Ancient port with hundreds of relic sites
(No.2, Vol.9,Apr-May 2019 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)
By the mid-17th century, Hien Township was bustling with the trade of silk, tussore, chiffon, velvet, gold, silver, bronze etc. Traders came here from Asian and European countries such as England, France, Holland, Japan and China.
The level of development of Hien was comparable with that of Thang Long, the capital, as was related in the saying, ‘First the capital, then come streets of Hien.’
Sitting on the big Red River, convenient for both river and marine transportation, Hien has attracted merchants from all over the world.
By late 19th Century, King Gia Long moved the Hien international port to another location. Since then, has Hien gradually changed.
Today, the ancient 20.151 km2 town of Hien stands at the center of Hung Yen City, Hung Yen Province, about 55km from Hanoi.Having undergone turbulent times and destructive wars, Hien township has managed to preserve hundreds of valuable historical and cultural relics, including 18 architectural sites recognized as national historical and cultural heritage.
Most of the ancient relic sites are located within the space of 5km2 that belongs to Dang Chau Village (Lam Son Ward) and Ne Chau Village (Hong Chau Ward).
One of the most famous sites at Hien is the Xich Dang Temple of Literature, aka Hung Yen Temple of Literature, which was built in the 17th century to worship Confucius and Vietnam’s most scholarly distinguished historical figures and to promote knowledge and scholastic traditions of Hung Yen. Today, Xich Dang Temple of Literature still preserves valuable relics such as nine stone steles that record the names and merits of ancient Hung Yen scholars, a bronze bell (1804), and a stone gong (1803).
To locals and visitors, the most attractive site of Hien, however, is the Chuong Pagoda, or the Pagoda of the Golden Bell, built during the Le Dynasty and famous for the legend about the golden bell. Chuong Pagoda still preserves many ancient artifacts, most notably the ‘Ten Edifice Underworld King’, depicting the punishments people will have to endure in the afterlife, and the 18 statues of the Arahants with all the facial expressions of mundane life.
The inhabitants of Hien have preserved not only the tangible, but also the intangible cultural values of the ancient town, which are vividly displayed during the Sequence of Folk Culture Festivals of Hien that takes place in the 3rd lunar month every year. Dedicated to honoring Buddha, deities and great historical figures of Hung Yen, this Sequence of Festivals attracts tens of thousands of locals and tourists.
The Sequence of Festivals of Hien, soaked in Hung Yen local culture, has many sacred spiritual ceremonies as well as folk games and fun activities such as flying lamps, boat races, cock fights and tug of war… These lively activities make it easier for people to imagine what life was like in the past heydays of Hien township.