighttime river procession as well as spiritual and traditional dances are featured.
Giong festival (April 28 - May 4, Phu Dong, Gia Lam, Hanoi)
In honour of Lord Giong, a great hero who halted a Chinese invasion. Legend has it that Giong grew into a giant overnight after three years as a mute since his birth. With the help of an iron horse, a hat and a whip, Dong alone decimated the An invaders and then flew up to heaven. Celebrations include river and flag processions, the traditional game of catching the tiger, a re-enactment of the battle, a victory party and singing of Cheo folk songs.
Ba Chua Xu Festival (May 15-19, Sam mountain, Chau Doc, An Giang)
Ba Chua Xu was a magic statue who once stood at the top of the Sam mountain and who defeated Xiem invaders in the 7th century. The festival begins on the stroke of midnight and lasts for three days. It starts with two pious elderly women changing the statue's robes and bathing it in scented water. The old robes are cut into pieces and distributed to the pilgrims, who believe the scraps confer good fortune and guard against evil. Then comes petitions to the gods to admit Ba Chua Xu to heaven. Finally there is a procession followed by dragon dances and folk opera performances.
Hon Chen Temple Festival (August 25-29, Hon Chen Temple, Hue)
The festival is dedicated to the princess Lieu Hanh and the Bodhisattva, who are worshipped in the temples on Ngoc Tran Mountain. The festival is celebrated with a statue bathing ceremony, the release of aquatic animals and by floating flower lanterns down the river.
Buffalo Fighting Festival (September 24-25, Do Son, Haiphong)
This festival is over 400 years old and is to honour a great chess master. Before the fight, there are solemn processions which culminate in prayers and offerings. In the competition, buffaloes fight in a series of elimination bouts to find the eventual victor. The wining bull will be sacrificed in order for a better crop and fish catch in the new year.
Nghinh Ong Festival (October 2-4, Thang Tam communal house, Ba Ria - Vung Tau)
In honour of the Whale, this is the principal festival of the fishermen of Quang Nam and Da Nang. It is held on both land and water. Hat boi, a classical drama performance and Hat ba trao, a typical folk song of central region, are performed during the festival.
Kiep Bac Festival (October 4-6, Kiep Bac temple, Hung Dao, Chi Linh, Hai Duong)
The festival, also known as father's festival, commemorates the anniversary of the death of Tran Hung Dao, one of Vietnam's greatest generals, who saved the country from the Mongols. It's held at Van Kiep temple, which still houses copper statues of Tran Hung Dao, his wife, his children and three of his generals. The festival consists of a welcoming ceremony and the navy sailing on the Luc Dau River
Ooc Om Booc Festival (November 29, SocTrang)
This ritual ceremony is dedicated to the moon by the Khmer ethnic people. The main purpose is to ask the Moon God to bring abundant crops, big fish catches and good health. Offerings include green rice flakes, bananas, coconuts and potatoes. A highlight of the festival is a race of ngo, wooden boats curved on both bow and stern.

The Day of Forgiveness (September 2)
This "the ghost day" is for dead people, whose souls may be hungry or homeless. On this day, the spirit of people who died young or far from home, are fed, clothed and forgiven for their sins. It is said this is the only day in the year when these desperate souls are released from hell to be welcome back to the earth. Celebrating the day, people put offerings like fruit and rice soup everywhere. It's to maintain the spiritual health of the whole community.
The Full Moon Festival (October 1)
This festival has been celebrated in Vietnam for generations by the giving and receiving of moon cakes between family and friends. On this day, the moon is at it's highest and brightest point in the sky. On the earth, everywhere will be coloured with lanterns and masks and noisy with the drums of the lion dances. The Full Moon festival is a special day for children.
Lunar New Year
This festival, better known as Tet, is the biggest and most important festival in Vietnam. It's time when families reunite, ancestral spirits are welcomed back into the family home, all loose ends are tied up, all debts are paid and absolutely everything is cleaned. The streets are alive with peach tree branches sprouting their beautiful blossoms. There are also of course the miniature orange kumquat trees in the north or yellow apricot flowers in the south. In the altars, incense slicks are burned near the green sticky rice (banh chung) cakes and a plate of five fruits. All the best wishes and good tidings are given.

