Ancient Vietnamese soul in ancient house villages

vietnamese-ancient-house

In my trips to Southwestern Vietnam, I’ve had the opportunity to visit many ancient houses, which date back many centuries. However, it wasn’t until I visited “Phuoc Loc Tho” (happiness, good luck and longevity) ancient house village, did I realize this place has features typical of ancient houses in three regions.

From HCMC, take Ba Diem – Xuan Thoi Thuong – Nga Ba Giong about 40km in one hour by car to reach Long An, where you will findthe Phuoc Loc Tho ancient house village. An imposing wooden entrance gate with sparkling words, which are impressively reflected by sunlight, and two pink stone unicorns on both sides, welcomes us.

The owner of this area is Mr Duong Van My. To satisfy his passion for ancient Vietnamese houses, he spent more than 10 years traveling through the country to find and rebuild them. He said that when he was young, he was keen on antiques. When he was ten, he started to discover the origins of many antiques such as teapots, vases, watches and other objects, which were over 100 years old. Since then, he realized that every antique has its own “soul”, which is evidence of an extraordinary culture and ancient houses are proof of history.

Journeys to collect ancient houses

After running his own business and having good earnings from a mechanic company, Mr My started his journey to collect ancient houses around the country.  In 1998, in his trip to Tien Giang to visit an ancient house of the Ha family, he found the house, overa 100 years old, was damaged by moths. However, it was still beautiful with wooden flower patterns on 48 pillars. Since generations of the Ha family were not capable of repairing the house, they were willing to transferit to someone, who could restore it.

Mr. My bought this house at quite a high price. He and a construction team moved and rebuilt the house in the garden of 6ha in Duc Hoa, where he had grown fruit trees for nearly ten years. “Then, an idea came into my mind: I will build an ancient house village in this area”, Mr. My said.

Restoration

Although he has a lot of experience in constructing streets, Mr. My with the consultancy of good sculptors from Hue, spent many weeks to build the houses. At that time, he was known as a lover of ancient houses and was invited to visit many ancient houses around the country.  Highlights of his trips were 15 ancient houses, which dated nearly 200 years ago.

After moving structures of ancient houses to Duc Hoa, he started to arrange each work of architecture beautifully. Then, he built gardens, lakes, streams and falls, and grew decorative plants. To make the landscape more vivid, he put stone statues of sacred animals and the three Gods of Happiness, Luck and Longevity.

Typical ancient houses of three regions

Visitors to the ancient house village will realize that Mr. My’s ancient houses are representatives of three regions: North, Centre and South in the 18th – 19th century. All of them were made of wood with fine flower patterns and aragonite mosaics or gilded patterns. They were not built by using nails, but tenons. The smallest features 36 pillars while the largest one has 104 pillars. The village has five Southern ancient houses, in which each has five compartments.  Each house brings its own particular character.

The largest house, includes five compartments and two lean-tos and the front and back houses are linked by an arch roof. It is 22 meters in width, 7 meters high and 30 meters long. All ancient houses are built on a one-meter-long floor. Their floors are tiled with Chinese bricks and decoratedornately to be more beautiful. To go inside the house, visitors will have to pass by a large wooden entrance gate, which is skillfully carved and decorated with three mandarins. From its structure, it seems that the house was owned by an honored mandarin.  However, until it is renovation by Mr. My, its origin  was unknown.

The most remarkable feature of this ancient house village is a lake, in which a small pagoda, as one-pillar pagoda in Hanoi, is constructed.  Around the lake, two ancient houses, which were built in the Central style, have lower roofs than the Southern houses (because the Centre often has heavy rain and strong winds, high-roof houses would be damaged easily). Inside the houses, gilded objects and wooden carvings are shown to represent the power of their owners. Hue’s ancient houses feature brick screens in front and yards are inlaid with porcelain. The screen is decorated with peach blossoms, orchid, daisy, bamboo flowers and porcelain images of lovers.

Some ancient houses, where mandarins in the Centre gathered to drink and write poems or breathe in the fresh air, look like small pagodas. This structure of house was also built for ladies or princesses to choose their husbands by standing on the second floor and throwing shuttlecocks. Nearby, six ancient houses of Vietnamese people, who lived in the mountainous areas, are constructed in the Highlands’ architecture with high-end wooden materials.These houses show the Vietnamese culture because they have  stairs carved with words and the main pillar supports the two-storey house without any edge joint.  In addition, Mr. My also recreated an ancient stilt-house, which was designed in Champa style with square pillars.  Most ancient houses in the village were brought from Hue, Dak Lak, Gia Lai, Dak Nong, Quang Nam and the Northern provinces.

Displaying antiques

After three years of restoration with the assistance of dozens of people, 15 ancient houses are now situated in an area of 40,000 square meters and enchant both domestic and international visitors. In addition to viewing ancient houses, guests can also stroll through the green lush gardens. In Phuoc Loc Tho ancient house village, you can view interiors decorated  just as in the ancient Vietnamese life.  Displayed objects include curved-legged carvings of fish-becoming-dragon (people said that this was for the Nguyen’s Kings), Louis table and chairs of the French domination, white marble floor with pink or gray veins, beautiful plank beds and mummies of turtles (which weigh 500kg and are hundreds of years old).

Every ancient house displays carved sofas and encrusted or lacquered altars. There are also  small aragonite screens and marble sofas, which were used by the noble class in the past. Other objects have been gathered, such as an ancient piano, dressing-table, record player, Buddha statues, God, Saint statues, porcelain vases from Jangxi, Japan and many ancient dishes.

This unique Vietnamese ancient house village in Southwestern Vietnam continues to attract guests to discover it.