Land of Dragons and Gods, their children and grandchildren…

 

Con Rồng, cháu Tiên ‘,’ Sons of the dragon, grandchildren of the gods… Van Mieu, the Temple of Literature. Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

 

‘ Understanding a country’s origins is important. Sometimes, these origins come in the form of stories passed down from generation to generation…’ by Tien Ly

‘ With 4,000 thousand years of history under its belt, the literary treasure of Vietnam is very plentiful, including countless myths, legends, and folk tales. I grew up hearing these stories from my mother, read them in my textbooks in school, and watched cartoons based on these stories on television. These myths and legends are a part of my childhood. I want to share these interesting stories with you so you can learn a little more about Vietnam. Just by listening, you can explore the historical events and the ancient folk stories of the Vietnamese people through these stories…

The Descendant of Dragon and Fairy is a legend about the origin of the Vietnamese people. Lac Long Quan was the grandson of the Dragon King of the sea and Au Co was the daughter of the Holy Bird in the high mountain. She is also known as a fairy. They met each other and fell in love. After their marriage, Au Co bore a pack of one hundred eggs, then they hatched into one hundred sons. This large family lived happily on the mountain.

After a long time, Lac Long Quan missed his home, so he decided to return to the sea and he brought 50 sons with him. The remaining 50 sons stayed on the mountain with their mother. The eldest son who remained on the mountain was the acclaimed King of Van Lang and became the first king of Vietnam, the first Hung King. Today, Vietnam honors the death anniversary of the Hung Kings on March 10th of the Lunar year…’

Year 2019. Tien Ly published this story. Cradled by magical legends, growing up immersed in a world of myths, dragons and fairies, she tells us how this ancient legend, along with many more, is kept alive in the imagination and memory of the people of Vietnam. In times of fleeting and instantaneous news and selfies, real and fakes ones read and shared through social networks; In times where being ‘connected’ prevails over communicating, in times where the ephemeral prevails and predominates, in Vietnam, legends live.

It seems that myths, folk tales, old stories of Dragons, fairies and gods were not caught and forgotten in the old books neatly displayed in Vietnamese libraries. To our surprise and nostalgic awe, they still live in the memory and imagination of the Vietnamese. In his heart. Understanding this, it is easy to comprehend why, even today, they call themselves Con Rồng, cháu Tiên ‘,’ Sons of the dragon, grandsons of the gods’ …

This mystical legend has been passed down, as Tien Ly says, for thousands of years from generation to generation, from grandmothers to grandchildren and from granddaughters to their own sons and daughters. The Vietnamese people of today, who also grew up caressed by this old tale, with emotion and pride tell it again and again, to all who want to listen.

For them, it is just a corroboration, if any, of their unique ethnicity. An ethnic group united in blood and by the land where they have lived through the centuries. ‘Dong bao’, or ‘brothers in the same egg sac’, a very special sentimental term that the Vietnamese use to address each other … Con Rồng, cháu Tiên ‘,’ Sons of the dragon, grandchildren of the gods .. .

In this land, where the border between myths, folk tales, stories and history becomes a bit blurred, those who know say that …
About 5,000 years ago, in the northeast of Vietnam, a small village prospered on a bend of the Red River, embraced by the te-colored waters. The years saw that village transform into a small town and the town grew and became a city, then a citadel and, finally, the capital of the Empire.

History repeats itself. So, as it happened, it happens and it will happen at any given historical moment, in any empire, kingdom or country, the capital city, as the seat of political power, changed its leaders, several times. From one dynasty to another, from the Chinese conquerors to the natives, the Vietnamese emperors. And, as it couldn’t be otherwise, the name of the city accompanied each and every one of those political changes and challenges adapting, metamorphosing in the process …

So it was that at first, the invading forces of the powerful Chinese empire called the small village ‘Long Biên’, ‘The Dragon’s Edge. Only to be renamed, years later, ‘Long Do’, ‘The Dragon’s belly’, by the Chinese themselves … And when the small town became a city and then a citadel, it would be called Đại La. But this name would also change …

Year 1010, seventh month of the lunar calendar. Lý Thái Tổ, the first emperor of the Vietnamese Lý dynasty, decided to move the capital of the empire to the east, and thought of the Đại La citadel. Royal decision, decision made. And the move began…

Months later, at the end of a long journey, when the imperial convoy reached its destination, a golden dragon appeared next to the emperor’s boat. That vision was the one that sealed the fate of the name of the city. The new capital would not be called Đại La. But Thăng Long’, ‘The Rising Dragon’.

