Exploring the heritage land of Kinh Bac

Nga Do
Whenever describing the Kinh Bac area (an old name for a large area in northern Vietnam, covering the provinces of Bac Ninh and Bac Giang), we always mention the two world heritage sites and hundreds of relic sites, beauty spots, and traditional craft villages.

Exploring the heritage land of Kinh Bac
Photo by Chrisvomberg
With its unique strengths, Kinh Bac has become an attraction for tourists. With lyrical melodies demonstrating local labour, love duet singing enchants big audiences. It has gradually gained popularity across the country. The associations of Kinh Bac fellow-country people has contributed to bringing love duet songs to many cities and provinces. The traditional singing has become intangible cultural heritage of humanity, and something many foreign visitors want to experience in Vietnam.

Dr. Bui Quang Thanh from the Vietnam Institute of Culture and Art Studies, who visited all 49 “quan ho” villages recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), told me that he had met a lot of foreign visitors with great passion for the love duet lyrics who not only enjoyed the songs at temples, pagodas and festivals, but also entered the artists’ houses, recording and making videos. Many overseas youngsters even stayed in Vietnam and asked to learn love duet songs.

The dyke of the Duong and Cau rivers boasts the biggest number of love duet villages in Bac Ninh and Bac Giang. I feel the joy wherever I set foot in these places, meeting companions who share my passion for love duets. Many people come here to complete their thesis, listen to love duet songs and seek old artisans who preserve the folk melodies and explore the traditional culture and lifestyle of a love duet family in Kinh Bac region.

People born and raised in Kinh Bac want the singing to shine forever in the heart of the visitors and have it promoted among young generations to preserve the melodies. On an autumn day nine years ago, when I and my colleagues went to Vinh Nghiem pagoda (Duc La) in Tri Yen commune (Yen Dung), we were taken by a nun to see woodblocks. We had no idea that woodblocks would be recognised as world heritage by UNESCO.

Much is known about King-Monk Tran Nhan Tong and Truc Lam Zen Buddhist sect. However, it wasn’t until May 2012 when the woodblocks at Vinh Nghiem pagoda were recognised as the world’s documentary heritage in Asia-Pacific, that the quintessence of Truc Lam Zen Buddhist sect was widely known. The woodblocks, which were engraved in wood and remain intact today, are special heritage of Vietnam.

At Tho Ha pottery village, Van Ha commune (Viet Yen), on the walls and fences of houses are a multitude of oblong earthenware containers used for reburial – which are piled upon one another, creating a strange shape and containing a thousand-year old pottery village. Pottery in Tho Ha is ingrained in the minds of locals with unique architecture of humans from ancient times. People who like tranquility could go to Bo Da Pagoda in Viet Yen district to visit a large tower garden – the resting place of over 1,200 monks and nuns of Lam Te Buddhism.

Associated with cultural and historical heritage, KinhBac is also home to spectacular natural scenery. Tay Yen Tu, located in Son Dong and Luc Nam districts, is an attractive destination for anyone who wants to explore waterfalls and primary forests. Tay Yen Tu is considered the place with the largest eco-tourism potential in Bac Giang province. In addition to sightseeing, visitors can enjoy a variety of food in Kinh Bac. Lychee gardens in Luc Ngan in summer welcome visitors to enjoy fruit.

Tourists can also buy dry pancakes as gifts for family and friends. A folk song titled “Ve que” (Going to the countryside) by musician Pho Duc Phuong goes “Our country has dry pancakes and plain rice flan – the poor market and thatched huts”. The specialty is renowned because of its special crispy taste, which goes well with wine.

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