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Restoring the disappearing Co Tu clan homes

Update: August, 02/2015 - 19:44
Mountain lives: The clan house in Por'ning Village (Lang Commune). — VNA/VNS Photos Vu Cong Dien

The Co Tu ethnic minority's clan homes are seeing the dark side of modernisation: the destruction of tradition. But the district is working to change that. Nguyen Thanh-Trung Hieu reports.

In the mountainous Tay Giang District in the central province of Quang Nam, the clan houses of the Co Tu are gradually being restored as part of the efforts to preserve the traditional culture of the mountainous ethnic residents.

The Co Tu people have been living along the majestic Truong Son Mountains for many generations, and they preserve their unique culture which is as mysterious as their wild life in the mountains.

Since ancient times, their clan houses represent a unique culture and the good tradition of the Co Tu.

As the modern society witnessed development, many of the ancient cultural values have been diminishing, and clan houses had also been gradually disappearing.

To ensure that the ethnic cultural space comes alive with its original residents, Tay Giang District has over the past few years restored and replicated the model of the traditional Co Tu clan houses.

Until now, many villages and clans have restored their traditional houses.

Por'ning Village in Lang Commune is located at an isolated place in the middle of the jungle.

Here, a beautiful range of clan houses have been built by villagers who contributed both in terms of labour and assets.

In keeping with the requirements of the 10 large clans in the village, local people restored 10 traditional clan houses.

These houses have roofs made of thatch, and in the middle of each house, they have hung buffalo heads - the Co Tu's spiritual symbol.

These heads are surrounded by carved motifs that meticulously describe scenes of hunting, gathering, and festivals of the Co Tu.

Items such as bow and arrow, knives and earthern jars that their predecessors had used for generations are placed at the most prominent place to remind children of their ancestors.

In addition, the clan houses are a place for the descendants to discuss the major issues in the village.

The Clau is a large clan in Por'ning Village, and hence their clan house is also the biggest and the most beautiful.

Age-old craft: Ms. Xiec, the master craftswoman of Bho Hoong Hamlet, makes ornate patterns. Her products make their way as far as Hoi An, Ha Noi and HCM City.

Village chief Clau Nhap these days often discusses with his descendants how to donate land to build a new road.

Nhap says all his descendants are happy as they have built their house again.

"The clan house, in addition to its spiritual value, also represents unity, authority, and growth of each clan in the region. Looking at their house, the Co Tu admire their clan and remember the past ancestors," he says.

He added that in the past, all Co Tu villages had clan houses which were built on stilts or in the form of a traditional long house.

Depending on the conditions in each region, he says the clan houses can be divided into two types: the house on stilts where the Co Tu live in low areas, and the long house of the Co Tu who live in the highlands.

Both types of houses had a very unique architectural value, demonstrating the spirit of the community and cohesion among members of the clan.

Arat Blui, vice chairman of Tay Giang District, says the traditional culture of the Co Tu is the "village community culture".

"Preservation of cultural identity is the common responsibility of the whole community, and of each clan," he says.

The restoration and development of the traditional clan house is very important in the spiritual life of Co Tu people, as it encourages a new cultural life, and a new rural lifestyle, he says.

"The clan houses have contributed to the beauty of the mountainous villages. Not only has the traditional culture been preserved, these houses will be ideal location for tourists on their way to discover life style of the mountain residents," he says.

Palang Bung, deputy head of Culture and Information Office of Tay Giang District, says architecture of these clan houses is one of the unique cultural features, also the link to connect people in each village.

"The restoration and conservation of the clan house culture is a way to retain the good values of the Co Tu people," he says. — VNS

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