Summit of the Traditional Culture
We must make the Huế field trip. Why? Huế was the place where all the cultural characteristics of the whole country had been crystallized to form the “Royal court culture,” which was then spread to all over the country, such as clothing, music, and architecture.
Today Huế is the national treasure preserving the material and non-material cultural heritage symbolizing the intellect and the soul of the Vietnamese people.
The Huế culture is the summit of the traditional culture recognized by UNESCO as one of the cultural heritages of humanity.
Huế is a splendidly colourful cultural garden that has been described in many literary works. In this field trip, we would like, therefore, to put the emphasis on the two following special cultural characteristics of Huế:
– As a cultural heritage of humanity recognized by UNESCO.
– As a traditional cultural heritage of the Vietnamese people in clothing, architecture.
Huế is a cultural heritage of humanity
Through many centuries, innumerable most important and most distinguished elements of our nation were concentrated here and created a cultural centre just like a wonderful painting with the Hương River, the Ngự Mountain, splendid fortresses and palaces, ancient and respected pagodas and temples, remote and solemn mausoleums, and beautiful and romantic natural landscapes.
The wonderful characteristics of Hue culture are displayed in the distinguished royal court music and the Huế ancient relic’s complex recognized by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage.
Distinguished royal court music
On November 7, 2003, the Huế distinguished royal court music was recorded by UNESCO in the list of non-material world cultural heritage.
This music was regulated by Emperor Minh Mạng in 1832. It was the principal music performed in the main ceremonies of the royal court of the Nguyễn Dynasty. It was consisted of 4 elements:
– Its tone or piece of music
– Its lyrics
– Its dances
– Its instruments
In terms of types, we have: Great music (big instruments, big sounds), Small Music (small instruments). The distinguished music began with 3 sounds of bell, 3 sounds of drum, and terminated with 3 sounds of cymbal.
Influence of distinguished music on folk music
The distinguished royal court music was the source of the ceremonial music of Nam Kỳ (Southern Vietnam), the amateur music of Nam Kỳ and the ceremonial music of Cao Daiism.
Although originated from the Huế distinguished royal court music, the ceremonial music of Nam Kỳ is on a smaller scale in terms of orchestra and repertoire.
On December 5, 2013, in Baku, a city of the Republic of Azerbaijan, UNESCO recorded the Nam Kỳ amateur music in the list of non-material cultural heritages of humanity. According to the researchers in the field of national traditional music, the repertoire, sounds, and rhythm of the Nam Kỳ amateur music were originated from the following musics: the Huế distinguished royal court music, the Huế chamber music, the ceremonial music, the traditional theatre music (hát bội) and the Nam Kỳ folk song.
Historical relic’s complex of the ancient capital city
On December 11, 1993, the historical relic’s complex of the ancient capital city of Huế was recognized by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage. The complex consists mainly of the Huế Imperial Citadel and the mausolem system.
Huế Imperial Citadel
In fact, the Huế Imperial Citadel consists of 3 cities: the Imperial City, the Imperial Citadel, and the Forbidden City. The construction of the Huế Imperial Citadel began in the 4th month of the Year of the Buffalo (1805) and was completed in 1824. Huế was the nation’s capital city, grouping the country’s elites and resources to create a cultural centre: the “royal court culture,” having a structure characterized by the following cultural elements.
The city-fortress system is built in great harmony with the natural physical environment of rivers and mountains. The main axe going through all three cities is the Thần Đạo road, which connects Hương River, to Nghinh Lương Đình, Phú Văn Lâu, Kỳ đài, Ngọ Môn, điện Thái Hòa, điện Cần Chánh, điện Càn Thành, cung Khôn Thái, lầu Kiến Trung … On both sides of the Thần Đạo road stand hundreds of buildings harmoniously arranged in a perfect layout.
