Rong house – soul of ethnic villages in Central Highlands

Nga Do
The communal house of the Bahnar, Jarai and other ethnic minorities inhabiting in the central highlands of Vietnam is often known as Rong House. It is a large, imposing, beautifully decorated stilt house built in the middle of the village. Rong house is a typical stilts, this is the community house, like the community house of Kinh people, used as a place to meeting, exchange and discussion of the villagers in the villages in the Central Highlands, or also where welcome guest (according to Ba Na custom), despite the guest of family’s or village. Rong house only in the ethnic village like Gia Rai, Ba Na… in North Highlands, especially in Gia Lai and Kon Tum.

The exact time when Rong house appeared is not known for certain, but one thing for sure is it dated back from long time ago. Initially, a Rong will be built when a new village was established. Tradition holds that a human soul only becomes whole when it joins the village soul, and the Rong house is where the members of a village and the spirits of the ancestors and nature come to respect and negotiate a proper balance.

Rong house – soul of ethnic villages in Central Highlands
Photo by Doron

Unique Architecture Of Rong House

The Rong house is a great work of art includes sculpture, painting, decorative … especially the expression of sacred space, community strength, is the soul of the village. This is the place to occupy the most important position in thinking and realistic daily life of all members of the community.

The importance of the Rong house in subconscious of ethnic minority is formed from the very notion of ethnic, they said Rong house express authority, its wealth of villagers, is where the gods of refuge, a place intermediary between People and Yang (Heaven).

Back to the past, according to traditional custom, the start of construction, village elders make informed decisions Rong house for all members of the village are known before a year to concentrate villagers and prepare materials, then worshiping Yang for permission to village performing. Rong house is often the elders and the elders of the village selected in the most important position, usually at the center village. After that, the villager makes the house around and the face of the house often toward the Rong house. This is the ancient village architecture that currently very little preserved village. Village elders who direct supervision and command villagers to ensure the aesthetic effect of traditional architecture, assign responsibility for each household contribute labor, to find materials and money.

Young people healthy care of the cutting and transporting wood, select hardwoods and termite can not bite, usually cachit wood. The older people in charge of each array as chiseled texture, creating aesthetic… They often must have experience in the construction of buildings. Rong house can ceaseless effort 8 months,  but large pillar should be completed in the first day, this represents success, good luck for the next stages. Then the frames, on purlin, scaffolds, rafters, sesame, thatched roof … all work to smoothly and seamlessly by the muscular hands of young men and operating the wise, talented the village elders.

The Highlands notion Rong house is the sacred place of heaven and earth gathered to sponsor the villagers, so that in each Rong house are a sacred place to worship the sacred object, sometimes just a knife, rock, buffalo horn … stranger has not considered these things, or if you want to see, they must offer very carefully.

According to the researchers of culture, Rong house North Highlands area is quite unique and varied. With each different ethnic Rong house is built with different shapes and have different names. Accordingly, Rong house small and low, typically from Gie Triêng; Xe Dang Rong house of the high-pitched; Ba Na Rong house of the soft but still equally majestic looks like a mother chicken to stand between, the floor around the male chicks; Rong house of the Gia Rai serene as ax upside in blue…However, the Rong house have in common is where people come together for community activities.

Rong house – vitality and expression of the power of community

According to the mind of ethnic minorities, have to village have in Rong house. The village does not have the Rong house that lifeless village of origin. Rong house covers all cultural essence of human creativity in the natural ecological environment, both mighty and underlying spiritual factors, is an expression of culture and cohesion forest communities associated with natural.

For the community of ethnic minorities as “Ethnic – Village – Rong house” relationship can not be separated, as well as the Kinh village tied to trees, water station, family yard. Rong house majestic rise sky strength manifestation of a village community, demonstrating chivalry, authoritative, as conquer space and time to assert sovereignty and territory of the village.

Rong house is also the highlight of the space of gong culture. Along with some other ancient village on the far north Highlands Community House is the place where celebrate traditional festivals such as rice, buffalo, Tet Et Dong … are held annually. Meanwhile, the festival is a living soil of almost all forms of cultural, traditional folk arts from rituals, customs and practices to the various folk performances, traditional musical instruments, dress, language, behavior. Rong house values and tangible material culture, the cultural values and intangible, was the venue for the festival. The images fire flickering Rong house, the smashed with wine in rows on the kitchen, the sound of the gong, radiant faces of the old village, the boys and girls at the festival in Rong house represents a cultural space very rustic, warm, gathered in community cohesion inseparable, make the rich color and originality of traditional culture under the roof Rong house.

In addition to the activities of religious, traditional, spiritual, Nowadays, many villagers also organized activities with many new forms, such as saluting held on Monday, launching place large movement of organizations and unions. In the Rong house, many have hung the picture, statue of Uncle Ho, national flag, national name, with internal notice boards, panels forest protection regulations and rules on security and order, content and criteria for building cultural Village …

Over hundreds of years with many of the social events, Rong house of ethnic Highlands is always a beautiful symbol of the survival of the village community, where training and education of the next generation of villagers, where promotion of traditional and folk beliefs of indigenous peoples, becomes symbolic not only of the Kon Tum, Gia Lai but also in the Central Highlands province. With the Highlanders, Rong House embodies the blood, sweat, tears, pride and past of the village members and their ageless ancestors. It is the physical center for a village’s heritage, power, and future. The taller the Rong house, the more powerful the men of the village, and the easier it is to find the village when hunting or farming away from town. Every Rong house is the heart of a village, where time-honored traditions and customs are passed from generations to generations. Nowadays, the house is also a great tourist attraction for its imposing architecture and its traditional value.

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