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The Big House: Chau Doc’s Pride

If there’s one thing Chau Doc is known for, it’s the “Big House” of the Le Long clan located at Le Loi Street which is full of interesting history and culture all by itself.

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The house was constructed from 1909 to 1912 and was called as such because it was the biggest house in town at that time. The design is a combination of French, Western and Asian influence. The house is not made of the common concrete but of shell powder, sand, treacle and lindera myrrha resin, creating a one-of-a-kind structure that is full of strong character and extraordinary beauty.


The outside of the house is French style with sturdy window panes, tile roofs and elaborate ornamental designs. The inside is Western-influenced with lustres and floor tiles. The furnitures and utensils are made with mother-of-pearl, also known as nacre. The wood was purchased from Laos and Cambodia. Wild snails and skilled artisans were brought in from the North for the nacre because during that time, trade for the said pearl still did not exist in the South.


At the centre of the house is an altar of the seventh ancestor of the Le Cong clan while on both sides are those of the newer ones. There are Chinese poems which express ways of being humane inlaid with nacre on all the pillars and wall panels.


While all these features greatly contribute to the uniqueness and charm of the famous structure, the most integral part of the “Big House” are its three relics which symbolize the future (generations). The first relic is the Decree of Conferment of Sainthood on Nguyen Huu Canh, who was bestowed with such honour for spearheading the development of the Southern borders. He was awarded with two other similar titles by King Tu Duc and King Minh Manh.


Based on the accounts of one of the clan’s ancestors, Lord Le Cong Thoan and his wife Huynh Thi Phu arrived at Chau Doc from Thanh Hoa Province and decided to live there. The couple were so kind-hearted that they donated money to the needy, gave land to the homeless, helped in time of crisis and built communes and schools for all the people in the town. The king heard of their good deeds and granted Thoan with the esteemed title of the Decree of Sainthood. Every year from then on, on Canh’s death anniversary on the 10th of the fifth lunar month, the descendants of the Le Cong clan conduct a procession to bring the conferments to the Chau Phu Saint temple for the people to praise.


The second relic is the “Golden branch with gemstone leaves” which is an inlaid picture of gold branches and emerald leaves. It is placed in a safe box and taken out only when there are major occasions.


The third relic is the genealogy book of the Le Cong clan, perhaps the most precious of all the relics. It records all the names and relationships of the members of the clan beginning from the first generation up to the present. For any person who highly values family, this is more important than any material or title there is.


There are ten other houses at Chau Doc which are more than a hundred years old, but the “Big House” is the only one that has maintained its original form because of its combination of smart architecture and rich culture which makes it an integral part of the town’s and Vietnam’s history and culture all in all.



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