The ancient village of Cao Lao Ha

21:06 - 17/08/2012

The Cao Lao Ha Village-Ha Trach faces to the mountain, and behind is a river, looks like a dragon boat, the high mast is the Ky Phong Mount, Leu Cu,ancestors opened the ways to settle village and build careers


According to “Monography of Cao Lao Ha village” written by Le Van Son, and “History of Cao Lao Ha Village” written by Canh Giang, “The village of Cao Lao Ha” of the Quang Binh history, and also according to the saying handed down f-rom generations to generations among  the village people, the village of Cao Lao Ha was the first time set up by the migrations f-rom the Ly Dynasty.But arccoding to the family-tree of the oldest families, until the later time of the Le Dynasty, especially after The King Le Thanh Tong (1470)recruitedpeople to set up villages in Bo Chinh Administrative Division “Bo Chinh is a large and sparse land area, linked to the Hoan Administrative Division , so that the army and people coming there toreclaim landwill benefitmost", it’s the time for the CaoLaoHa-Ha Trachofficiallyformed.This was the huge migration of the Le Dynastry,poeple f-rom the Northern obeyed the migrationprojection and moved  to the Bo ChinhAdministrative Division .The land to the south of Gianh River belonging to the Le De Range welcomed the poeole f-rom Thanh Hoa and Nge An to set up 3villages: Cao Lao Thuong (or Ke Thang), Cao Lao Trung (or Ke Chuong) and Cao Lao Ha (Ke Ha).Arcording to the names of the villages, we can assert that the ancestors of the Cao Lao Ha were mainly people f-rom Thanh-Nghe-Tinh as the local voice liked Hoan Ai. (O Chau Can Luc, 1553).They moved there at the later time of the Le Dynastry(1460 – 1497). Up to now,It hasbeen around for over500 years.According tosome family trees, when obeying the migrationprojection of the King Le Thanh Tong,the offices, village forces also brought up their families, so that the reclaiming  new landtooked place  faster.They were always concentrated areas of arable land, alluvial land near rivers. On this beloved land ancestors and the  predecessors of the village, generations after generations, hardly reclaimed ,built a happy  life, took care of education, and trained many generations. Building, maintenance ,promoting and preserving the tradition of patriotism, homeland loved Protectionboundaries,  territory of the village has been opened up with many effort, sweat, tears and blood, building and maintaining the culture, customs, "the village relationships," "pious, " " studious”, "  "respect for education and the religion”


After hundred years, the strange land south of Hoanh SonPass had actually become their second homeland. We can say that: they were  the first ones f-rom the North coming there to build villages and earn their living. That was the main force to protect the southern borders of the Dai Viet country, during the Ly Dynastry


According tooral literature as well as the worshiped writtings, family trees still kept in the family-worshiped-houses ,and with the essay , poems of the olden poets also stored among the broad masses of the people,the first three exploiters were Mr Luu Van Tien,Mr Nguyen Van Khai, andMr Le Quang Lu, the next two exploiters were Mr Luu Van Hanh and Mr Le Van Lam ,and the last two exploiters were Mr Le Quang Dieu and Mr Le Chieu Phuc.


The Luu Lang family cultivated the Hoi Co Area. The Nguyen family cultivated the Bau Hoc,and Bau Ho Areas; The Le Quang family cultivated the Bau Mat and Bau Cat Areas; The Nguyen Dang family cultivated the Bau Dau Area; The Le Chieu family cultivated the Hoi Da Area.


According toDing Trung oration at Cao Lao Ha Commune House : “ ..Would like to invite: twenty one Mr Thanh Hoang Lang (tutelar genius) who look after the village ,help villagers, urge the bad ones to trainwills, abandonthe bad habits to become  good citizens, were knighted Duu Bao Trung Hung Thanh Hoang Chi Than. General Luu Van Tien knighted Duc Bao Trung Hung Thanh Hoang Chi Than. General Mr Luu the former exploiter.General Nguyen Van Khai the former exploiter. Mr Le Quang Lu the former exploiter.Mr Luu Van Hanh the former exploiter of the Luu family. Mr Le Van Giam the last former exploiter of the Le Van family. Mr Le Quang Dieu the last former exploiter of the Le Quang family. Mr Le Chieu Phuc the last former exploiter of the Le Chieu family”….


The Cao Lao Ha Village-Ha Trach faces to the mountain, and behind is a river, looks like a dragon boat, the high mast is the Ky Phong Mount, Leu Cu,ancestors opened the ways to settlevillageand build careers. Mr Luu Trong Tuan wrote a poem in Cao Lao Huong Su (The History of Cao Lao):“Cao (High), not limited tohigh level / Lao (Unshakeable) durable wills, arduous rowing firmly” Or  “ Cao Lao named by the predecessors/ Cao (High)looks far away/ Lao (Unshakeable)long lasting forever”.


The name of the village  has a deep meaning, just as the motto, just as the direction of thought and action for each one and the entire community. Striving for developing the knowledge, material and spiritual life  for  each person, each family, all love for homeland, always longing  to get rich, to make the homeland more and more beautiful.Cao Lao is written f-rom Chinese c-haracters. Cao means High, not limited tohigh level , Lao means Unshakeabledurable wills, arduous rowing firmly. “ The name Cao Lao Ha is  bright forever, always in the hearts and mind of the Cao Lao villagers”


The name Cao Lao Ha-Ha Trach was written in the map before 1533. According to O Chau Can Luc :The name Cao Lao Ha had existed before 1953. (page 33 )


F-rom these-lection of land for setting up village settlement, the ancestorshadconsciously chosen an ideal terrain: It's back against the Le De mountain, And the front is the river's confluence of The Linh Giang Riverembracing the  cool fertile alluvial land.