The imperial citadel is protected by three fortresses: Trấn Bình Đài for the protection from the estuary, Trấn Hải Thành from the sea, Hải Vân Quan from the road to the South, đàn Nam Giao, đàn Xã Tắc, Hổ Quyền (arena for fighting between tiger and elephant), Văn Miếu (Temple of Literature), Võ Miếu (Temple of Martial Arts) …
The imperial citadel is also protected by feng shui: Ngự Mountain (altitude: 104 m) seen as “tiền án = front screen), Hương River as “minh đường, minh 明 brightness, đường 堂 sparkling”, islet of Hến and islet of Dã Viên on Hương River as “tả thanh long, hữu bạch hổ = blue dragon on the left, white tiger on the right.”
The beauty of the imperial citadel is also much enhanced by several royal gardens such as Ngự Viên, Thư Quang, Thường Mậu, Trường Ninh … These royal gardens shape the knowledge of garden-house in Huế, making Huế a “city of garden, city of poetry,” a world of writers and poets. Each garden-house is built like a mini Huế: with front screen like Ngự Mountain, a small pool imitating Hương River, a couple of stones replacing islets of Dã Viên, Bộc Thanh, completing the four basic feng shui elements: tiền án (front screen, Ngự Mountain), hậu chẩm (back support, Hương River), tả long (dragon on left), and hữu hổ (tiger on right).
Imperial city of Huế: Ngọ Môn Gate Thái Hòa Palace The Throne
Thiên Mụ Pagoda Hương river
Talking about Huế, after the imperial citadel comes the mausoleum system that includes Gia Long Mausoleum (Thiên Thụ Lăng), Minh Mạng Mausoleum (Hiếu Lăng), Tự Đức Mausoleum (Khiêm Lăng), Thiệu Trị Mausoleum (Xương Lăng) … The city of Huế has wonderfully harmonized the busy urban atmosphere with the remote and solemn ambiance of the mausoleums.
Emperor Minh Mạng’s Mausoleum Emperor Tự Đức’s Mausoleum
In an issue of the Nam Phong periodical in 1918, Thượng Chi has written: “Lăng đây là cả bầu trời sắc nước, núi cao, rừng rậm, gió thổi ngọn cây, suối reo hang đá. Lăng đây là bức cảnh thiên nhiên tuyệt đẹp ghép vào một cảnh nhân tạo tuyệt vời. Lăng đây là cái nhân công tô điểm sơn hà, gợi nên tâm hồn não nùng, u uất như phảng phất trong cung điện âm thầm, như rì rào trên ngọn thông hiu hắt… nhưng không đâu có cái công dựng đặt của người ta với cái vẻ thiên nhiên của trời đất khéo điều hòa nhau bằng ở đây, cung điện, đình tạ cũng một màu, một sắc như núi non, như cây cỏ, tưởng cây cỏ ấy, núi non ấy, phải có đình tạ ấy, cung điện ấy mới là xứng, mà cung điện ấy, đình tạ ấy, phải có núi non ấy, cây cỏ ấy mới là hợp vậy. = The mausoleum here is the sky, the water, the mountain, the forest, the wind blowing the tree tops, the stream burbling through the cave. The mausoleum here is the painting of the beautiful natural landscape merged with the wonderful artificial monument. The mausoleum here represents the human endeavour to beautify the country, to remind us of the sorrowful and indignant spirit that vaguely flows through the silent palace, or that whispers through the tops of the weak and fragile pines … but nowhere can we find such a wonderfully harmonious mixture of man-made and natural landscapes like here, palaces, pavilions having the same colour, the same outlook as the mountains the trees, creating the feeling that such mountains and trees must be accompanied by such palaces and pavilions, and such palaces and pavilions can only be in harmony with such mountains and trees.”
Historian Charles Patris has written about these mausoleums as follows:
Ces rois d’Annam très sages, (These kings of Annam, very wise,)
Qui font sourire la mort (Who cause the death to laugh.)
