Saturday,  09/18/2021

Ky Lua Street – a unique cultural heritage of Xu Lang

(LSO) – In the maps of the French colonial period (before the August Revolution, 1945), we often see Ky Lua street written with the meaning of the center of Lang Son province. It is one of the large ancient towns formed in the early days in the far border areas of our country. It is a trading place between Vietnam and China, between the lowlands and the mountainous area, between localities in the province; Ky Lua street becomes a converging space, preserving the unique and special cultural, material and spiritual values ​​of Xu Lang in the past years.

From Doan Thanh – the administrative center of Xu Lang across the Ky Cung river wharf, we have moved from “the provincial side” to “the Ky Lua side”, the center is the market. Cultural researchers believe that Ky Lua street was formed very early. In the 11th and 12th centuries, the trading and exchange between traders from Vietnam and China took place there. By the end of the 17th century, along with the migration of the Chinese community from China to the southern and central provinces of our country, they also came to do business and settle in Ky Lua Street founded by Than Cong Tai. In 1717, Trinh Lord officially allowed the Chinese to reside in Ky Lua and 4 other areas in Vietnam because they had a long residence history there. Lang Son’s written materials including the stele named “Ton su phu bi” (to respectfully honor the master – created in 1680), Thanh pagoda bell (created in 1697), Ky Lua bridge stone stele (created in 1724), geographic book, ancient map … show that the Chinese people in Ky Lua street are very crowded, they live in separate areas in the market. By the end of the 19th century, Ky Lua had the street of Guangdong and Guangxi people … The combination, cultural exchange between the Chinese and indigenous residents over the centuries have gradually been shaped, creating a diverse and unique cultural identity of residents in the market town.

The book Lang Son Doan Thanh map by Nguyen Nghiem (compiled in 1758) outlines the appearance of Ky Lua street at that time clearly “Streets followed streets, indigenous people and Chinese people lived together. The street had a 6-session monthly market, selling all kinds of goods … The clear photos of the French taken at the end of the 19th century show that Ky Lua market street was very crowded and busy at that time. The tube houses were roofed with tile, with adjacent leveled eaves on the street side which were characterized by Chinese architectural style that were both used for accommodation and shop. In the market, “the indigenous and the Chinese” were busy trading. There were plentiful of agricultural products, agricultural tools, jewelry, conical hats, incense, ceramic containers, cigarettes, pipe tobacco, groceries…

Ky Lua market street in the early 20th century. Collected photo

The physical cultural imprint of Ky Lua Street at that time was also cultural, religious and living works, in which many architectures bore the color of Chinese culture. In the center of the market street, there was Ta Phu temple, built in 1683 to worship Than Cong Tai – the person who opened and founded Ky Lua market street to create conditions for the people of the two countries to do business and trade. There were the temple of Bac De, Quan Cong – the saints who were popularly worshiped in Chinese beliefs. Later, Quan Cong temple was built and expanded to become Ky Lua Assembly Hall – a place of worship and cultural and spiritual activities of the Chinese people here. There used to be an ancient stone bridge over the stream, now only a tetrahedron stele was left in 1724 stating the construction of the bridge. A little further down was the Ky Cung Temple, which worshiped the river god – one of the 17 sacred temples of the town, built orderly in the Le Trung Hung period (18th century). The passing ambassadors had to enter it to greet. Today, the material cultural heritages of Ky Lua street are increasingly enriched by the presence of revolutionary historical relics and new religious relics such as house No. 8 on Chinh Cai street (marking the life and the career of comrade Hoang Van Thu), the temple to worship Tran Hung Dao …

Not only converging typical material values, this is also a place to preserve very special cultural and spiritual values. That is the customs and beliefs of worshiping great people who considerably contributed to the people and country: Than Cong Tai, Tran Hung Dao saint… Associated with the above belief are the festivals that are considered to be of the largest scale of Xu Lang, which lasts from 22 to 27 January every year: Ky Cung – Ta Phu temple festival, Ky Lua cannon head festival, Ky Lua fair … Market street space becomes a gathering place, clearly displaying people’s cultural identity through the colors of traditional costumes, the procession ceremony, the folk games and performances, folk songs, folk dances of the Tay, Nung … In the documentary photos trom the end of the 19th century, we can see the jubilant and bustling atmosphere of the traditional festival through the Chinese procession in the market. Not only that, the market street is also the place where many layers of cultural sediments through periods of the community living here. Ky Luu market can be considered the “cradle” of many famous traditional crafts, special dishes belonging to the culinary quintessence of Xu Lang such as roasted pork, roasted duck, sour pho, khau nhuc, and cao xang, egg rolling cake, ap chao … Market is not only a place to buy and sell, but also a place to meet and mate with young Tay and Nung men and women during market days.

In the history, the market street in Xu Lang border area used to be the subject, the writing trend of poets and author of the Middle Ages every time they had the opportunity to come here. Ky Lua entered the poetry of many famous cultural celebrities: Nguyen Tong Khue (Nguyen Tong Quai, 1693 -1767), Ninh Ton (1744-1795), Phan Huy Chu (1782-1840) … with its prosperous and busy look.

Ky Lua under the shade of the trees

The house is surrounded with embroidered silk

Traders regularly visit

The two countries exchange in the market for six sessions

(New story report – Nguyen Tong Khue)

Those poems are also valuable cultural and spiritual heritages that our ancestor left behind for the next generations. It can be said that Ky Lua has given us profound insights into the process of urban development, trade and cultural exchange in the border area of the country.

In a not very large space, Ky Lua is the place to preserve the cultural heritages considered the most valuable and typical of Xu Lang with three national-ranked relics, one provincial-ranked relic, one national intangible cultural heritage associated with many relics, precious antiques etc.