02

Jan
2023

From the family to the village, we now emerge into something vaster – Page 4

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From the family to the village, we now emerge into something vaster and
more encompassing: the nation as headed by a sovereign who presided over all
the villages because in him resided the power not only to assign protecting
deities to each individual village, but also to rank those deities according to their
respective merits on a predetermined hierarchy. In the past, the edictscertificates,
carefully and proudly pre served in the dinh, had to be delivered by
the supreme authority on earth, the grand priest of the cult, the Son of Heaven,
the sovereign of Vietnam.
06. Edict-Certificate dated Canh Hung year 5. Conferring the title of tutelary
deity to a mandarin named Luong, this document was issued by the court of the
Southern Nguyen Lords, although it was dated with the reign name Canh Hung
of the Le emperor who resided in the North. At the time this document was
issued, the two parts of Vietnam had been estranged from each other. Notwith
standing the reign name, the title “Quoc Vuong” which starts off the text must
designate the Nguyen Lord and not the Le emperor who, in such a document as
this, would have been referred to as “Hoang De.” (More about this problem
later.) Courtesy of Tran Viet Ngac.
People lived on the Vietnamese land a very long time ago. Stone imple
ments are found everywhere, principally in the north and northern part of central
Vietnam. They date from the times of the Paleolithic with sites at Mount Do,
Cave Hum of the Son Vi culture, the Mesolithic with the Hoa Binh, and
Neolithic with the Bac Son and Quynh Van cultures.
Then came the bronze age which, according to Vietnamese archaeologists,
began already four thousand years ago through four stages: Phung Nguyen,
Dong Dau, Go Mun and Dong Son. The last one, universally known as the
Dongsonian age of bronze culture, saw its extension cover the many regions of
southern China and mainland Southeast Asia. Its center is believed to have been
located in the village of Dong Son, in the province of Thanh Hoa, approximately
one hundred kilometers south of Hanoi.
The Dongsonian civilization is characterized by the well-known “kettledrum”,
the top face of which are elaborately decorated with silhouettes of
dancers, birds, boats, all surrounding a well shaped multi-corner star.
07. Rubbing of the face of the Ngoc Lu bronze drum. Museum of History,
Hanoi.
On some of those drums, the four cardinal points of the round face are
decorated with sculptures of toads or frogs, singly or one on top of the other.
Vietnameserchaeologists believe those must be rain drums, which the
Dongsonian people used to beat every time they wished for rain.
08. A recent bronze drum decorated with frogs.
This would be a vivid illustration of a Vietnamese legend that makes the toad
an uncle of Heaven. According to that legend, following a long drought, a toad
recruited a number of other animals from earth to go to Heaven to ask for rain.
After an extended and arduous journey, the animals were not welcomed at all by
the heavenly court. Residents and uninvited guests resorted to the use of force.
In the ensuing fight, every endowed weapon of the animals: the spur of the
rooster, the trump of the elephant, the slithery body of the snake, the paws of the
cat, the speed of the horse, the needle of the bee were put to an advantage against

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