01

Jan
2023

Cambodian frontier, called That Son or Nui Sap and Nui Sam – Page 2

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Cambodian frontier, called That Son or Nui Sap and Nui Sam which derive their
fame from their religious tradi tion.
There is a very famous feature lodged on top of a mountain found in central
Vietnam: it is a bloc of stone suggesting the shape of a woman hold ing an infant
in her arms. The woman fixes her eyes on the horizon, exact ly on the spot where
the ocean can no longer be distinguished from the sky. That mountain is called
the Waiting for Him Mountain: Hon Vong Phu. A touching tale explains the
presence of that statue.
A brother and a sister, aged 9 and 8, started a vicious quarrel while cut ting
sugar canes. With his long knife, he almost split open the head of his sister who
fainted from losing much blood. Terrified by the thought that he had killed his
sister, the boy ran away from home. Nobody could even guess where he had
gone.
Years later, far away from his native village, he founded a family and begot a
son. One day in combing his wife’s hair, he noticed an enorm ous scar right in
the middle of her head. His wife explained to him the circumstances of her
wound and the man realized that his spouse was no other than his sister. Feeling
a profound guilt, and without any attempt at explanation, the husband sailed his
boat into the horizon: he never came home. Every day, the wife carried her son
onto the top of the moun tain to look for her husband. She waited for so long and
kept her self so tense that she and her son slowly turned themselves into a block
of stone.
Rain forests, shielding a great variety of species of trees some of which are
hard wood, such as teak and mahogany, cover virtually the totali ty of the
mountainous areas. These forests fit well the definition of the word “jungle”, if
one complements them with their exotic fauna: mon keys, elephants, tigers. Not
long ago, maybe seventy years ago, buses traveling from Saigon to Dalat, a
resort on the mountains situated about two hundred miles in the northeast, did
not dare stop along the way during nighttime for fear of attacks by wild animals!
Rains more than the low or high temperatures delimit the year’s sea sons,
although in the north, the 30+ degrees centigrade of the summer can drop to
about 10 to 5 degrees in the winter months of January and February. Elsewhere,
a moist and hot 30 degrees centigrade endure pretty much the whole year round,
except on the slopes of mountains and possi bly during the winter months when
the atmosphere seems somewhat less oppressive. That discrepancy is due to the
influence of seasonal winds called monsoons which regulate the dry-cool and
rainy-hot portions of the year. The northeast monsoon, which blows roughly
from September-October to April-May, brings the cold and dry air from the
Asian conti nent to the northern regions of Vietnam; it weakens drastically as it
reaches the Hai Van Pass, situated about 40 miles south of Hue, and, there by,
leaves unaffected the southern half of Vietnam which, conse quently, has a more
equally distributed fresher weather throughout the same six months. The other
six months, from about April-May to Septem ber-October, a hot and humid wind
blows from the ocean around the equator toward the peninsula, bringing with it
heat and rain.
Rain, anyway, plays a very crucial role in the life of the common people as
attested by a popular song which every child learns to recite soon after being
able to speak: O heaven please send us rain
So that we may have Water to drink
Fields to plough
A bowl full of rice
And a big portion of fish
Nguyen Van Ngoc, Tuc Ngu Phong Dao, Hanoi, 1953, p.128-129
Very early in time, people came to live on the Vietnamese land. Many
different ethnic groups share the land of Vietnam. The official poli cy of the
present day government divides them into two general catego ries: the plain
(kinh) and the mountain peoples (dan toc: ethnies). Although all of them are now
considered Vietnamese, in this book, I shall call Vietnamese the kinh people and
for the dan toc, I would reserve the appellation of ethnic minorities. The
mountain peoples, in effect, be long to a great variety of ethnic groups –up to
more or less sixty– speak ing a large number of different languages. Some of
them relate closely to the Thai people from Thailand, to the minority peoples
from Laos, from southern China or from northern Myanmar. Some of them came
to reside on the Vietnamese territory as late as one or two hundred years ago
from South China. Still some others have inhabited these moun tains since time
immemorial; among them are the Muong, for exam ple, who speak a language,
which is very close to Vietnamese. They are said, therefore, to belong to the
same ethnic group as the Vietnamese from whom they have separated sometime
in the not too remote past, proba bly at the beginning of the Chinese direct
administration over Viet nam, in the first century of our era. The Muong, the
Vietnamese, the Cham and a few other groups, which inhabit the mountain
regions of south ern and central Vietnam probably, can claim the status of
indigenous or aboriginal peoples, meaning they were the first peoples to live on
Viet nam’s land.
The plain or kinh people constitute ninety per cent of the total popula tion of
Vietnam. Traditionally, they occupy the deltas and the coastal plains, the
majority is constituted by the Vietnamese people who share their habitat with
three other important ethnic groups: the Chinese, the Cham and the Khmers. The

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