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Sands of time keep one villager smiling

Update: March, 13/2012 - 16:24

 

Prime examples: Businessman Hoang Phuoc Chi shows some of his ancient pottery collection. He has donated nearly 450 items, which were taken from OLau River, to the provincial museum. — VNS Photos Ngoc Van
A Vietnamese businessman has donated hundreds of ancient items to Thua Thien-Hue's Museum of History and Revolution. Ngoc Van reports

In 2010, a Vietnamese businessman donated more than 270 ancient pottery pieces and 60 rare coins from China's Tang and Song dynasties to the Thua Thien-Hue Museum of History and Revolution.

It wasn't the first time that Hoang Phuoc Chi, who owns a building materials company in Phong Binh Commune in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue, had been charitable.

In 2008, the 45-year old businessman donated 172 ancient objects to the museum. Chi became a collector in 2002 after being given items found by sand miners along the O Lau River. These objects included lime pots, vases and decanters dating back to the 15th century and are believed to have been made at the renowned Phuoc Tich pottery village.

"It is wasteful to keep such precious old items for myself only," he said. "If I sold them for money, I would not have an opportunity to see them again. So I decided to donate them to the museum. I want no recognition from the Government and only hope that the objects our ancestors left us can be viewed by their descendants in the future."

However, Chi has accepted a certificate of merit for his benevolence from the provincial department of culture, sports and tourism.

It all started in the year 2000 when Chi was visiting the banks of the O Lau River to buy sand for construction work. One of the sand miners gave him a lime pot as a gift and Chi was so attracted to its simplicity that he became a collector.

When he brought his first items home, his parents asked what he was doing. His wife complained that broken pottery was not a good thing to have around a business. However, they were eventually convinced when Chi explained their historical and cultural value.

At first, sand miners gave him the antique pottery and ceramics as presents, but gradually, realising their value, they asked Chi to pay VND300,000-400,000 (US$14-19) for each item. He displayed the items in his house and arranged them into different categories based on their origin, such as Cham, Phuoc Tich and Chu Dau.

At present, he only has 20 old items in his own possession, but he hopes to collect more to present to the museum.

Chi is well-known in his home town not only for his significant contributions but also for his kindness. When Chi was still a student, he often saved part of the household rice in small clay jars hidden in the corners of his house which he gave to beggars. When his mother found the hiding place she thought he was stealing the rice to sell.

When she realised the truth, she asked him to always remember poor people throughout his life. Her saying continues to replay in his mind. But Chi worries that a handful of rice or trousers for poor classmates are only stop-gap measures. That is why he is determined to be successful so that he can be of more help.

In 1997, Chi and some friends started a business with only VND1.6 million ($76) in capital to supply sand and building materials. Although he was the boss, he drove trucks full of sand, gravel and bricks himself.

In 2007, he established a separate business on his own. After four years, its annual revenue reached VND3.7 billion (nearly $178,000), creating stable jobs for nearly 15 locals.

In a great flood in November 1999, thousands of houses along the O Lau River were damaged and many people left homeless. Chi sold 100 tonnes of cement on credit to families and agreed to be paid either in rice, maize and potatoes or in installments over one to five years.

Not long after, the Government provided preferential loans for the victims to restore their homes. They used the money to pay him back - and buy more cement to support his business.

"Not only do I have a better business, it gives me the means to keep my collection going and help others," he said. — VNS

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