Mong Phu Communal House: Distinctive architecture of Vietnam’s Northern Delta

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Located in the ancient village complex of Duong Lam in Son Tay Town, about 50km West of Hanoi’s centre, Mong Phu Communal House was built on a 1,800sq.m ground at a prominent spot of the village in the Later Le Dynasty (1533–1789), under King Le Than Tong's reign, according to Son Tay authority.

Located in the ancient village complex of Duong Lam in Son Tay Town, about 50km West of Hanoi’s centre, Mong Phu Communal House was built on a 1,800sq.m ground at a prominent spot of the village in the Later Le Dynasty (1533–1789), under King Le Than Tong's reign, according to Son Tay authority. It represents a typically traditional architectural work in the Northern Delta in the past. It is dedicated to tutelary god Tan Vien - one of the "Four Immortals" in the Vietnamese mythology - who was also the god of the Ba Vi mountain range. In 1859, under King Tu Duc's reign (Nguyen Dynasty), the communal house was expanded and kept the architecture intact since then. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

The communal house features the unique architectural style in the Northern Delta of Vietnam with “Nghi Mon” (main gate), a communal courtyard, two buildings – “Ta Mac” and “Huu Mac” – on both sides and “Dai Dinh” (main chamber) in the middle. The main gate consists of four pillars made of bricks, decorated with the engravings of four sacred mythical creatures in Vietnamese culture – dragon, kylin, phoenix and tortoise – and parallel sentences in old Chinese characters. On­­ the top of the two higher pillars lie two small lion statues while on that of the smaller ones are the two figures of flower vase. 

In 1859, under King Tu Duc’s reign, the villagers added a new building linked to the Mong Phu Communal House by a tube-shaped structure. The original small communal house was turned into the Rear Sanctuary, thus becoming one of the largest rear sanctuaries in this region, according to a communal house keeper. The old communal house is dedicated to tutelary god Tan Vien - one of the "Four Immortals" in Vietnamese mythology - who was also the god of the Ba Vi mountain range. Its festival also honours national hero Phung Hung. Over the successive dynasties, the Mong Phu Communal House was granted 17 royal certificates of honour. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

In front of the communal house stands the Council Hall, an example of architecture from the French colonial period, which has been kept relatively intact, adding beauty to the local landscape, according to a communal house keeper. There is also a special structure located in isolation on the right side of the communal house’s main gate. Called Xich Hau House, it is a small but refined building composed of three main compartments and two small auxiliary compartments. In the old times, young village girls would come to this house to conduct a ceremony on their wedding day, which had never happened in other communal houses. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

Mong Phu Communal House represents a typically traditional architectural work in the Northern Delta in the past, and typically hosts social gatherings, festivities and meetings in the local area. In 1859, under King Tu Duc’s reign, villagers added a new building linked to the Mong Phu Communal House by a tube-shape structure. The original small communal house was turned into the Rear Sanctuary, thus becoming one of the largest rear sanctuaries in this region. The Rear Sanctuary houses the main shrine to Tan Vien and is used as a place of worship. As it is sacred space of a more local variety than Buddhist temples, the Rear Sanctuary is generally not open to visitors from outside the village. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

The old communal house is dedicated to tutelary god Tan Vien, one of the "Four Immortals" in Vietnamese mythology who was also the god of the Ba Vi mountain range, but its festival also honours national hero Phung Hung. The house features the unique architectural style in the Northern Delta of Vietnam with “Nghi Mon” (main gate), a communal courtyard, two buildings – “Ta Mac” and “Huu Mạc” – on both sides and “Dai Dinh” (main chamber) in the middle. The main gate consists of four pillars made of bricks, decorated with the engravings of four sacred mythical creatures in Vietnamese culture – dragon, kylin, phoenix and tortoise – and parallel sentences in old Chinese characters. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

Ha Van Duc, a communal house keeper, tells stories about the house’s hundred-year-old stone and bronze lithophones which cannot be seen in any other communal houses in Vietnam. The lithophones are placed in the two ancillary buildings – Ta Mac and Huu Mac. The communal house also comprises “Nghi Mon” (main gate), a communal courtyard and “Dai Dinh” (main chamber) in the middle. The main gate consists of four pillars made of bricks, decorated with the engravings of “tu linh” – four sacred mythical creatures in Vietnamese culture, namely dragon, kylin, phoenix and tortoise – and parallel sentences in old Chinese characters. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

Of considerable interest in the main chamber are the multifarious carvings on beams supporting the roof. They depict a wide variety of leaves, fish, birds, dragons, and mythical creatures. All carvings are located high overhead as the threat of frequent flooding required them to be placed high enough to avoid repeated cycles of damp and dry that quickly damages woodwork. While generally unpainted, the carvings are in excellent condition and exhibit a high standard of craftsmanship. In front of the main chamber, and flanking both sides of a common courtyard, are two ancillary buildings – Ta Mac and Huu Mac – that are used as additional gathering spaces for villagers. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

