Viet Nam News
A miniature house - fashioned with a hand-crafted tiled roof, haystack, kitchen, hen house and furniture - creates a lifelike representation of what northern Vietnamese homes looked like in 1945. Minh Thu reports.
Upon closer inspection, the house with its old furniture bears the architecture of traditional houses in the northern rural region during the mid twentieth century. But from a distance, we realise we must be the size of Barbie dolls to live there.
The miniature house, which is about 2sq.m, accurately reflects the lives of people in northern rural areas in 1945. It has an old tiled roof, haystack, kitchen, hen coop and furniture inside. The house is shadowed by bonsai trees, which are trimmed elegantly to match the size of the house.
The work belongs to Nguyễn Văn Trường from Hải Phòng City, who is passionate about ornamental trees.
Trường said the former owner of the house is a retired teacher from the northern province of Bắc Ninh. He spent three years creating it with the aim of reflecting the house of his ancestors and reminding descendants of their origin.
All parts of the house were made by hand. He moulded each tile to make the roof, pottery jars, cement water tank, wooden pigeon aviary, bamboo partition and wooden furniture. When the house was finished, its owner left it outdoors, and the sunlight and rain helped paint it with the colours of time for a weathered appearance.
“I saw the house 10 years ago and fell in love with it at first sight,” said Trường.
“The old teacher wanted to leave the house to his grandchildren to help them understand how their ancestors had lived. So it wasn’t easy at all to convince him to sell it to me.
“Sometimes, I visited him and the little house. We became friends despite the distance between our ages. We took care of the house together.”
One day, Trường told the old teacher that the house lacked something. He wanted to add more trees and a fish pond in front of the brick yard to make it look livelier.
Finally, the teacher sympathised with Trường’s love for the house. He decided to sell it to Trường with the belief that Trường could make it better and introduce it to more people.
Trường then brought the house to Hải Phòng. He burned tiny bricks to build a wall surrounding the house. Then he combined the house with several bonsai to create a miniature living landscape.
It took a long time to find suitable trees to grow near the house, Trường said.
“I found the trees people often grow around their houses like banana and hibiscus,” he said.
“Bonsai is an art of growing a plant in a container for contemplation and the pleasantness of effort and ingenuity,” he added.
“Bonsai can be created from nearly any perennial woody-stemmed tree or shrub species that can be cultivated to remain small through pot confinement with crown and root pruning. Meanwhile, the banana plant is a tree-like herb with a soft body, so it’s not easy to trim bananas. I just tried to find a naturally stunted one.
“I trim the trees everyday to restrict their growth; otherwise they would destroy the space of the house. Bonsai art is a never-ending journey.”
He completed the artwork with a total area of over 2sq.m with a traditional ba gian hai chái house (consisting of three compartments and two lean-tos); a brick ground with auxiliary works like a hen coop and water tank; a kitchen; a pigsty; and a pond with water ferns and steps leading to the water. He named it Quê Nội (My Homeland).
The artwork was displayed at the Ornamental Plants and Pets Festival, which was held earlier this month in Hà Nội. It attracted the attention of many visitors, who expressed their delight in contemplating it.
Trần Quang Nhượng from Ba Vì District remarked that the artwork’s creators must have been patriots.
“I can feel the nostalgia, patriotism and love for the homeland through this artwork,” said Nhượng.
“This is a familiar landscape to many people, but now, as the rural area is urbanised and modernised, not many houses are preserving traditional architecture. This work reminds us of the past and tradition.
“People who live far from home must be moved when they see this because it’s like they can see the old house of their family.” VNS