Far away 50km from Hanoi center, Duong Lam ancient Village is the first ancient village recognised as a national cultural heritage by the Ministry of Culture and Information in 2005. When visiting“two kings village” Duong Lam on Vietnam tourist itinerary, visitors are immersing and contemplating a living museum of rural lifestyle of wet rice civilization. The village attracts visitors because of its ancient houses and the architectural features with banyan trees, well, temple, pagoda, communal house, and village gate. In addition, it is a various and typical gastronomy that pulls tourists to take a tour dicovering the village.
Historic – cultural – architecture vestiges
Duong Lam village has a history of about 1,200 years with many houses dating back up to 400 years (vietnamnet.vn 2014).Today, the basic characteristics of a Vietnam village are still remained with port village, trees, courtyard, temples, well, water fields, etc.On the first sight, visitors will be greeted by Mong Phu Village Gate under the shadow of a three hundred year old giant banyan tree, the symbol of a traditional Vietnamese village.
1.1 Mong Phu village gate
Mong Phu village gate
The traditional Vietnamese village in the northern area is surrounded by row of bamboo trees with a main entrance and auxiliary gates. The Duong Lam village’s main gate is located in Mong Phu village.
Lying near a banyan tree, it was built in the reign of King Le Than Tong in 1553 (Tuan 2012). The gate was designed differently from others in Northern villages which have an attic with the vault of the entrance. Mong Phu gate follows “Thượng gia hạ môn” architecture, means that gate’s roof is sloping like house’s. According to traditional conception, the east is the source of life and energy empowering people to live more prosperously, thererfore, the gate has an east aspect. On two pillars propping th roof, there are two inscriptions: The left side is “Kỷ Mão mạch hạ sắc chỉ” refering to building’s date of this gate, and the right one is “Thê hữu hưng nghi đại” trasfering a teaching of ancestors that there is no a prosperity without attempting to adapt and grow. Passing through Mong Phu gate, tourists will be on the main road leading to the village. The roads of Duong Lam is also special because they have the shape as the bones of fish. There are many small and narrow alleys connected together and joining in the main road.
Bones of fish roads
1.2 Mong Phu communal house
Located in the middle of the village, Mong Phu Communal house stands out as the unique ancient architecture among the populations of 16 unique architectural relics of Duong Lam commune. Mong Phu name is derived from its location. The house was built on the top of Khuc Phu low hill and Mong Son mound. Mong Phu communal house has a unique architectural characteristic, which is a sitting floor of the communal house, a bold type of Viet – Muong nationality architecture.
The outside communal house includes 5 spaces and 2 wings made based on the style of house on stilts while the inside structure according to the bed-overlapping style with wooden floor. The roof-topis decorated with dragons and tortoises together with fourquadriptychs about seasons in the year.This is truly a flower of the architectural art. The unique talented sculptures are kept on the screen carvings, sophisticated at each carving brushwork, and extremely fine in the overall planning (Kaplan 2013).
The yard of the communal house was dug down lower than the surrounding ground. It is actually deep intention by the ancient people: when it rains, water will flow into the communal house yard, refering the image of all quintessences accumulated into yard for local people. This is a very creative idea of ancient architects.So far, Mong Phu communal house is a gathering place of the villagers for cultural activities.
Mong Phu communal house
1.3 Mia pagoda
Located in Dong Sang hamlet, Mia Pagoda is also initially called Sung Nghiem Tu.The pagoda stele (1632) relates that it was built by the Mia princess, Nguyen Thi Ngoc Dong (favorite of Lord Trịnh Tráng). The Pagoda includes three main areas. In the outside area is a big bell tower, called Cuu Pham Lien Hoa surrounded by old banyan trees. That brings a peaceful atmosphere in this solemn place. Passing the big gate is a row of rooms for monks and besides, there are a range of buildings. The highlight of Mia pagoda is the extremely riches in terms of art style and size of Buddha statues. In May 2006, Mia recorded as a pagoda which has the most ancient Buddha statues of country Vietnam Guinness center.There are 287 different statues and each statue represents lively different postures and adorned by beautiful colors.From eyes to hands and clothes of statues, all of them reflect the seriousness and mercy of Buddha.