A beautiful kind of clothing
It is said that the ao dai covers everything but, in fact, nothing. Its tenderness seems to make Vietnamese ladies fragile' and gentle. Its beauty does not require independence, determination or flexibility. Those characters believed to be indispensable in this developing society. For this reason, it shows a feeling of tranquillity to the lookers-on and an air of gracefulness to the lady-in-ao dai. A lady's graciousness lies in her secretiveness, while her charm expresses itself in being tentatively attractive.
However, quite inconvenient...
In the agricultural society long ago, girls wore "ba ba" - a simple type of ao dai, which was suitable for working in the open fields. Then came in festivals the "tu than", which flattered the beauty of charming ladies. After them all came the "ao dai", which underwent "many minor changes for the better, until it became what it is nowadays. In a hot country like Vietnam, the ao dai proves itself inconvenient in both sunny and rainy weather. Those who are not familiar with wearing it' will surely find the ao dai is likely to bring them trouble. So it is easy to explain why many women will change to other types of clothes when possible.
Reasons to remain?
Whether you like it or not, you must say that when the ao dai disappears from the street, many artists will have a hard time creating masterpieces like: "I feel peaceful on the sunny street when I see you wearing an ao dai made of Ha Dong silk." And please remember: the ao dai is an indispensable part of our culture, and Viet Nam is associated with this traditional dress. "The custom of wearing the graceful ao dai has returned to Vietnam. Its wearing symbolises many things - and has become a hot market item." - Association for Asian Studies.

Kite flying dates back to the old times. In traditional Vietnamese art, the image of a little boy sitting on the back of a buffalo playing his bamboo flute and flying a kite symbolizing peace is very popular.
Vietnamese kites made from bamboo, wood, fabrics and paper enchanted the viewers. With thin flexible strings, Vietnamese kites are not difficult to handle. The kite string becomes the link connecting reality with dreams, the peaceful earth with the open sky. Children often make kites by stretching notebook paper over a framework made of bamboo bark. Paper used is rough, heavy but durable (even cement bags are used). The head is made from several pieces of paper stuck to each other by glue or sticky fruit juice. The string is made from rattan or jute fiber twisted together, the length of which can not be predicted! These do not fly higher than the top of a bamboo tree but bring great pleasure.
As for the more elaborate ones, people attach" flutes on the "spine" - the middle of a kite. Simple though, the flutes can not be made without an experienced hand. The flutes are made from "nua", a kind of bamboo, with two slotted compartments which resound when the wind goes through. Large flutes offer deep-sounding melodies while small ones give high-pitch notes, creating a merry symphony'.
Tourists to the sea town Vung Tau can enjoy flying kites along Bai Truoc and Bai Sau beaches. In Hochiminh City, hundreds of people - regardless of their ages - come to the San Dieu (The Kite- flying Field) in district 8 everyday just to rediscover the childhood joy, the joy that not everyone can have in a developing society. During summer or after the harvest, kite bamboo flutes resound in the blue skies of Vietnam's countryside.

Hue restaurants (the restaurants of Hue) are often found in the areas around the center of City in quiet alleys. These restaurants have their own ways of service which are not noisy but refined and discreet like the manners of Hue locals. The most well - known restaurant to connoisseurs is Ngu Binh, famous for decades. Previously, it was located on Vo Thi Sau Street. Later it was moved to Nguyen Van Troi residential quarters (by the foot of Nguyen Van Troi bridge). It lies in a deserted alley, but it attracts a lot of people. (Although it lies in a deserted alley, it is attractive to many people). The restaurant only opens from 3P.M to 8 P.M (15 hrs to 20 hrs). If many people want to dine at the same time, they have to order in advance because the floor space of the restaurant is small. The atmosphere here is still (quiet) and cosy. The menu does not include all the Hue dishes but it offers the typical dishes like bun bo (beef vermicelli), banh khoai, banh beo, banh uot torn chay, banh uot thit nuong... The price is reasonable compared to the quality and fame of the restaurant during such long time. Lying in an alley on Huynh Van Banh street, Kim Long restaurant has beautiful architecture looking like a flower garden with ornamental trees of different kinds and rock works encircling the wall, lending the poetical taste to the sight. The dining table is set in the yard on the balcony. The cuisine here features strange dishes like "rocket" shrimp, the roasted "moon", com hen (rice served with mussels)... Another famous restaurant is Ky Dong situated in a small, beautiful villa in an alley on Ky Dong street.