As we saw, the names of the city, like the city itself, changed through time, dynasties, and history. With each new name, a new symbolism. For each new symbolism, new words. Name after name. Centuries after centuries. Just a word, a symbol survived and prevailed defying time, history, changes and conquests.like an anchor:‘Long‘: Dragon.

‘Long‘, Dragon. Linked to the old legends, associated with the winding course of the Red River around the city simulating a dragon… Linked to the Vietnamese emperors for whom the dragon was the symbol of its roots, imperial strength and power. The history of the city, as well as that of Vietnam, is intertwined, woven with legends, folk tales and symbolism. Just from the beginning. Since the time of Lac Long Quan and Au Co, their children and grandchildren. The ‘Sons of the dragon, grandchildren of the gods’ … ‘Con Rồng, cháu Tiên’

Year 2010, October. The city of Hanoi, once that small town, once that citadel called Đại La, once the empire’s capital Thăng Long, and known as Hanoi since 1831, celebrated ‘Đại lễ 1000 năm Thăng Long – Hà Nội’, its first millennium. A thousand years had passed since the arrival of Lý Thái Tổ; since its foundation as the capital of the kingdom.

The city had been the seat of Vietnamese imperial power until the beginning of the 19th century when the capital was transferred to Huế in 1802 by the last Nguyen dynasty and would return to be the center of the country’s politics in August 1945. That was when Ho Chi Minh assumed power in Hanoi and the city was established as the capital of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. After the painful Japanese surrender that defined the end of the World War II.

The decision of the Nguyễn dynasty to strip of its rank as capital city did not stop Hanoi, where most of the Vietnamese dynasties had left their mark, to grow and flourish. Especially in the late 1880s, when the French took control and modeled the city’s architecture to their taste, giving the already rich stylistic heritage of the city an unique aesthetic touch and polish.

Today, Hanoi is a dynamic and rapidly developing city where changes take place every hour, where modern life subtly pervades everything and everyone without permission or consent. But even so, it is a city that does not forget its past, its roots, values and heritage. Its history and its legends. It is a place where the new and the old, the past and present go together, they live together. Like one. In a delicate, sublime harmony.

Easy to see. Easy to love at first sight. Amidst the hectic 21st century Hanoi nostalgically resisting the flow of time while actively trying to adapt to the dynamic atmosphere of the modern city, stands the Old Town. Hanoi’s beating heart. Hanoi’s roots. The old town, the immersion point for most travelers. We were not the exception.

2018, end of March. ‘Near the French Quarter, near Hồ Hoàn Kiếm and within walking distance of the old town’ … I remember saying. We were still at home, trying to figure out what would be the most convenient area in Hanoi to look for a hotel. We, well … honesty compels, my husband found it. The hotel was located on the southern border of the old town, just north of Hồ Hoàn Kiếm, the Lake of the Restored Sword, which in turn, is located next to the French Quarter. Fantastic. We didn’t think twice. We made reservations. My husband made them.

2018, weeks later. End of April. Friday night. We could’nt avoid diving into the old town as soon as we arrived. We checked the map and decided to just walk to familiarize ourselves with the area, although the place we wanted to go, the most active and lively part of the old town, was not so close. ‘This whole area is commercial, so at this time of night, there shouldn’t be as much movement, which fits us wonderfully, so we will be able to walk calmly and relax after our long journey,’ we thought. How naive and wrong we were. We just had no idea where we were going … ‘Life gives you surprises’, surprises gives you life …’ as Pedro Navaja would say …

And what a surprise. We walked a few meters, turned the corner and we could already hear music. And voices. Many. Thousands. More music. Stronger. Closer. ‘But, the center of the old town is still several blocks away,’ we kept saying while looking at the map. Sometimes maps can be tricky, even if you are used to them, but that was not the case. We were still closer to edge of the Old Quarter than from its centre. In the supposed quieter area. The music and ‘la movida’ should be further away. But still …

It was a long, long weekend Friday night. The International Labor Day holiday was the following Tuesday. We knew that, which is why we had chosen that particular weekend to travel. What we did not know was that the day before, that Monday, April 30, was another National Holiday,the ‘Reunification Day’. And what a national holiday. So,that particular year, there were four non-business days in a row. A long, long weekend.

