Located on the bank of the Red river, the Chem communal house in Bac Tu Liem district, Hanoi, is one of the oldest buildings in Vietnam. Akin to a museum of Vietnamese traditional culture and architecture, the communal house has recently been named a special national relic site.
The Chem communal house is dedicated to the Saint Chem whose real name is Ly Ong Trong. He was a talented general under King Hung Due Vuong of Van Lang Kingdom and King An Duong Vuong of Au Lac Kingdom, now Vietnam. He defeated several aggressors, and on account of his leadership and warfare savvy, he was honored as Saint Chem – Vietnamnet
A temple dedicated to him was built in Chem, his home village. In the Vietnamese history, Saint Chem ranks third after Saint Tan Vien and Saint Giong. Since it was built in 791 AD, the Chem communal house has undergone several restorations.
The house has delicately carved pillars and roofs. Unlike other ancient communal houses, the decorative motifs on the two sides of the roofs are different and asymmetric.
Le Van Hieu, the guardian of the Chem Communal House said, “The house stretches along the north-south axis facing the Red river. Only a few Vietnamese communal houses are oriented in the same direction.
Its design embraces a royal architectural style with curved, piled roofs. In the forbidden palace, there are 10 statues made of aloe wood, the two biggest statues being dedicated to Saint Ong Trong and his wife. There are also several ancient items of worship and urns in the communal house.”
chem communal house, a special national relic hinh 1 Located on the bank of the Red River, the communal house is always at risk of succumbing to the effects erosion. In the early 19th century, the building, which weighs hundreds of tons, was elevated an additional 2.4 meters, to be the same height as the Red river dyke.
A Chem communal house festival is held annually on the 15th day of the 5th lunar month to pay tribute to Ly Ong Trong.
Le Van Phach, a local elder, said, “It is an age-old festival. This year’s festival is more exciting because the Chem communal house is named a special national relic.”
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism listed the festival a national intangible cultural heritage in 2016.
Nguyen Manh Thin, Head of the Sub-Committee for Chem Communal House Management said, “Saint Chem was Vietnam’s first diplomat and the first general of two countries. At the festival, the water procession is held with solemnity. We collect water from the Red river to bathe the Saint on the 15th day of the 5th lunar month. We organize a ceremony to pay gratitude and hold requiem for the dead.
During the Buddha worshiping ceremony, we release a flock of birds. After ritual ceremonies, we organize competitions of making sweet green bean cake, swimming, duck shooting, card playing, and singing exchanges.”
The People’s Committee of Bac Tu Liem district has proposed to Hanoi authorities a plan to upgrade the communal house and open a web page on the relic.