The statue of Sakyamuni in the Hymalayas
The statues of the Eight Vajra Deities in the upper sanctuary. The Vajnas are the Buddhist protectors. Their gestures are lively and strong. Their shapes and contours are very realistic and vivid.
1.4 Phung Hung temple and Ngo Quyen temple
Two of Vietnam’s kings, Phung Hung (761-802) and Ngo Quyen (896-944) were born in Duong Lam, giving the village its prestige. Both men led resistance wars against northern invasion and after winning national independence, were crowned kings. After their deaths, the local people built temples in their honor. Phung Hung Temple and Ngo Quyen tomb are in Cam Lam village which is far about 1km from the center of Duong Lam village. Tourists should not missing to visit a row of 18 thousand-year streblus which is the place King Ngo Quyen tied elephants in legend and Ho Gam hill at which Phung Hung killed tiger to rescue villagers nearby temples.
The row of streblus: recognized asVietnam heritage tree by Vietnam association for conservation of nature and environment (VACNE) in2011
Another historic vestige is Giang Van Minh worship-gouse, which has received UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award. These vetiges attract tourists who are interested in country’s history during a travel back to time tour. They also contribute a huge part for developing education and cultural tourism in Duong Lam village.
Duong Lam has 956 traditional houses, Dong Sang has 441 houses, Mong Phu has 350 houses and Cam Thinh has 165 houses. Many houses have dated back up to the 17th century (vietnamnet.vn 2014). Visitors,however,to the village often visit the houses in Mong Phu, which are said to be the most beautiful and more specifically with 400-year-old houses. Characteristics of the old traditional houses are all built from blocks of laterite. Ancient houses are seft-contained, emcompassed by laterite walls.The main house faces the yeard and does not face the lane directly. The doors of the gate are made of wood. In some houses’ gate, there is a wooden door-knob which allows to open the gate from outside. The continuous line of laterite walls and the gates of the houses all contribute to the attractiveness of the village.
According to Nguyen Thi Thu Hoai, a tour guide for the village’s Management Board, ‘the architecture of all the houses there is the same, with rows of columns and spans. In the past, only wealthy people or landlords could build such big houses. The big wooden house often has 5 or 7 spans with 2 wings. The houses of civilian and military mandarins are often different to each other. In a civilian mandarin’s house, there are many horizontal lacquered boards and parallel sentences while in a military mandarin’s house, either dragon-shaped patterns or contemporary designs dominate’ (cited in Anh 2012).
A system of wooden doors is very firm. Each span has 4 leaves of the door with upper and lower joints. Threesholds were made of firm wood above 40-50cm from the ground and 10cm from the floor. This distance helps to ventilate well, avoid humidity for the thresholds. The whole system of the thresholds is the tie system linking all spans together.
The altar and the plank bed.
The house of a province education officer, Do Doan Chinh
The traditional household furniture of Duong Lam village includes ancestor altar, plank bed, chest, wicker basket, etc. The sets of sturdy wooden furniture are carved and ornamented elaborately. The plank bed is solid, including a flat plank and a curved set of legs. Items such as chest and wicker basket, although not numerous in number , are also preserved well.
The house of Mr. Nguyen Van Hung has the gate built by the ancient material – a mixture of rock, soil, rice husk and mud.
Two main attractions are ancient houses of Mr. Nguyen Van Hung and Mr. Ha Van Vinh, which is received the 2013 Award of Merit for the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
The yard impresses visitors with the green trees and soybean sauce processed right on the brick-paved yard.
Ancient houses are cool in summer and warm in winter. In addition, open space and the ability to make the most of natural light are also the advantages of Duong Lam ancient houses.
The ancient and unique architecture of these old houses is the great competitive advantage of Duong Lam village to develop culture-based tourism products. Houses attract not only tourists but also architecture and cultural professors visiting and researching about Vietnam culture and civilization.