International Labor Day and Reunification Day in Hanoi, Vietnam, in the lands of Ho Chi Minh. Communist Vietnam. And we were there. Everyone wanted to be in town to celebrate. The Vietnamese flocked to their capital in thousands to commemorate. Tourists were also in the thousands to enjoy. We got lost among them. We enjoyed watching the Vietnamese celebrating and the tourists enjoying it. For four incredible days and four nights. Unforgettable. In Hanoi.

Ngày Thống nhất ‘, the Reunification Day of Vietnam, also known as Victory Day or Liberation Day. It marks the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, which, in turn, means the beginning of the end of the Vietnam War. With the US troops gone and defeated, the unification process began and would end the following year, on July 2, 1976. When the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was born.

From that day on, there is only one Vietnam. Since then, all Vietnamese have lived under the same national flag. Unified.Like one. As their ancestors had done, in the old days. Like the children of Lac Long Quan and Au Co … The children of a dragon, grandchildren of the gods ... ‘Con Rồng, cháu Tiên’ ...

 

…’Dragon. Linked to the old legends, associated with the winding course of the Red River around the city simulating a dragon… Linked to the Vietnamese emperors for whom the dragon was the symbol of its roots, imperial strength and power. The history of the city, as well as that of Vietnam, is intertwined, woven with legends, folk tales and symbolism. Just from the beginning. Since the time of Lac Long Quan and Au Co, their children and grandchildren. The ‘Sons of the dragon, grandchildren of the gods’ … ‘Con Rồng, cháu Tiên’…

Ivory ceramic bricks from the Ly dynasty, 11th-13th centuries. Vinh Phuc, Hanoi, 1916. Decorative materials of the Ly dynasty are very rich and diverse, including terracotta, stone and glazed ceramics. Motives are also diverse, the most common are dragon, phoenix, fairies, flowers and water waves. Dragon and fairies that bring back to old legends.. Vietnam National Museum of History. Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Ivory ceramic wall decoration tile from the Ly dynasty, 11th-13th centuries. Ngoc Ha, , Hanoi, 1916. Decorative materials of the Ly dynasty are very rich and diverse, including terracotta, stone and glazed ceramics. Motives vary but from the most common are dragon, phoenix, fairies, flowers and water waves… Dragon and fairies that bring back to old legends. Vietnam National Museum of History. Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

A stone Bodhi Leaf engraved with dragon motif; Phat Tich pagoda, Bac Ninh province, 1057. Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum . Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Detail of a wooden door carved with dragon motifs. Pho Minh Pagoda, Nam Dinh province , 1262. Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum. Photo Credit: silvia Muda

Wooden lintel carved with dragons motif. Main entrance of Cau Dong Temple, built in the 15th century, Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Van Mieu, the Temple of Literature, built in 1070 during the reign of the emperor Ly Thanh Tong in honour to Confucius, his followers and Chhu Van An,a prominent figure in Vietnamese education. Fourth courtyard. Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Dragons depicting surely enough, a scene of an old legend, on the top of a beautifully decorated artifact,. In the background, the main hall, protected by dragons. We can see then on the top of the its roof. Van Mieu , the Temple of Literature. Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Fifth courtyard in Van Mieu. Another incense burner in front of the main hall. Once again, dragons. Temple of Literature. Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Van Mieu, the Temple of Literature. Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

More legends and dragons on a mural on a wall of an inner courtyard in Quan de Temple, Old Town . Hanoi. Pfoto Credit: Silvia Muda

Interior of Quan De Temple, which were restored following policies based in recuperating original pieces when possible. Old legends, carved in the ancient wood. Just fantastic. Old Quarter, Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Dragons carved on the Wooden structure of the temple. Quan De Temple. Old Town, Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Detail of the Dragons carved on the Wooden structure of the temple. Quan De Temple. Old Quarter, Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Mural depicting dragon a in what seems to be a scene of an old legend. Den Quan Thanh temple. Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Bronze vase depicting dragons. Conserving traditions and legends alive. Artisans from different villages join in Kim Ngan Temple for laboriously work in their crafts…even today , Old Quarter. Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

 

Today, Hanoi is a dynamic and rapidly developing city where changes take place every hour, where modern life subtly pervades everything and everyone without permission or consent. But even so, it is a city that does not forget its past, its roots, values and heritage. Its history and its legends… Amidst the hectic 21st century Hanoi nostalgically resisting the flow of time while actively trying to adapt to the dynamic atmosphere of the modern city, stands the Old Town. Hanoi’s beating heart. Hanoi’s roots. The old town, the immersion point for most travelers. We were not the exception…’

