LANG SON

Lang Son is a northeastern province which is located on the Sino-Vietnamese border over a stretch of 253km. The capital of Lang Son, 500m above sea level, is situated on the left bank of Ky Cung River. Opposite the town and on the far side of the river is Ky Lua Market. The market is accessible by means of the Ky Cung bridge. Standing on the bridge, visitors can see a high mountain peak resembling a woman with a baby in her hands. From time immemorial, the peak has been given the name of Vong Phu (Awaiting one's husband). Legend has it that Lady To Thi with a baby in her hands stood there day and day waiting for the return of the husband who had gone to war. She waited so long that both her and her child were turned into stone. Dong Dang, a town on the Sino-Vietnamese border, is 14km from Lang Son town. Just three kilometres to the east of Dong Dang is the Huu Nghi (Friendship) border gate. As long as living memory can testify, the border gate has been a major point for the exchange of goods between Vietnamese and Chinese living on either side of the border areas. After a period of border conflicts, the border gate has once again opened to traders and visitors of the two countries. Lang Son has favourable climatic conditions and is home to some valuable fruits such as pears, plums and Japanese persimmons. Lang Son is also home to some picturesque grottoes, especially Tam Thanh Grottoes (Nhat Thanh, Nhi Thanh, Tam Thanh). The most famous is Tam Thanh on the western end of Ky Lua street, because it resembles a crouching elephant on a vast grassy field. The entrance to the grotto is almost obscured from sunlight, because it is covered with a dense foliage of trees. High on the wall to the right side of the entrance , there remains a poem carved deep into the stone. The poem was written by Ngo Thi Si (1726- 1780) when he was stationed in Lang Son as the commander of the Lang Son military post. Ngo Thi Si praised the beauty of the magnificent mountain and landscapes possessed by Lang Son. Inside the grotto is a statue of Buddha. Many stalactites and stalagmites make the grotto look more picturesque and mystical. Ngo Thi Si was the person who discovered Nhi Thanh Grotto. The name Nhi Thanh was chosen by Ngo Thi Si to commemorate his birth place in Ta Thanh Oai village in Thanh Oai district in Ha Tay province. To commemorate his great contributions to the grotto, Ngo Thi Si had his portrait carved on an interior wall.

Song Ky Cung - Lang Son

To Thi

REVOLUTIONARY BAC SON

"Whoever comes back to visit the mountain district of Bac Son

Will remember the time when forest leaves were stained with blood

(...) The gold-starred red flags of guerrillas of the August Revolution

Fluttered over combat zones

Oh ! Bac Son, where enemy troops were destroyed

Bac Son, the area of forests and hills sheltering our military base!..."

"That winter evening" - the revolutionary song written by Van Cao (author of our national anthem) - was sung around a fire burning in a house on stilts in Bac Son, a district of the border province of Lang Son. The emotion felt in the voices of the singers, two former militants of the Viet Minh - Dr. Hoi and his colleague Hien, both in their seventies now - deeply moved their audience of Vietnamese pilgrims, who had participated in the August 1945 revolution and the First Resistance War, and their French and American companions.

Our group had started from Ha Noi and travelled 79 kilometres by car before arriving in Thai Nguyen, capital of the province of the same name (Thai Nguyen and Bac Can have merged and formed the present province of Bac Thai). Thai Nguyen was the first town liberated by the Viet Minh following its foundation in 1941. In the first war of resistance (1945 - 1954), the northern highlands of Viet Bac were its stronghold with Thai Nguyen and Bac Can sheltering its headquarters. In the second war of resistance, Thai Nguyen was razed to the ground by American air bombings. It has been rebuilt and is now a municipality which boasts a richly documented Museum of Nationalities, a metallurgical industry, and a School of Culture and Art of Ethnic Minorities. From Thai Nguyen, we turned right to enter the province of Lang Son. After driving 77 kilometres along a rough road, we came to Bac Son at sunset. Near the main street of the district centre, a Ty village was bathed in the mist together with the limestone hills in the background. Most of its houses were built of bamboo and wood, a rarity now in the highlands where wood-and-bamboo houses-on-stilts have been replaced by brick ones built at ground level. The landscape before our eyes evoked a wash-drawing in the traditional Chinese style. For a better understanding of the role played by Bac Son and its population of ethnic minorities at the time of the Revolution, we must come back to the year 1940 when the Japanese fascist army issued an ultimatum to the French colonial forces then occupying Vietnam (and Indochina). By way of intimidation, the Japanese attacked the French garrison in Lang Son, which withdrew to Ha Noi via Bac Son. The embryonic revolutionary forces of Bac Son, made up of members of ethnic minorities, with the support of the local population, availed themselves of the occasion to disarm the fleeing troops and seize the military post of V Nhai. Many indigenous soldiers of the post joined the revolutionary forces. Soon, however, the Japanese with French complicity set about repressing the revolution. The Bac Son insurrection was crushed. Following a directive of the Communist Party, the Bac Son guerrillas under the command of Chu Van Tan (a member of the Nung minority who later became an army general) formed themselves into the first squads of the National Salvation Troops (Cuu Quoc Quan), who took refuge at the Chinese border from where they returned in 1943 to engage under Viet Minh command in operations of "armed propaganda" which contributed to the building of the first bases of the Viet Bac liberated zone. In late 1944, on order from HoChi Minh, Vo Nguyen Giap set up the first unit of the Armed Propaganda Brigade for the Liberation of Vietnam. In April 1945, it merged with the forces of the National Salvation troops to become the Liberation Army of Vietnam. The Bac Son insurrection illustrated a historical truth: Traditional solidarity between the Viet majority ethnic group and the minorities. Economic solidarity between people living in the lowlands who needed forest products and highland people who needed salt and metal tools. Political solidarity when it came to fighting against foreign invaders: The Mongols in the 13th century, the Ming in the 15th, the French and Americans in the 19th and 20th centuries. (VNS)