Au décor (On the background)
De familiers paysages (Of familiar landscapes))
Foulon wrote: “Le deuil sourit, la joie soupire (The mourning smiles, the joy sighs)
In the Bulletin des Amis du Vieux Huế (Bulletin of Friends of the Old Huế, or B.A.V.H.) periodical, there are many articles on specific topics about the history of Huế, its literature, its dialect, its music, its royal court culture … by famous authors such as Thái Văn Kiểm, Phạm Quỳnh, Lê Văn Hảo …
Royal court culture spreading to populace
Many Huế’s material and non-material cultural elements can be identified in the folk culture especially in the following areas:
– Clothes: traditional robe (áo dài), turban (khăn đóng), four-flap robe (áo tứ thân) are originated from the shaping provided in the decree by Lord Nguyễn Phúc Khoát. From this original four-flap robe we have the birth of the áo dài of Huế, the colourful four-flap robe of the North and the áo dài of today.
– Architecture: from the architectural design of the royal palaces we have the birth of the “nhà rường” in Central Vietnam and “nhà đâm trính” in the Mekong Delta.
In addition, “the Huế language” as a Central Vietnam’s dialect compared to the Hà Nội dialect, “Huế singing,” a by-product of Huế pronunciation with 4 main tones,the style and method of Huế’s literature … all confirm the existence of a region with a solidly form culture.
In conclusion for the cultural role of Huế, we would like to borrow this statement by Mr. Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow, former Director-General of UNESCO: “Mais Hué n’est pas seulement un exemple de l’architecture, elle est aussi un haut lieu spirituel et un centre d’activités culturelles animées – là où le Bouddhisme et le Confucianisme s’impliquent en profondeur et entrent parfaitement dans les traditions locales pour nourrir un esprit de religion, une philosophie et une doctrine mentale particuliers = Huế is not only a paragon in architecture but also a spiritual summit and a dynamic cultural centre. There Buddhism and Confucianism are deep-rooted, and harmoniously immersed in the regional tradition nourishing a very unique religious, philosophical and ethical thought.”
Feeling sorry for Huế’s culture being unappreciated, the famous playwright Đào Tấn has lamented:
“Cộng ẩm Hương Giang thủy
(Together they drink Hương River’s water)
Vô nhân thức thủy hương”
(Nobody appreciates the water’s scent)
The feeling of sorrow was originated from the fact that after 1975, most palaces and mausoleums were used as warehouses, as offices of a radio broadcasting corporation, as location of the Bình Thị Thiên printing company, as buildings of an in-service college, as common residences for government officials and cadres, with Đàn Nam Giao being transformed into a commemorative monument for fallen soldiers … Only after UNESCO recognized Huế as a world cultural heritage has Huế started to gradually recover its identity.
Are we still sharing Huế’s sadness? The Communists are abusing the absolutely beautiful landscape-painting-liked Huế to transform it into a festival city with a biennial festival to rake in money from tourists more than to help people appreciate the cultural value of Huế and consider “Festival is a cultural synthesis, a cluster of bests, if not as a cultural summit of many regions, may countries in response and resonance.” (Bửu Ý). The 2008 Festival restored the ancient festivals like: the Ritual Ceremony of Nam Giao, the Coronation of King Quang Trung on Bân Mountain, the Ceremony of Xã Tắc, and the ceremony of martial arts competition. In addition, there is also áo dài festival, Hương River legend festival …
Are you still worried about Huế’s future? It is really the natural environment, including the mountains, the rivers, the sea, the cultural tradition, and the historical relics that combine the overview picture of Huế. From the hill of Vọng Cảnh, we can view the brightly blue Hương River meandering among the hills on both sides. In the old days, people considered the hill of VọngCảnh as the “eye of God,” the focus of all sacred spirits of the country. Formerly there was a proposal to build “Vọng Cảnh Lầu = Vọng Cảnh Pavilion” for Emperor Bảo Đại, but when the old mandarins came for a ceremony they found a tone with this inscription: “Vọng Cảnh vong thần, Thất thần khiếm thị = Who destroys hill of Vọng Cảnh, Will become insane and blind.” It was exactly at this location, in the middle of that absolutely beautiful landscape, that, in 2005, the tourist company of Huế gave permission to the big Dutch-Austrian hotel company Project BV to build a high-rise hotel right on that hill of Vọng Cảnh. Facing the protest of the people, this hotel project was stopped but Huế’s people are still worried because Huế still has many other spectacular places under the greedy eyes of many hotel companies having connections with corrupted government officials.