Old Quarter, Hanoi.Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Antics and sourveniers shop in Old Quarter, Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Old Quarter streets at night. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Old Quarter, Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Old Quarter, Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Old Quarter of Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Old Quarter, Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Old Quarter at night, Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Enjoying a drink, in the ‘Hanoi fashion’. Old Quarter, Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Coffee with friends. Old Quarter, Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Images of the old and new Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Drivers of rickshaws in the modern Hanoi. are one of the best tour guides and legend tellers…Grandchildren of a dragon and Gods… Hanoi. Photo Credit: silvia Muda

Endless Vietnamese smile. The rickshaw driver who took us to the Temple of Literature while telling ud the story of the place. Hanoi. Photo Credit: silvia Muda

Rest break. Time for encounters and chats. Lunchtime in Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Lunchtime in Hanoi…time for a deserved rest..time for a ‘siesta’ . Photo Credit: silvia Muda

Lunchtime in Hanoi.Time for rest, for getting ‘communicated ‘, time for social netwoks. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Lunchtime in Hanoi. There is not an uncomfortable place at the time of resting…Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Early dinner in Hanoi. Family time. Old quarter. Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Brigth morning in Hanoi, brigth colours. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda.

 

‘..International Labor Day and Reunification Day in Hanoi, Vietnam, in the lands of Ho Chi Minh. Communist Vietnam. And we were there. Everyone wanted to be in town to celebrate. The Vietnamese flocked to their capital in thousands to commemorate. Tourists were also in the thousands to enjoy. We got lost among them. We enjoyed watching the Vietnamese celebrating and the tourists enjoying it. For four incredible days and four nights. Unforgettable. In Hanoi…’

International Labor Day and Reunification Day in Hanoi, Vietnam, in the lands of Ho Chi Minh. Communist Vietnam. Everyone wanted to be in town. The Vietnamese flocked to their capital in thousands to celebrate. Tourists were also in the thousands to enjoy. We got lost among them. We enjoyed watching the Vietnamese celebrating and the tourists enjoying. Old Quarter , Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Old Quarter celebrating International Labor Day and Reunification Day in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Four nights of music, thousands of voices and languages, The Old Town celebrated International Labor Day and Reunification Day in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Regardless of the street we walked on, we found the same view. People celebrating International Labor Day and Reunification Day in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Saturday night, late. April 28th 2018. Old Quarter celebrating International Labor Day and Reunification Day in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Time for celebrations, music, meetings and crafts. Old Quarter, Saturday night. Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Dining in a dining room on the upper floor of one of the many traditional Vietnamese houses in the area, we listened to live violin music, which added to the festivities. Late on Saturday night. We did not delay in going down. Celebration of the Old Quarter. International Labor Day and Reunification Day in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Live music, Violin and Spanish guitar music. Just fantastic. Vietnam , Hanoi, celebrating. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

Privileged audience. Live violin music on Mã Mây street. In the Old Quarter heart. Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

The music.The Vietnamese in thousands celebrating. We were priviliged witness. We took that picture. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

 

‘.Ngày Thống nhất ‘, the Reunification Day of Vietnam, also known as Victory Day or Liberation Day. It marks the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, which, in turn, means the beginning of the end of the Vietnam War. With the US troops gone and defeated, the unification process began and would end the following year, on July 2, 1976. When the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was born….’

‘A Southern mother and son’, the picture read. Reunification Day in Vietnam. Imperial City. Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

‘Ngày Thống nhất ‘. Reunification Day . Imperial City, Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

‘Ngày Thống nhất ‘. Reunification Day . Imperial City, Hanoi. Photo Credit: Silvia Muda

 

‘…From that day on, there is only one Vietnam. Since then, all Vietnamese have lived under the same national flag. Unified.Like one. As their ancestors had done, in the old days. Like the children of Lac Long Quan and Au Co … The children of a dragon, grandchildren of the gods … ‘Con Rồng, cháu Tiên’ …’

 

 

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Argentine, civil engineer by profession, ex-city planner by choice, amateur photographer and travel writer by chance; without speaking any English, I moved into Pattaya because of my husband's job in March 2003, along with our fifteen -years old son. With great conviction, will power and a great group of friends, those hard times are part of the past. Slowly, I started to find my own space, to recognize and feel Pattaya as my own city, I started to have a ...home, so far from Home.

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