by Van Dat
No secret to longevity
When you ask 71-year-old Luyen how his mother and her sister have managed to be stay healthy for more than 100 years, he scratches his head, puzzled.
He cannot pinpoint any reason, except that the twin sisters live in harmony, eat plain food, and take care of themselves.
Vi Thi Dac and Vi Thi Cac, residents of Phu Tho Province's Cam Khe District are 101 years old and record holders for the longest living twins in the country.
The twins are always smiling as they welcome guests to their home. Dac is healthier than her sister and is more humorous.
They have not been addicted to anything but betel leaves that they chew on despite having no teeth left.
The record recognition came to them by chance after their grandson read a story about a pair of twins that had lived for long in the world. He saw that his grandmothers could beat that record. He secretly applied for the recognition to make it a 100th year present for them.
Sound as a bell
They consider the centuries-old bronze bell a sacred treasure, but are not too worried about it being stolen.
The residents of Tan Phong Commune in the northern province of Hoa Binh are confident the bell can take very good care of itself. They will tell you that the bell, made in 1790, cannot be moved out of the commune. Just ask the thieves who have tried to steal it, they will add.
The story, nay, stories go that the farthest the bell can be moved is to the border of the commune. It will not cross that line.
Bui Van Eu, an elder in the commune, says that in the past, the bell was installed in the region's biggest pagoda called Khai An, built in the 17th century. In 1950, officials of the colonial French administration knocked down the pagoda for materials despite opposition from the locals. They carried away all the materials, except the bell.
After the liberation of North Viet Nam in 1954, the bell was used by a co-operative in the commune to sound time for workers in the local plantation. Hence, for several generations in the commune, the bell has been a part of daily life.
One winter morning in 1976, the bell went missing. The people were afraid that it had been stolen to sell to antique dealers. A few days later, a young "buffalo boy" found the bell at the border of the commune.
Bui Van Ly was the child that discovered the bell. He says that when villagers came to bring back the bell, they saw several footprints that sank deep into the soil, and several trees in the area had fallen down. It looked as though someone had carried an extremely heavy object, not an 80kg bell. However, when people of Tan Phong Commune brought the bell back, just two people to carry it.
A similar situation happened two years later. The people of the commune ran around looking for the missing bell. Yet again, a buffalo boy found it about 100 metres from the position it had been found two years earlier. And surprise, surprise, there were several deep footprints around the bell and trees in the vicinity had been trampled.
Local police said they could identify the thieves, but locals suggested that investigation be dropped.
A deadly fate soon befell the three persons involved in the attempted robbery, people said. The first was bitten by a snake while cutting wood in the forest. The second man fell down from a mountain when he was collecting bastard cardamom seeds. The third was beaten to death elsewhere while stealing.
Now, the commune plans to rebuild the pagoda and return the bell to its original place of honour. — VNS