In the old days, rural children used to play “pulling the saw” while singing “royal meal, village meal” as follows: “kéo cưa lừa xẻ, thợ khỏe cơm vua, thơ thua cơm làng, thợ nào dở dang, về bú tí mẹ (pulling the saw cutting the wood, winning worker will eat royal meal, losing worker will eat village meal, intermediate worker will go home getting breastfed by mother). What is so special about the royal meal to be much desired?
The first special characteristic: royal meal is organized on a large-scale plan symbolizing the culinary culture, which synthesizes the gas state with the invisible, i.e. the gas for yin-yang, the gas for aromatic flavours;
The second special characteristic: royal meal symbolizes the Vietnamese culinary culture while village meal is only the applied framework of the culinary culture organized on social customary practices considered as standards for villagers.
Organization of royal meal
Preparing royal meal was the responsibility of a large unit in the royal palace called Nội Trù thuyền (1802), then Tư Thiện đội (1808), and finally Thượng Thiện đội (under Emperor Minh Mạng’s reign).
In 1886, Dr. Hocquard (Une campagne au Tonkin, Arlea, p. 605-607) was permitted to make a visit of the royal palace. After the visit, he gave the following description of the royal kitchen, which included 100 persons: “Everyday, each person was given 30 quan [monetary unit, made of spelter] to go shopping at the market for foods to prepare one dish … In addition to the team of chefs, there were 500 people responsible for wild animal hunting, 50 people for shooting birds, 50 people for fishing, 50 people for finding swallow’s nests, 50 people for preparing tea …”
Under the Nguyễn Dynasty, the term used to describe the meal eating of the was “Ngài ngự thiện” and the one describing the royal meal was “Ngự Thiện,” (御 ngự: of the king; 膳 thiện: meal) which consisted of 35 courses called “Phẩm Vị” (品 phẩm; 味 vị: taste) prepared by the Thượng Thiện đội (上 thượng: above, top; 膳 thiện: meal), which included 50 members, each one specializing in one kind of dish. When the meal’s preparation is done, and after having heard the bell ring, the chef team put everything into the ornate crimson gold-plated covered trays and delivered them to the royal guards. The royal guards would transfer these trays to the eunuchs, who, in turn, transferred them to the ladies-in-waiting, who served meal to the emperor.
Except for Emperors Duy Tân and Bảo Đại, the emperor always ate meal by himself. Sometimes, a mandarin could be assigned to be there to maintain a conversation with the emperor; this situation was called “chầu thiện.” Some other times, a mandarin could be assigned to have meal with the emperor but on a separate table; this situation was called “ban thiện.”
Foods for royal meals
The foods used in the preparation of royal meals included all special kinds offered as tributes from all over the country such as swallow’s nests, shark’s fins, deer’s tendon, bánh uyển cao (some kind of cakes), mứt bát cửu, mứt tứ linh (some kinds of sweets).
The cooked rice (cơm) was prepared with Ngự Túc rice ( 御 ngự: of the king; 粟 túc: rice), a tribute from the Ministry of Public Works, usually the rice called “gạo de” grown in the fields of An Cựu located inside the capital city of Huế, and cooked in earthen cooking pot specially produced in Phước Tích village.
The water used in royal culinary services was taken from either the Hàm Long wells of Báo Quốc pagoda or the Cam Lồ wells at the foot of the Thúy Vân Mountain or from the upper source of the Hương River.