The "amateur" music came into existence in the south of Vietnam. It is the traditional kind of music derived from the Hue royal music, played by professionals and amateurs in their leisure times. The most notable characteristic is popularity, and anyone can be a potential singer; therefore, it was welcomed by working people. Since about 1885, the groups which performed this kind of music changed its name to "amateur music" in order to distinguish it from ritual music and "Hat boi" (Traditional Opera). Besides the songs from ritual music, there were others composed" based on Hue royal songs or the "ly" of South and Middle Vietnam. However, only 20 "original songs" were largely mentioned, according to the statistics made by Ba Doi, an expert in traditional music.
In the 1920's, when the fashion of amateur music was still in its heyday, one of its branches experimented with a new way in which performers used some gestures and dialogues when singing, called "singing with gestures". The name "cai luong" was possibly first used by the group Tan Thinh. It was not like any other already-existing forms such as "hat boi", but rather something unique to the new Southern land.
According to musician Cao Van Lau, in 1920, when he composed this song, his soul was torn with the memories of his beloved ex-wife. They had lived in love together for 8 years but had had no child, so his family forced him to marry another woman. The title of the song means "Memories of my husband in the night". Later on, the song was recognised as a structurally complete one, and has been largely used in place of many others in cai luong. With its free and broad melody, Vong co (Da co hoai lang) can suit any emotional intensity and topic. In addition, it can harmonise well with other melodies in a play of Cai luong.

Literally speaking (in the literal meaning), the fair is the place where goods are periodically exchanged according to the moon season. Later for the convenience of gardening and daily activities, the date is used by villages as landmark for organising fairs. Due to remote tenain, districts and villages are often the places where fair is held. The district fair is often organised on Sunday but in some places, fair is held on Saturday and Sunday like Sapa Fair (Lao Cai). Each ethnic group has its own fair with its peculiar features; Sapa has black H'Mong; Bac Ha, H'Mong Hoa, Muong Lay, white Thai. Especially, black Thai almost dominate the fair in Son La province (... black Thai take up the majority at the fair...}. Dong Van Fair has the greatest attendance amounting to over 2,500 white H'Mong. Romantically, there is Khau Vai Love Fair (Meo Vac – Ha Giang) where white H'Mong groups gather. The characteristic of the fair is the mixture of colours, human sentiment and wilderness. Amid immense forests stand humble thatch - roofed stalls with girls in their best clothes enhancing the beauty of the fair. The most interesting sight is the heavily - loaded horse making their way to the fair gate. A beautiful H'Mong girl on horseback is inching her way through the crowd.

The life of the Khmer in Nam bo is labour and festival. The Creator creates the heaven, the earth, wind, the moon, cloud, water... Man creates material by labour to exist (survive). To show gratitude, man organises festivals. Typically, there are the following festivals are as follows : Cholchonam Tho May (New Year). That is the traditional New Year of the Khmer on the 7th, 8th and 9th of the Lunar Year. People go to the pagoda to recite sutras and pray for happiness. They use the rainwater mixed with lotus flowers to wash Buddha statues off dust. Especially descendants come to the elders to ask them to forgive their mistakes in the year. To show tolerance, grandfathers and grandmothers advise their grand children to do good things to reap (enjoy) much more happiness and prosperity. Don Ta is the ceremony worshipping ancestors and vagrant souls on August 29 (lunar year) in private houses. The family will hold the requiem mass praying for their relatives souls to be reborn in the realm of eternal bliss on August 30 (lunar year), Ooc - om - bok is the moon festival at harvest time on the 14th, the 15th and the 16th (lunar year). Each family go to the field to reap some glutinous rice. They roast and pound it by the night fire in the yard- This festival is held to give thanks to the God of Moon and Water who has moved water from upstream to downstream. There is always "Ngo" boat race in this festival to pray for bumper crops and enough water for irrigation.