People whoeversettled, built their houses ,and made direction as they liked.They didn’t comply any plans.And so does it now. So thatwhen building rural roads, some villages and towns, have to do the ground clearance,  measure directly the roads … these tasks are quite complex and expensive.But in the Ancient village of Cao Lao Ha, the ancestors had planned clearly.As a result,today in the building new countryside movement , the ancient land roads are quite favorablly concreted. We can learn more about the broad vision of our ancestors.


Since the ancient time,ancestors relied on natural terrain,with the aesthetic innovation, arranging the front village with two parallel roads are Ban Road and Quan Road posing adragonboat. “The village looks like a dragon boat, the high mast reaches the Ky Phong Mount, Leu Cu”. Ban Road is upward to the south at the Hamlet 17 and Hamlet 3, Quan Road is also upward to the south at the first and the end, parallels to Ban Road forming a dragon boat shape.


By the year 1967the village built an other road in the middle of a village called Dua Road.The three roads parallel f-rom the East to the West through 20 horizontal roads called  Xom Road, linking  Quan Road with  Ban Road north to south and parallel relatively evenly spaced.There are households along the Xom Road, Xom Road is 4 meters wide with the drains.


All the20hamlets are planned as a chesstablecell with the wide balancedstraight roads.Residential construction are abided bythe village regulations, as well as close rules.All main houses face to the South lookng straight to the Le De mountain. However, the main house of all families face to the same direction, but there is a peculiarity depending on the consciousness of the people that the  house made after  doesn’t screen the “worshiped apartment” of the one made before.This is a good direction tallying with geomancy,blessesing with wind cool, fresh air, avoiding North wind and Northeast wind .The front residential villages (lang ngoai) look towards the family-worshiped-houses, looking into the fields with the four-season-cool-blue Cuu Khuc Long Khe (Nine-Meander-Dragon -River).


Each  household has a main house (nha nay/big house), and an auxiliary house(nha ngang/kitchen).The main house is located in the central facing to the field, and the  auxiliary house is located to the left of the main house facing to it. Extral constructions  such as barns , toilet are built in a reasonable convenient arrangement according to the terrain. Normally thebarns are always built on the right side of the auxiliary house . Main way (the way leads to the house)is constructed  to the right straight to the  gable compartment on  the right of the main house.Each main house consists of three compartments and two extral compartments (gian chai), the extral compartment is  usually narrow-about a quarter of the main comprtment,and it is a place to put jars of crops.Three compartments are: a sitting compartment in the middle, a worshiped compartment on the right (gian bay), this compartment is always closed, and it is openedonly whenever there is aceremony.(This arrangement is different f-rom some areas- the worshiped compartment is in the middle ), and a bed compartment on the left. In front of the house is a yard for drying.


Auxiliary house(kitchen) is a place whe-re meals are cooked daily, and on the anniversary of someone's death’s day.Miller and foot pestle are put on the left.Nowadays, a well and a tank (to contains rain water) are built of cement outsideon the left of the auxiliary house.


CaoCao Ha Village is located in a harsh climate, every year there is often floods, hurricanes; So the predecessors had chosen the type of home: "keo xoc"( a type of rafter), “ruong cut” ( the main short wooden bar of the frame/ a Kingpost) that can  withstand  floods and hurricanes. Whenever there is flood or hurricane, as it is very solid, the frame will not be broken. Nowadays, there are still many solid 100-year houses, the timber (group 1-2-3) can not be eaten by  termites.The old houses were roofed with “ vot leaves” “thatch”. “rice trees” downly and lowly. The direction and the shape of the ancient style houses made them warm in the winter, cool in the summer and withstand storms and floods.


Nowadays,life is more comfortable, countryside is urbanized with many reinforced concrete   buildings, but the directionof the houses is still kept as in the past, lifestyle and manners,  layout,residential architecture stil stay on a precious legacy for the next generations forever.


There is no unusualplace like this place, the family-worshiped houses were built along the Ban Road in a predetermined plan, that is a rarity in the Vietnamese village system today .Sofar, the 24 family-worshiped houses were built in front of the village, looking towards the south side,whe-re there are vast fields of rice and majestic mountains.The back of 24 family-worshiped houses  lean on the village creating a strong presence.All the family-worshiped houses were designed as a small village Commune House (dinh lang)with three compartments, and a quiet spiritual landscaped increasing our admiration.Far back away ancient ancestors had known the ways how to use physical geography, land and climate to make  daily lives, the ancient village leaders had relied on the power of people to build the  public welfare works, which constituted the traditional occupations to improve peoples lives, There’s responsible for homeland today and posterity tomorrow by building many  historical cultural works,and building up various of traditional folk festivals, customary for a village with a rich history and culture.All the public welfare works such as: Cuu Khuc Long Khe (Nine-Meander-Dragon -River), Hoi Ha Barrage, Citadel, Commune House, pagodas, temples…were built by the ancientancestors as  precious legacies for us today.As one of the four sentences left in a pillar of the Ha Cao Lao Commune House’s port  over 200 years ago:


“Cao Lao Ha, a good name exists forever

Mandarins and villagers live happily and peaceful together”

Oh, our twenty lovely hamlets

 Famous for fine customary everywhe-re!”


Theplanned network of roads, residential layout in the  ancient villageofCao Lao Haare good lessons for us to consultinthe  new countryside building movement today.


The Vietnamese version of this article can be found here. (Xem bản tiếng Việt tại đây)

Tác giả : Cảnh Giang. Dịch ra tiếng Anh: Lưu Gia Hân

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