Tribute foods included: Phú Yên mangos, Bình Định lemons, Vĩnh Long and Định Tường coconuts, Quảng Bình watermelons, Thanh Hóa and Hải Dương sugar oranges, Hà Nội lychees, Tuyên Quang pears, Hà Nội cakes made from honey sweet potatoes, Hà Nội roasted sticky rice cakes …
Royal dining set
Tea set, alcohol vase and glasses, dinner plates and bowls … were collectively called “đồ ngự dụng (things used by the emperor),” which were usually decorated with pictures of five-claw dragons, and with the inscription of “nội phủ (royal palace internal affairs unit).” All of these dining sets were ordered or purchased from China. It was only from the reign of Emperor Khải Định that some French and other European porcelain and crystal sets were purchased for royal use.
The chop sticks were made of old bamboo sticks. They were then sharpened and brightened with the bamboo chips. After that, they were steamed and sun-dried before being kept in storage. These chop sticks were changed daily; the ones made of ivory, being a bit heavier, were not practical for the emperor’s hands. The emperors usually used Kim Giao wooden chop sticks, which could help in detecting poisons.
The toothpicks used by the emperor were called “tăm bông (cotton toothpicks).” Each one of them was 15 cm long, with one small head similar to the regular toothpick; the other head was bigger and lightly battered into small threads looking like a marigold flower to be used as a toothbrush (because the word “hoa” was a taboo word, it was called “tăm bông” )
Aspect of culinary culture: harmonization of yin-yang
Within the royal palace, the culinary art was applied not only for the meticulous preparation of daily meals from good, rare and delicious foods but also for the goal of making each dish as a medication for the harmonization of the yin-yang. Each meal, therefore, was prepared for the goal of improving internal systems of the emperor’s body, eliminating diseases, and reinforcing the emperor’s health. If the emperor did not eat his meal like other days, or if he did not feel satisfied with the meal (the dishes being not delicious), his physicians would be called in (called “ngự y 御醫 (royal physician)” to make a diagnosis and to write a prescription.
Treatment method by royal physicians
The Đội Thượng Thiện had to observe several taboos in order to guarantee the safety of the royal meals and was placed under the surveillance and control of the Viện Thái Y (Institute of Royal Medicine). The organization of dishes for each royal meal with the goals of health improvement and disease control was the responsibility of the Institute of Royal Medicine. The organization of the prescription following the yin-yang theory in the selection of foods based on the yin-yang characteristic of them would help to preserve the yin-yang balance, sometimes more yin foods some other times more yang foods, according to the emperor’s body energetic and organ systems.
Selection of yin-yang foods
From the observation of the emperor’s energetic system (cold or hot), leading to the determination of the deficiency of any of the organ systems, the Royal Physicians would select the yin or yang food ingredients for the preparation of the dishes for the royal meals, ending up with a “Phương thang = Prescription” fit to the emperor’s body energetic system, and also appropriate for the cold or hot weather … For example:
– When the emperor had symptoms of hot energetic system such as reddened and swollen lips and tongue, yellow tongue, constipation, hemorrhoid, sleep disorders, nose bleeding, pimples, pustules … his royal physician would prescribe a selection of yin food ingredients such as green vegetables, a stop or decreasing use of yang food ingredients like black or red peppers, alcohol …
– When the examination revealed that the emperor’s kidney function was in decline because of his old age or because of his excessive sex life, his royal physician would come up with a prescription to enhance his kidney function (medicated alcohol, ginseng …) and at the same time recommended that he avoid foods or drinks harmful to the kidney such as drinking too much water, or drinking cold water, and, on the contrary, that he drink hot water or drink just enough water (totally opposite to today’s doctor’s recommendations).
The emperor usually used the Kim Giao chop sticks to detect poisons. The wood was light but tough, ivory-white, and its special characteristic was changing to black when in contact with poisons. Before taking medication, the emperor always had his physician test it right before him. When a natural disaster or epidemic occurred, the royal physicians would request some decrease in food consumption and a stop of musical performance.