Sunday, 2 November 2008

Vietnamese Jokes

Vietnamese jokes

English learning
A Vietnamese man and an English man hit together on the road. This Vietnamese man has just learned English a little. He said: "I am sorry". The English man said: "I am sorry, too." The Vietnamese man said: "I am sorry three." The English man felt strange so he asked: "What are you sorry for?" The Vietnamese man answered without thinking: "I am sorry five". The English man was upset and said: "Oh, s-h-*-t”. The Vietnamese said: "Oh, seven"....

Dazzling star in Thanh Hoa Province - 40 tales about Trang Quynh

That night, the astrologer of the Court was kneeling before the Emperor:
- Sir, in seven consecutive nights, at this hour, I saw a lucky star twinkling in the South, lighting the whole region of Thanh Hoa. No doubt, a genial person is living hidden there; your Majesty should have an imperial edict promulgated to find out this man of talent.
A few days later, an order of the Court was conveyed to the whole province of Thanh Hoa, within one month, each village must offer to the throne a pregnant buffalo, Governors, mandarins, notabilities, frightened and demoralized, had no longer desire to eat, to drink and to sleep. Never, never in one's life, had one heard such a thing, a male buffalo with calf.
Quynh's father was a communal official. Quynh told him:
- Papa, give me one hundred tying of coins, I shall settle this matter without a hitch.
The father furnished him with the money. Quynh made his light luggage and went to the capital. Accommodated in a modest inn, he waited for the propitious opportunity to put his idea in practice. The chance came at last; the Emperor, escorted by his high dignitaries, was making a tour in the city. Quickly, he hid himself in a gully-hole on the way of the Monarch, then at the latter's approach, Quynh began to weep, to lament, to groan, to shout so noisily that his Majesty, quite surprised, stopped to find out the cause.
The guard brought to the Emperor a boy all in tears, his clothes soaking wet and dirty with the muddy water of the sewer. His Majesty deigned to ask him:
- Hey, Boy, why do you so pitifully weep and complain?
Quynh clamoured all the stronger, then he answered with repressed sobbing:
- Sire, I was going to commit suicide in that sewer when the guards caught me.
The Monarch showed increased astonishment:
- You are but a child, what incites you to put an end to your life?
Quynh sobbed all the louder, interrupting his sobs with hickups:
- Sire, my mother died years ago. I would like to have a younger brother or sister to carry in my arms, but my father has not accepted to give birth.
The Emperor was convulsed with laughter:
- You are a cracked boy. You will take this stick and complain to the stars in the sky. Your dad is a man, how can he get pregnant and give birth to a baby for you to carry in your arms?
At once, Quynh ceased weeping, stood upright, and grasped the Emperor's robe:
- Sire, is the Imperial Court also cracked when it ordered the villages to lead to the throne buffaloes, yes pregnant buffaloes?
The astrologer was at the side of his Majesty. he put some questions to Quynh on his native village, his larger family, his age.... Then quite happy, he told the Emperor that this boy corresponded exactly to the lucky star he had mentioned to him.
The Emperor, with great satisfaction, gave order to cancel immediately the edict about "pregnant buffaloes", to take measures to help "the boy of the star" in going sound and safe to his family and in achieving his study with greatest successes.

