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Vietnam Communal Houses

Maisons communales au Viet Nam

Thứ Bảy 24, Tháng Chín 2011

The communal house (Village Hall) is long a familiar feature for Vietnamese people. It witness all the activity, the principle, the changes in society of Vietnam’s rural area across centuries. The communal house architecture is, therefore, carries deep remarks of the traditional sculpturing of Vietnamese.

In 18th century, Vietnam had about 11800 villages. Each village has a group of architecture of religion and art with hundreds of sculpture and decoration of worshipping.

Vietnamese people are often familiar with the group of communal house and pagoda, however, communal house and pagoda has different idea of culture. Pagoda worships Buddha with the influences from Buddhism from India, China. Meanwhile, communal house is the place for village community of Vietnam. Communal house is the expression of Vietnamese’s activities, where the principles of life are balanced, the talents of the people are discovered, the place to worship the Founder of the village, the people that have merit to people, to country.

Looking around, people could see the gratefulness, the sense of honor, sense of talent of Vietnamese people. Though the communal house is the village people’s own, the God is not necessary to be village people. Moreover, Vietnamese people have many authentic religion and belief so there are many gods being worshipped in the communal house such as God of mountain, God of sea, God of water, etc. All those belief are taken into conservation by the generations of Vietnamese people to create a line of communal culture – a mixed culture with many religious parts that becoming a group of invisible power, a hope, and a belief of Vietnam’s community of village.

The oldest communal house of Vietnam could be the communal house in the architecture of Kanji character "一" like Tay Dang communal house, Lo Hanh communal house. For Lo Hanh communal house, the authentic architecture is the YI character, but the later restoring have constructed the back palace to have the form of Kanji character "丁". According to the architecture, the communal house is the fair place that do not have distinction of rich or poor, the place to show the real culture of the daily life.

The curling roof of the communal house is not similar to any roof of South East Asia countries, including Japan, China, and Thailand. Because the angle of the curling roof of communal house results from the special character without the mortar. Looking back the communal houses of Huong Loc, Phung Thuong, Tho Tang, Ngoc Canh, it could be said that communal house is a sculpturing block of the folklore with many patterns and full of scientific factors. In terms of patterns, the communal house is the gathering place of the perfect decoration motives including many trends: realistic, stylizing, and graphical. For example: in Phu Lao communal house of Bac Giang province, there are carving of bared body women flying with dragon. Another creative pattern is cloud. To carry cloud into the communal house decoration, Vietnamese people have to try to describe the softness and drifting of cloud into the group of part houses, and the cloud is like gathering into block.

The village festival is often organized in the communal house yard. There is often Hem performance in the festival, which is the ensemble of the legend of founder of the village and the forbidden facts in the village. The localization of the Founder of the village by the titling the God with the rank of Founder of the village have supported to raise the communal house to the centre position of the Vietnam’s daily activities. It is now considered the symbol of the hometown.

In general, the culture of Vietnam’s communal house is officially different from the group of society that know how to generalize and harmonize the other culture to have a unique culture and serve the motherland, in which the factor of worshipping the people that have merit to the land and country is still the main one.

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