In a “phương thang” the royal physicians always had to avoid prescribing incompatible food ingredients. Following are some examples of the incompatibility of foods:
– Seasonal incompatibility: in summer with high temperatures, hot yang food ingredients, such as black and red pepper, ginger, goat meat, alcohol … should be avoided because they would make the emperor’s body become hot, leading to sleep disorders, to anxiety. It meant that cold yin food ingredients, such as vegetables, fruits, and lotus sweetened porridge … should be offered to the emperor instead.
– Incompatibility according to the energetic system: based on the emperor’s present hot or cold energetic system, the selected food ingredients should work to bring about the yin-yang balance.
– Incompatibility according to the “ngũ vị (five flavours, five tastes).” Based on the five-element theory, the royal physicians made decisions of the use of the five tastes. If the body has a disease belonging to the category of energy, the bible of Oriental Medicine Hoàng Đế Nội Kinh 黄帝内经 (Huang Di Neijing = Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor) (Linh Khu, Chapter 78 and Tố Vấn, Chapter 23) recommended to stop eating foods as follows:
– Salted foods in cases of bone diseases (kidney being principally responsible for bones)
– Sweetened foods in cases of flesh diseases such as obesity, muscular diseases (stomach being principally responsible for muscles).
Cultural lesson from royal meal
If we understand the royal palace culinary culture based on the yin-yang theory we can understand the culinary culture of the Vietnamese people. Each royal meal was a “phương thang” based on the yin-yang theory, and aimed at preserving the emperor’s health, preventing him from getting sick, and even providing him with medical treatment for his diseases. Western medicine is an empirical science while Oriental medicine is an observation and feeling science. The yin-yang energetic system as well as the five-taste system is invisible and this can only be felt by observation and feeling.
Huế is a deviant spelling of Hóa (Thuận Hóa). ↑
There is now an annual Huyền Trân festival at the Princess Huyền Trân temple on Ngũ Phong mountain in Huế. ↑
The distinguished music is the music performed at ceremonies carried out at the royal court, such as the Nam Giao Ceremony (ceremony celebrating Sky and Earth presided over by the Emperor himself at the beginning of the year). ↑
Basically, the repertoire of Nam Kỳ ceremonial music consists of 10 pieces: 3 Nam pieces, Nam Xuân, Nam Ai, Nam Đảo, and 7 Cò pieces (for Cò instrument), Xàng Xê, Ngũ đối thượng, Ngũ đối hạ, Long đăng, Long ngâm, Vạn giá, and Tiểu khúc. The Nam Kỳ ceremonial music had a very important role in the formation of Nam Kỳ amateur music. ↑
. Quan means the hat, headwear; in the old days, when a boy is 20 years old, he would be seen as an adult and his family organized a ceremony called Lễ gia quan (gia = add, quan = headwear), in which the boy would give himself a word name (tên tự, or tên chữ = a name in Chinese character). Similarly, for a girl between 15-20 years old, her family would have a ceremony called Lễ gia kê (gia = add, kê = hairpin), after that she could get married. Presiding over these ceremonies would be the paternal grandfather, the father or the head of the family. The ceremonies would be celebrated in front of the altar in the ancestral home of the family. ↑
Hôn is marriage. At the Lễ nghinh thân (reception of the bride), the groom family brought a musical band to the house of the bride to welcome the flowered-palanquin of the bride. After that, at the house of the groom, the head of his family celebrated the Lễ thượng đăng (ceremony of lighting the candles). The ceremonial music was performed before the ancestral altar, then the Lễ tơ hồng (ceremony of wedding) before the Bàn điện nhạn (another kind of altar for this ceremony) placed in the middle of the house yard. After the ceremony, the guests sat down to enjoy the feast and the performance of the musical band. ↑