Peaches of Longevity
Two branches of peaches had been offered to the Emperor, each with so beautiful and so fresh fruits. His Majesty exhibited them, artistically arranged on a golden tray, to the Queen, favorites, princes, princesses, dignitaries, eunuch… and was proud of them: ‘these are inexpressibly precious peaches of longevity. The person who eats one of these fruits will live one hundred years’. Once the presentation finished, the tray of peaches returned to its place of honour designated by the Emperor himself on a pearl-encrusted sandal-wood low table. What imperative desire! Just a slice of it, as thin as paper though, suffices to prolong one’s life of one or two years! But the Dragon mouth had not deigned to taste it, who would dare to bite at it?
One morning, Trang Quynh came to the Court to present his homage to the Emperor, passing by the hall of the throne; he saw the tray of peaches. A lie, a deception, he thought, nothing can give a centennial life. And quite at ease, Trang Quynh took two peaches and ate them. All those who were present were terror-stricken and had their hairs on end. The same day, the eminent doctor was brought to the imperial tribunal, accused of the great crime of lese-majesty, and condemned to being beheaded. When the sentence was announced, he cried out.
Sire, the verdict is equitable, I have nothing to say. However, I beg your Majesty to allow me to say a last few words. And I will die satisfied.
The Emperor agreed.
Sire, Trang Quynh spoke calmly, staidly, I am not a greedy man. I do not stick to life. I do not fear death. I have heard that the ingestion of only one of these peaches will permit one to live one hundred years. I reckon: Your Majesty absorbs five peaches, you will live five hundred years. I am your faithful servant. I do wish to serve you two hundred years more. That is why I have eaten two peaches. Yet, the fruits have been no sooner eaten than my head is about to fall. There are therefore peaches of short life, or transiency. How can we call them peaches or longevity? He who offers you the so- called peaches of longevity is undoubtedly a swindler, a trickster. Would he hatch the criminal scheme of making your Majesty eat these peaches of short life?
Should he deserve the capital punishment? Sire, I shudder with fear at the gloomy idea that the lordship, the Queen, and their highnesses should take delight in consuming these damned fruits’
Unexpectedly, the Emperor also trembled with fright. He found Trang Quynh’s idea judicious; he cancelled the verdict and released the doctor. And at the same time, title, promotion and function were bestowed on him.

The Money-lending Goddess
According to Vietnamese popular beliefs, Princess Lieu Hanh was one of the four most important divinities, one of the four immortal ladies of the country. Near the Silvery Waves Lake in the West of Thang Long, presently Hanoi, there was a temple devoted to the cult of Lieu Hanh, also called the Fairy Mother. By miracles she responded to the wishes of human beings and chastised every profanation. It was rumoured that for this reason, this place had become the most sacred spot of the capital.
Our doctor did not believe all that gossip. One day, on his way to the supreme competition presided by the Emperor, he stopped at the temple of Lieu Hanh for a visit. He saw on the altar a tray full of money. An idea crossed his mind. Making his way through the faithful, he stood before the altar, he took out his towel-amulet and invoked the fairy Mother in pray:
- Hundred and thousand prosternations, o immortal divinity! I am Quynh, a starving poor student while you are quite rich, fundamentally good, and excessively generous. Allow me to borrow some money from you to meet the modest expenses during my stay in the capital. When I succeed at the imperial competition, promoted doctor and governor, I shall pay my debt, capital and interest. You can take the highest rate of interest; I express before hand my gratefulness. I’m awaiting your view.
He took a plate and two coins and implore the Ying and Yang. Ying corresponds to the tail side, Yang to the head side. The coins are tossed up on the plate, when they halt and fall, the view of the supernatural spirit can be known. One tail and one head mean agreement. Two heads mean blank vote, neither yes nor no. Here is Quynh proposal:
- Out of the sum on the tray, if you agree to lend me one fourth of it, please give to tails. If you lend me only one third, give two heads. If it is one half, give Ying and Yang, one tail and one head.
Quynh threw the coins in the plate to consult the oracle. They turn round incessantly. The assistants concluded that it was a flat refusal.
Quynh shouted out joyfully:
- The coins dance, so the divinity is smiling to give full consent. You have pity of me, a poor wretch; you acquiesce to lend me the whole tray. I thank you very much, my great sister.
He made three prosternations, heaped the whole sum in his towel, tied it, flung it on his shoulder, and greeted the believers. How would he pay his debt to the Fairy Mother, his Great Sister?

