January, 31 2014 17:34:00

Horses are cultural icons in Hue culture

Horse statues at the king's mausoleum in Hue. — Photo panoramio.com

THUA THIEN – HUE (VNS) — This is the first day of the Year of the Horse and certainly, horses are on people's minds.

However, horses have been featured in art and rituals in Hue for a long time. Earlier, horses were used by the feudal troops. In Hue, horses served two kings who ascended the throne in two different dynasties: King Bac Binh Vuong of the Tay Son Dynasty (1778-1802); and King The To Cao of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945).

Horses have marked their presence in art and life too. In tuong Hue (Hue opera), horses are depicted as dynamic symbols but also as being very friendly with people. Though horses or horse dolls were not brought onstage, horses were introduced to the audience by actors holding rods or imitating the movements of riding, catching or controlling a horse. These movements had close connections with Vietnamese marital art.

Horses are worshipped at a temple in Hue. — VNS Photo Phuoc Buu

Horses have been given more respect in Hue ritual architecture. On ritual buildings in the former capital city, horses were illustrated as dragon horses, which were horses that turned out to be dragons.

These could be seen on walls between the entrance road and the yards of buildings such as communal houses, pagodas, temples or family temples.

The dragon horses are visible on different ritual items today, including wooden altar carvings in important ritual buildings, following a 1000-year-old tradition in Hue.

At the mausoleum for kings of the Nguyen Dynasty, visitors can find many stone statutes of horses beside the statues of mandarins and elephants.

These life-size statues resemble real horses. Their faces look alive, just like a real one, making visitors feel like riding them. But riding these statues in the monuments is not encouraged.

A horse on a bronze item inside the Royal Palace in Hue. — VNS Photo Trong Binh

Around the former royal city, there are many temples where horses are objects of worship. They still have holy significance and people continue to light incense for them.

A term "ngua Thuong Tu" or "Thuong Tu horse" used for women in Hue has a close connection with horses and is listed as among the worst insults to women. Thuong Tu is one of the entrance gates to the former royal imperial city, where horse were kept caged for royal use. The sounds of the fierce horses could be heard by people around that area.

Thus the term "Thuong Tu horse" is used to describe a lady for being too fierce and uncontrollable or as wild as an untamed horse. Actually, it is a big insult to ladies in Hue, who are famous for their grace and beauty.

The images of and reference to horses in art and life shows the impact they have had on the people of the central province, generation after generation. — VNS

benjamin meshack - benjaminlupenza@yahoo.com   benjamin meshack
January, 31 2014 19:11:06
that is great
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