Tang is funeral. The deceased must be someone who had made great contributions to the development of the region or someone who had high rank and/or great respect of the local people then the funeral would have ceremonial music performed. The funeral for ordinary people would have only regular music performed. The ceremonial space was in front of the deceased’s coffin. ↑
Tế is the ceremony performed at the high level with rituals and ceremonial music. Except for the Great Music performed only at the royal court, all ceremonial music performed at big celebrations were called “tế,” for example, big celebrations at cummunity halls, shrines, big death anniversary celebrations in big families having great contributions to the villages, big celebrations for Lễ Đáo tuế (Đáo = Arriving at; Tuế = Year; meaning: Reaching the year with the same name of the birth year, i.e. reaching the age of 60 years old, because, in the lunar calendar system, the year of the same name would come back every 60 years) or mừng thọ (mừng = celebrate, thọ = longevity; Lễ mừng thọ = Celebration of old age birthday, i.e. 70th, 80th, 90th… birthday). ↑
Xã: platform for the worship of the God of Land, Tắc: platform for the worship of the God of Rice. In the old days, the Emperor presided over the Lễ Xã Tắc because he needed land and rice seeds to give to the people. Every year at the beginning of spring, the Emperor celebrated the Lễ Xã Tắc, worshipping both God of Land and God of Rice. In the provinces, the mandarin called Bố Chánh, representing the Emperor, presided over this ceremony. When the ceremony is done, he stepped down to the “tịch điền” and made one furrow as a signal for the beginning of the rice season. The term Xã tắc is also used for the country, for example, this statement by King Trần Thánh Tông after the great victory against the Mongols in the 13th century: Xã tắc lưỡng hồi lao thạch mã, Non sông thiên cổ vững âu vàng (Our country has gone through two times (of danger, of war), even the stone horse was tiring, But we still keep our mountains, our rivers intact and stable). ↑
The 4 main tones of Ca Huế: giọng óc (brain tone), giọng cổ (neck tone), giọng ngực (chest tone), and giọng bụng (abdomen tone). Huế dialect belongs to the mid-neck tone. The song Đêm tàn Bến Ngự (End of Night on Bến Ngự) is very representative of Huế music. ↑
For example: “nhất tự nhất họa, nhất thi nhất họa” (each big Chinese character or each poem is decorated with a painting). ↑
In addition to Thượng Thiện đội were the following units:
– Thượng Trà viện: responsible for providing drinks to the Emperor
– Phụng Thiện đội: responsible for providing foods to the Empress-Mother residing at the Từ Thọ (or Diên Thọ) palace
– Lý Thiện ty: responsible for organizing royal banquets and anniversaries. ↑
Tôm càng bóc vỏ bỏ đuôi, (With shell-less and tailless tiger shrimps,)Gạo de An Cựu em nuôi mẹ già. (And with An Cựu “de” rice, I nourish my old mother.)
Kim Luông tươi tốt vườn chè, (The tea plantations in Kim Luông are all green and nice,)
Gạo de An Cựu, đĩa muối mè cũng theo nhau. (With An Cựu “de” rice, despite of only a dish of salt and sesame as food, we’ll stay together.) ↑
Kim giao (Podocarpus macrophyllus) also called thông tre (bamboo pine) or tùng la hán (arhat pine); royal chop sticks are made of Kim giao, used together with “tăm bông” and replaced daily. The Kim giao tree has a small trunk and grows densely in the mountainous regions of Lạng Sơn, Cao Bằng ↑
Its wood is light but tough, ivory-white, and has a special characteristic of changing to black when in contact with poisons. The chop sticks made from this wood are called “đủa đổi màu = colour-changing chop sticks” or “đủa tiến vua =chop sticks for tribute to the emperor.” ↑
The observation method and feeling of the yin-yang was presented in the author’s book entitled Âm Dương Ẩm Thực (Yin-Yang culinary art), published in 2016, by T.T. Seattle in the US. ↑