Paying his debt, Quynh gets rich

With the money borrowed from Fairy Lieu Hanh, Quynh could live comfortably in the capital. He presented himself to the supreme competition and obtained the diploma of First doctor. He thought at once about paying his debt.
So, he bought a cow with her calf, lead them to the temple of Lieu Hanh. He knelt down in front of the altar and invoked:
- O Goddess my elder sister! You lent me a great deal of money; I could afford a comfortable life in the capital, pass my competition and succeeded. Please accept my heartfelt gratitude for all these benefactions unsparingly lavished to your indigent young brother. Now in payment of my debt, I am offering you this calf, as for the cow, please allow me to bring it to my house so that the villagers may wet my diploma. O elder sister, may you be celebrated and praised forever.
He attached the calf to the arm of the throne on the altar and took away the cow. Seeing its mother leaving the place her udders full of milk, the calf lowered noisily, vigorously pulled at the rope and broke it off. It bounded and rushed towards its mamma. Our doctor returned immediately to the temple, made reverences to the Fairy Mother and said:
- You have very great heart, o elder sister. You also love me very much. You do not want that I am indebted because of the purchase of these animals, you have given me both of them, the cow and the calf. Please accept my deep thanks and I am praying for your immortal glory.
So, on the national highway, the new First Doctor was seen walking leisurely with the cow trotting behind him and the dainty calf capering near the cow.

The champion buffalo, calf
To affirm his supremacy and his invincibility was a chronic disease of the northern Emperor, which sometimes becomes an obsession. This time, he dispatched a mandarin to the Court of Vietnam with the order to organise a buffalo combat. Yet, ‘the animal of the southern indocile and arrogant country must be gored by the celestial animal’. The mandarin brought to Vietnam a giant buffalo, gigantic legs like the columns of a temple, long and pointed horns like lances, hard and sharp hair like those of a hedgehog, flaming eyes like ardent coals.
With a forced smiled, the mandarin announced: "First, I accept that our buffalo will fight two buffaloes of the south at the same time. Second, the beaten buffalo shall be killed and third, a ceremony shall be organized to the glory of the winning buffalo".
This defiance aroused the anger of everyone and the stature of the northern animal inspired great anxiety. Two against one, it was shameful, but where to find an animal of such size?
The Emperor of the Viets urgently summoned doctor Quynh. Dignified and calm, the doctor addressed the throne:
- Sire, two against one, this harms our national honour and the imperial pride. Your Majesty should explicitly order the fight of one against one. The rest, I shall take care of. Surely this dignitary and his beast will bite the dust.
The Emperor always has solid confidence in his eminent doctor but he had vainly pondered and could not find the solution imagined by Quynh.
On the day of combat, the northern mastodon was flaunted before the arena. At the bewilderment and total surprise of the spectators, Trang Quynh introduced a small buffalo call visibly still at the breast. Separated for hours from its mother, the poor calf plaintively lowed, aspiring for the single thing of sucking milk. Goliath, amazed and confused, look at David. The latter ran straight to feverishly dig into the belly of the giant to find the nipples.
Unable to put up with the disagreeable sensations caused by the greedy lips and tongue of David, Goliath took flight away from the arena.
Ovations thundered in all directions as if to crack the firmament.
To save face to the northern monarch and to maintain good relations between the two countries, the ceremony for the winner was cancelled; the defeated buffalo was not killed. Moreover, the dignitary of the North received the permission of bringing back the allegedly invincible Goliath.

