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Duong River: Beauty in History and Culture

Poet Hoang Cam wrote a poem about Duong River that is so poignant that it has been incorporated into the high school literature classes in Vietnam to emphasize the historical and cultural significance of the place. In fact, it has also intrigued people from other countries to visit the place and discover the beauty on their own.

Unlike other tourist destinations, Duong River is accessible. It can be travelled by bus or motorbike and is about a 30-kilometre ride from Ha Noi. It is located at Thuan Thanh District in the province of Bac Ninh. Like most rural areas, it abounds with almost all kinds of vegetation and farm animals. The people live simply in small houses and find their livelihood in farming or fishing. But Duong River differs from the other provincial environments with its long history and rich culture. The Dong Ho folk painting and But That Temple are two crucial sites to explore for those who want to learn and appreciate the community better.

Dong Ho folk painting village is a must-visit because of its ability to conserve the century-old relics of the Kinh Bac area in the Red River Delta of Northern Vietnam. The traditional art has been delicately preserved by three particular families, that of Nguyen Dang Che, Nguyen Huu Sam and Tran Nhat Tan. Dong Ho paintings are one-of-a-kind in that they highlight only the positive values of humanity such as happiness, peace and prosperity. They are colourful and made from natural materials, usually manifesting familiar sights in the community like farm animals and natural scenery. Catching Coconuts and Mice Wedding are two well-known works which have reached international recognition.

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While artists have been using votive papers for quite some time, there has been a recent re-utilization of the ancient process not only among the veteran artisans but even among the young generation. When the paintings used to be displayed and sold to the public only during Tet (Lunar New Year) and December fairs, they can now be seen throughout the year.

But That Pagoda is known for its meticulous architecture and long history. The temple is believed to be as old as the 13th century featuring such majestic structures as the Avalokitesvara. It is a wooden statue with a thousand eyes and a thousand arms and the biggest in Vietnam. The Bao Nghiem symbolizes the locals’ love of studying with its massive five-storey, 13-metre high stone bell tower shaped like a pen. During the feudal period, 12 out of the country’s 46 top scholars came from Bac Ninh province. The pagoda also displays other wood-carved statues and objects that dates back to the 17th century. But That was named a national treasure in 2012.

As Cam beautifully wrote it about Duong River: “Darling, do not be so sad, I will take you to the Duong River. In the old days, white sand was as smooth as glass. The sparkling river runs quietly…” Duong River is a simple but beautiful place, mysterious and truly inviting with its innate charm.

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