CHUA TIEN

Chua Tien which means "Pagoda of Fairies", was built during the reign of Le Thanh Ton (1460-1497) in a small cave found in an elephant-shaped mountain. The pagoda is located south of Lang Son town, half a kilometre from Ky Lua bridge. A mountain emerges from the surrounding rice fields, with red brick houses cuddled together on the steep, rocky-covered slopes. The scenery is half-real, half-mystical, with clouds covering the tops of the hills. From the first moment, they set foot on the mountain, the traveller is taken aback by the circling, snake-like paths leading to the cave. Every year, when spring arrives, Cua Tien opens its gate to welcome pilgrims from all corners of the country. They come here to pay tribute to the fairies, to visit the scenic spot and to say prayers. Having walked up the 64 steps and passed the main entrance, the traveller is struck by the sight of a 400-year-old bonze bell. It is 0.80 m high, 2 cm thick and has a diameter of 0.40 m. On the wall near the bell are four Chinese characters "Dai Tuong Phat Tich" and 12 large and small epitaphs. The beautiful handwriting must be that of Ngo Thi Si (1726-1780), a famous scholar under the reign of Le Hien Ton. In the middle of the cave, there are 12 statues. Behind the 12 statues, one can see on the wall five Chinese characters "Song Tien Dong Co Doanh" (meaning "Ancient Cave of the Twin Fairies"). The characters incised there are too beautiful to be real. The Song Tien cave consists of three areas: in the middle is the Tam Bao temple worshipping the arhats, on the right is a temple worshipping Tran Hung Dao, the great national hero underNha Tran who defeated the Mongol invaders, and on the left is a temple worshipping Thanh Mau (Mother Goddess) and the souls of deceased Buddhist believers. The legend goes that once upon a time, a male fairy was reigning over the Dai Tuong mount. One year, the surrounding area was affected by severe drought, and the soil was scorched and nothing could be grown. The people had to endure a lot of hardship and misery. Moved by the people's untold suffering, the old male fairy disguised himself as a beggar and wandered through all the corners of region. When he arrived at this arid spot, he met with a group of children. He played with them awhile, then inquired after their plight. Then he told the children to close their eyes. He thumped his foot on the ground and vanished into thin air. The children opened their eyes to find in front of them a well full of water. Since then, the villagers have not worried about a lack of water. And they called the well "Tien Well". A temple was erected to pay tribute to the fairy. There is another legend about two fairies playing chess. They were so absorbed in the game that they became stone. Hence the name "Twin Fairies". Now, in the middle of the cave ,you can see the statue of an old man with a white goatee, his head bent forward as if he was thinking of a move. (VNS)

*Lang Son - Tourism Potential for Development

The scenery in Lang Son, a northern border province, grabs the attention of visitors as they travel through these "magical" landscapes endowed by nature. Historical relics and the cultural traditions of ethnic minorities in the north-eastern region of the country also complement the province's unique natural surroundings. Caves, grottoes, pagodas, ancient temples and many old stele are some of the fascinating sights awaiting the visitor to Lang Son. Travelling around the provincial town, visitors will have a chance to see wonderful places such as the Nhat-Nhi-Tam Thanh (first-second and third) grottoes, the Tien pagoda, the Ky Cung rock bank, the Ngo Thi Si stele, the Tran temple, and the Thanh pagoda, all found in a tourist area named after the grottoes. In addition to the beautiful landscapes and an excellent climate, Lang Son is a cradle of the unique cultural traditions of many ethnic minorities, including their customs and habits, codes of conduct, stilt houses, traditional costumes and folk songs and dances. The Sli, Then and Luon songs performed by the Tay and Nung ethnic groupings can be enjoyed and their special food and drink sampled in Lang Son. In 1994, the province received more than 4,000 visitors from foreign countries and every year, thousands of Vietnamese travel to Lang Son from various parts of the country, including many pilgrims to the various shrines and ancient holy places. In order to make full use of the province's potential for tourist development, a large sum of money has been invested in restoring many historical structures and in building various tourist destinations of both historical and cultural interest. Joint efforts were made between the Tourism Department and the Cultural Department of Lang Son to this effect in 1994 and about VND900 million was invested in the repair of stone footsteps, bridges and lighting systems in Nhi Thanh and Tam Thanh grottoes. Over VND3.2 billion was invested in rebuilding Hoang Van Thu park and a number of historical sites. The local people have also donated money to restore or repair many temples and pagodas. The provincial authorities have outlined a master plan to boost tourist development to the year 2000. In addition to projects to restore different sites, there are plans to build the Mau Son tourist village where various ethnic minorities reside and further develop the Tam Thanh tourist complex. Efforts will be accelerated to make full use of the cultural traditions of the ethnic people living in the province as a tourist attraction. On the other hand, numerous recreation places will be built, including sites for mountain climbing, hunting, rowing, horse riding or sightseeing. This will be done together with further encouragement of the performance traditional folk songs and dances by every ethnic minority. Lang Son is calling for more investments from domestic sources for these plans and is seeking foreign partners to carry out these projects to help build tourism into an important economic sector for the future of the province. (VNS)

 

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