To return to the charge

Everyone knows the proverb ‘return to the charge after a failure’. So did the Ambassador of the Northern country following that buffalo combat in which northern Goliath scampered off with tail bent up before southern David. He wanted a striking revenge. So, he ordered a glassware factory to make a vase with a very small orifice, he filled it with water and hermetically closed the orifice with glass. Not the least aperture was left. Then he presented it to the Vietnamese Emperor’s Prime Minister with a note challenging: "How to take the water from the vase?" The dignitaries of the Court passed the vase from one man to another, scrutinised it, shook their heads. The Emperor made a signal with his eyes to doctor Quynh. The doctor took the vase, went near the Ambassador of the northern country and politely asked:
- Excellency, you have written in the note: "How to make water from the vase?" without giving any other explanations?
The Ambassador replied with confidence:
- Yes, doctor, is my sentence not sufficiently clear?
- Yes, excellency, sufficiently clear.
Quynh had a jar put before him, requested a mallet and broke the vase with it; the water in the vase flowed into the jar.
The Ambassador protested vehemently against that act, Quynh smiled again with courtesy and stated:
- Is it true, excellency, you have written to take out the water, you did not write that it was not allowed to break the vase, did you?
What to retort, what to contest? The challenger grumbled with discontent: To the devil! Why not to impose conditions all necessary conditions, to bind the hands and feet of the doctor?
The adage did not specify "To return to the charge and to suffer another failure". Great consolation, indeed.

His Majesty's she-cat

Among the thousands of odalisques in his harem, the Emperor had particular affection for the favorite named Nang Huong (Dame of Perfume). Yet, the Empress was the most jealous woman in the world, always ready to kindle storms and hurricanes. Therefore, His Majesty could only discretely love his idol, not daring to frequent her daily.
For that delicate reason, Nang Huong offered a she-cat to the Emperor. Cajoling the animal always crouched near him, the Emperor must constantly think of Nang Huong. Moreover, it was a very fine pet: its pelage was silky, shining with multiple colors, its eyes were like glittering gems in the night, its miowing sounded softly like the ringing of a small golden bell. His Majesty named it Cau Vong (Rainbow), cherished it deeply and had it all the time under his caressing hands. And each caress reminded him of the velvety smoothness of Nang Huong's skin.
it immediately ran to him, hunched its back, rubbed its body against the feet or the hands of its patron, purring with pleasure.
After the loss of Cau Vong, his Majesty exploded with furor. A large and minute investigation was organized to fine the cat by any means and to capture the thief. At last, the eminent doctor, accused of theft, was brought before the Emperor, the cat in his arm, the Empress, dignitaries and ennuchs standing all around. His Majesty recognized at once his cat. To retake it and to severely punish the diabolical doctor was certain. The Emperor reproached him in a soft tone:
- I have treated you with great regard and is it in this way that you acquit your debt of gratefulness to your Emperor?
Quynh politely smiled:
- Sire, messieurs the eunuchs had grievances against me, would they fabricate this story? I have been mistakenly denounced!
The Emperor got angry:
- You have a glib tongue, you! It is undeniably my cat Cau Vdng. It is undeniably my cat Cau Vong. It is in your arm, if you have not stolen it, why is it in your arm? If you are not the thief, who else, eh?
Sire, it is truly mine. I have brought it up since a suckling. If you don't believe it, you can test it.
- Good, speak, what is the test?
- Your Majesty's cat has its proper name, mine too. If we call it, we'll see to which name it will respond. I live modestly and poorly. My cat does not know lobster, nor yellow shrimp, nor minced peacock, nor stuffed croustade. Let two dishes be brought her foodstuffs that I've just mentioned, the other with rice, vegetables, fish bones. We shall see of which class my cat is.
The Emperor agreed, being cocksure it was Cau Vong. Quynh put the cat on the floor. It passed near the dish with appetising food as if the dish was inexisting, ate rice, water morning-glory, and heads and tails of small fry. Deeply astonished, the Emperor as usual murmured: Cau Vong! Cau Vong! The cat did not budge. Irritated, he cried up Cau Vong! Cau Vong! No effect as expected! Quynh stooped, stretched his arms and called Ai Huong! Ai Huong! The cat jumped on his arms, licked his hands, growling contentedly. Caressing the animal, Quynh repeatedly said: Ai Huong! Hearing these words which meant 'to love the Dame of Perfume instinctively startled" truest jests sound worst in guilty ears, as the proverbs says. The Queen regarded her august espouse. The image of the Dame of Perfume Nang Huong loomed, the visage of Dragon reddened. He knew that he was the victim of a dirty trick of the cunning and fallacious doctor Quynh!
Ah! This doctor, one to be decapitated, exiled, cut to pieces one hundred, one thousand times. Secretly he startled: it might be that the author of all this contrivance was the
Queen herself. He did not dare to think further, fearing the breaking out of a tempest of jealousy. The Monarch stood up and grumbled:
- Well, it's your cat, I have been mistaken. Take it and get away with your cat!
The word 'your' was pronounced loudly, hardly concealing the restrained furor. Quynh made several bows, expressed his thanks and 'wished the Emperor and the Empress to live ten thousand years!' He stepped backwards and quickly took the cat away.
The eunuchs pitifully watched him out, crestfallen like cats having their ears cut off.

