Ngoc Uyen communal house in Ngoc Chau ward is one of a few communal houses in Hai Duong city which still retain many highly valuable antiques and woodcarvings.
All vertical and horizontal wood panels of the communal house have been trimmed with red lacquer and gold
The communal house was recognized as a national relic in 1994.
Contribution to quelling anarchy of 12 warlords
Ngoc Uyen communal house bears the name of the old Ngoc Chau commune's Ngoc Uyen village.
It worships famous generals Le Viet Hung and Le Viet Quang, two locals helping Dinh Bo Linh quell the anarchy of 12 warlords to reunite the country.
Some elderly people in residential area 12, Ngoc Chau ward, said according to a record at the relic, the tutelary gods' parents were Le Viet Duc and Bui Thi Nguyen, natives of Vu Ban district, Nam Dinh province.
Because of poverty, they left their native soil and settled in the well-off land of Ngoc Uyen. They gave birth to Le Viet Hung and Le Viet Quang. The two grew up handsome, tall, extraordinarily hale and hearty, and smart at learning.
Together with people throughout the country, Ngoc Uyen villagers contributed many talents and material resources to help the Dinh dynasty defeat the 12 warlords.
Le Viet Hung and Le Viet Quang were among those who followed Dinh Bo Linh. The Le brothers helped Dinh Bo Linh defend the delta and won many battles.
Thanks to their merit to the country, the king conferred titles on them while the villagers worshipped them as tutelary gods and built the communal house for worshipping after their death.
Many valuable antiques
Until now, there is no basis to accurately define the construction time of Ngoc Uyen communal house. The only thing for certain is that it was previously located in the middle of the village. The area was sunken and narrow; therefore, in April 1849, the villagers relocated the communal house to the current favorable position, then restored and enlarged it.
Formerly, the relic was about 4,000 m2 in area. Because of the increasing population, the relic is narrower and narrower. At present, the inner zone is covering an area of only 755 m2.
The communal house was built in the shape of guó (國) character, including a five-compartment outer house, two rows of roofed houses with three compartments on each side, and a three-compartment back house.
The structure of the communal house is preserved quite intact with pillars made of ironwood, roofs covered with domestic tiles, etc.
Carving is imbrued with traditional styles with patterns of dragon, kylin, turtle, phoenix, pine, chrysanthemum, small bamboo, apricot, etc. The woodcarvings at Ngoc Uyen communal house are valuable folk art works.
Vu Ngoc Sang (75 years old) in residential area 12 said over the past years, the local authorities and people had paid great attention to preserving hundred-year-old artifacts attached to the communal house, such as 12 royal honor-conferring edicts and a bronze bell 0.4 m in diameter and 0.6 m in height cast in 1915.
The ancient bronze bell 0.4 m in diameter and 0.6 m in height cast in 1915
In addition, there are 17 ancient stone steles recording the names of those donating money to restore the relic.
Together with the stele inscriptions, the royal honor-conferring edicts kept at Ngoc Uyen communal house are Sino-Vietnamese documents with historical and sociological value.
There are also a lot of valuable ancient wooden worshipping objects such as an altar in the outer house, a royal palanquin, two sets of eight-pole palanquins, etc.
Attention to preservation
The ancient festival of Ngoc Uyen communal house was held from the 14th to the 17th day of the 1st lunar month. The ceremonial part involved a palanquin procession around the village. The festive part included folk games like cockfighting, wrestling, tug of war, boat racing, cheo (traditional operetta) singing, etc.
Nowadays, traditional rituals of the festival are still maintained; however, the palanquin procession has been held every five years since 1994. There are folk games, musical exchanges among residential areas, cheo and folk song singing, etc. in the festive part, luring numerous participants.
With such historical and cultural value, the local authorities and people always care about preserving and repairing Ngoc Uyen communal house.
In 2003, the communal house was severely deteriorated and leaked whenever it rained because the entire roof-top sagged. About VND200 million was donated for repair.
In 2012, people contributed nearly VND1 billion and the State offered VND150 million to rebuild the three-compartment back house but retained the ancient wooden structure.
In 2019, residents of the ward donated some VND1 billion to rebuild the central temple worshipping the two tutelary gods' parents.
At the beginning of this year, people continued to contribute more than VND220 million to trim all vertical and horizontal wood panels with red lacquer and gold, replace doors, etc.
However, because of urbanization, the yard of the communal house has been lower than the road for years, resulting in inundation every rainy season. The sagging roof-top of the five-compartment outer house also makes it leaky in the rainy season.
Vice Chairman of the People's Committee of Ngoc Chau ward Nguyen Van Dinh said the local government and people hoped that appropriate authorities would create conditions to restore and heighten the communal house to deserve to be a national relic, befit the merit of the two tutelary gods, and meet people's belief needs.