The roof cravings depict a wide variety of leaves, fish, birds, dragons, and mythical creatures. They are located high overhead as the threat of frequent flooding required them to be placed high enough to avoid repeated cycles of damp and dry that quickly damages woodwork. While generally unpainted, the carvings are in excellent condition and exhibit a high standard of craftsmanship. Mong Phu Communal House was built in the Later Le Dynasty (1533 – 1789), under the reign of King Le Than Tong, according to the authority of Son Tay. It typically hosts social gatherings, festivities and meetings in the local area. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

Built in the Later Le Dynasty (1533 – 1789), under the reign of King Le Than Tong, the Mong Phu Communal House is located in the ancient village complex of Duong Lam in Son Tay Town, about 50km West of Hanoi’s centre. Duong Lam Village is said to be a living museum, vibrating in the present even as time seems to have stopped centuries ago. The village stands between the Red River and the Tich River at the outer edge of the northern delta. Its terrain goes up and down rows of hills at the foot of Ba Vi Mountain, and it seems to blend seamlessly into a beautiful landscape of rivers and mountains. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

Duong Lam is dubbed as one of the oldest villages in Vietnam with a history that is said to date back more than 1,200 years. It was also the first village recognised as a national historical and cultural relic in 2005. Most of the village's traditional features survived the ravages of war, and many of its pagodas, communal halls, streets and trees give the place an authenticity that is probably unmatched elsewhere. The old Duong Lam Village is famous for its homes made of laterite, a type of red soil. Most of these houses have their own courtyards surrounded by a laterite wall. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

Archaeological evidence including artifacts, old languages, architecture and art from around the foothills of Ba Vi Mountain proves the long history of Duong Lam, and that the ancient Viet people had lived here from the time of the Son Vi Civilisation through succeeding ones – Phung Nguyen (2000-1500 BC), Dong Dau (1500–1000 BC), Go Mun (1000–600 BC), and Dong Son (700 BC–AD 100). In 1972, Vietnamese archaeologists unearthed many relics at Mound Ma Dong in Duong Lam Village: axes, tables, wedges, pestles and ceramic decorative objects of all patterns. Bronze drums, jars, ploughshare and axes from Dong Son Civilisation have been found aplenty along the Tich and Day rivers. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

Duong Lam is called the Land of Two Kings: Phung Hung and Ngo Quyen. According to historical records, Phung Hung (761-802), famous for launching an insurrection against northern foreign invaders to win autonomy for the nation, was born in Duong Lam. When he died, people showed their deep gratitude to him and praised him as "The Great Father King". Ngo Quyen (896-944), descendant of a notable tribe in Duong Lam, defeated the Southern Han troops on the Bach Dang River in 938 and proclaimed himself the king, setting up his capital in Co Loa. Historians treat this point in time as the point of liberation from Chinese domination. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

Duong Lam Village is said to be a living museum, vibrating in the present even as time seems to have stopped centuries ago. It is also the birthplace of many other prominent cultural and historical personalities. Confucian scholar Giang Van Minh (1573–1638) became a diplomat martyr after he was sent as an envoy to the Chinese Ming court during the reign of King Le Than Tong in 1637. For asserting the nation’s independence, he was killed. Another Confucian scholar and educator, Kieu Oanh Mau (1854-1912), a district governor, an educational inspector and teacher of the famous Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc School, was also a native of Duong Lam. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

The 1,800sq.m Mong Phu Communal House is a prominent spot in Duong Lam’s landscape. It is located where there are no rivulets, ponds or rivers, so the villagers dug two wells as substitutes. They are believed to be the eyes of a dragon. The water from one well is clear while water from the other is slightly turbid. The old communal house typically hosts social gatherings, festivities and meetings in the local area. It is also dedicated to tutelary god Tan Vien - one of the "Four Immortals" in Vietnamese mythology - who was also the god of the Ba Vi mountain range. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

Duong Lam was the first village recognised as a national historical and cultural relic in 2005. Most of the village's traditional features survived the ravages of war, and many of its pagodas, communal halls, streets and trees give the place an authenticity that is probably unmatched elsewhere. The old Duong Lam Village is famous for its homes made of laterite, a type of red soil. Most of these houses have their own courtyards surrounded by a laterite wall. In 1972, Vietnamese archaeologists unearthed many relics at Mound Ma Dong in Duong Lam Village: axes, tables, wedges, pestles and ceramic decorative objects of all patterns. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

Source: VNA