How Quynh travelled when penniless
That winter, Quynh had to go to the capital to settle some matters with one of his relatives. Traveling on foot, for long months and a lot of spending! And for everything, he had only one tying of coins. After three days of walking, his pockets were completely empty. It was pitch night, pouring rain and his stomach being gnawed at by hunger!
What to do? He met with a lad leading his buffalo to the village. An idea crossed his mind. He asked him the way to the hamlet chiefs house. The latter, rich and shrewd, observed attentively the unexpected guest. Modestly clothed but finely featured face, physiognomy reflecting a great intelligence, good manners, the young man must be of noble stock, he thought. As for our hero, he appeared polite, modest, of good education and high culture; he was therefore received as a distinguished guest. A few days passed, the hamlet chief began to suspect. His host went away nobody knew where, returned and lied down on the bed, then ate copious meal and drank good wine. He evasively answered questions regarding his occupations, his travel... The hamlet chief decided to watch him closely.
On that night, he was determined to spy him until dawn. Around midnight, he saw Quynh wake up, light a small candle, leave the bed, spread on the table some spathes of areca, put in it something indiscernible, wrap it in squares of red silk. Then he wetted his pen with his saliva, handled it on each of these packages while muttering words that the watcher could not hear clearly: poison for the Seigneur, poison for the Seigneur's great presumptive heir. Quynh arranged all these mortal things in his belt, turned down the light and went to sleep again. 0 High Sky and Thick Earth! 0 Devils and Genies! Monstrous murders! The hamlet chief leapt on his horse and galloper to warn superiors. Early in the morning, officers and soldiers arrived in numbers with shining swords and lances.
Quynh, with hands and feet tied up and a cangue on his neck, was thrown on four- horse- drawn char and carried at full speed straight to the capital, at the Seigneur's palace.
On the basis of the written report of the hamlet chief relating all that he had seen and heard with the guarantee of the communal authorities and the district governor, the seigneur gave order to take out immediately the exhibits from the criminal's belt. The packages of poison were put on the table. They were no words on the squares of red silk.
They were untied, the spathes of areca opened, where were the terrible inscriptions seen by the authorities? What was it inside? Nothing but a few handfuls of dry cooked rice! Were they all skunks, these servants of the Throne? Exasperated, the Seigneur gave a kick with his boot the heap of culpability evidence, he ironically told Quynh
- Eminent doctor, you also delect this deplorable foodstuff?
- Seigneur, certainly deplorable in your princely standards of living. But for us, small people, we live on rice. A small grain of rice is excessively precious to us. Rice is called celestial gems, a foodstuff given by Heavens.
Saying these words, Quynh gathered the grains scattered on the floor put them in his mouth and ate them.
- This boor, the Seigneur could not help saying, he has again given me a hook! He poured his fit of anger on the head of the hamlet chief: a blood- shedding flogging.
Quynh implored, laughing:
- May Your Seigneury's fire of irritation be extinguished! May Your Highness open his heart of gold! All these respectable gentlemen have proved to be faithful and loyal to you. And myself, thanks to them, I have been able to go to the capital in a four-horse-drawn char, only in a few days and, God bless it, spending only a tying of coins. Without these zealous servants, how could I have audience of Your Seigneury and, oh yes! I should have died of hunger and fatigue somewhere that nobody knows...
The Seigneur heavily sighs: "go away and wash yourself"