HA GIANG, A LAND OF RUGGED, ROCKY MOUNTAINS AND MYSTERIOUS VALLEYS, IS ENVELOPED IN ENIGMATIC STORIES. ONE SUCH MYSTERIOUS STORY IS TIED TO THE NAME VUONG DUC CHINH, A MAN ALWAYS CREDITED WITH HONOR IN THE HISTORY BOOKS OF DONG VAN HIGHLANDS AND THE SA PHIN VALLEY.
Vuong King Palace in Ha Giang
Although Sa Phin valley nowadays is not the same as it was at Duc’s age, its topographic conditions remain. Duc’s mansion is still there, layered with dust. It seems as if very single inch of ground, every 100 year-old pine tree and even every market day in this region is somehow related to Duc. The Sa Phin market in front of Duc’s mansion, for example, was set up by Duc.
Duc was a king. Some believe that he was a self-appointed king, while others believe Duc was elected to be king by the Hmong people. The story of how Duc became king varies.
Vuong Duc Chinh Portrait with Vuong Duc One story begins several decades before the mansion called Nha Vuong (“Vuong’s House) was built, when Duc, born into a poor family, worked as a hired laborer for the great tribal chief Hoang Tu Binh. Duc traveled daily through Sa Phin valley, usually dropping by for a rest after a hard day’s work atop a hill. It wassaid that when resting at this hill one day, Duc heard other people discussing the rumor that whoever built a home j in the shape of a tortoise shell on that hilltop spot would become a king in the future. Due decided to j do just that.
There are other beliefs of how Duc
became king. Some say that Duc asked a Chinese geomancer to survey throughout the region. The geomancer went far and wide until he reached Sa Phin valley, where he saw a land raised up like a tortoise shell. It looked like a place where the Tortoise Deity set up a kingdom.
The two facing hills looked like two trays of sticky-rice, indicating a rich source of food for all generations to come. The mountains behind were like the arched walls, indicating a firm back for Duc’s clan to rely on. Whatever truth lies at the origin, Sa Phin valley was the place where Duc chose to build his mansion.
Upon entering the Vuong mansion, two parallel tombs are visible. One is the tombs is of Duc’s first wife and ismade of stone with sophisticated engravings of bats and flying old fairy-men. The other tomb is of Duc’s son Vuong Chi Sinh or Vuong Chi Thanh, the name given by President Ho Chi Minh when Duc’s son came to Hanoi as a representative of the National Assembly Course I of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Past the thick stonewalls sit a big gate made of iron and wood. In the past, this gate was always shut and guarded as a checking point. This gate was the only entrance and was operated by guards under Duc’s orders.
The Vuong mansion was built according to Manchu architecture on an area of 1,200 square meters. Talented workmen built the mansion from marble, pine woodand terracotta tiles. The entire compound includes 4 horizontal houses and 6 long houses. All the houses are two floors with 64 rooms in total. The walls are made of stone, the inside made of with wooden planks, wooden pillars, and beams. Beside the tiled roof is a veranda covered by tube tiles, with tiles at the top of the veranda decorated with the lettering “Tho”.
Main gate to Vuong's House
The layout of mansion is divided into 3 layers, descending from the outside
in. Two deep inside corners were built into two marble blockhouses with 3 floors, with the first floor connecting to the back building. Past 15 stone steps at the front building, a lacquered board is engraved with Chinese characters that read "This border Area’s authority is strong.” This was Duc’s wish.
The entire mansion compound took 8 years to build and cost 150 thousand silver coins. At the time, one silver coin could buy 50 kilograms of corn, which could last a Hmong family for a month.
According to Vuong Quynh Seo, the great-grandchild of Vuong Chinh Duc, there were about 60 guards at the mansion. Other records showed, however, that there were only about 30 guards. Besides protecting the mansion, the guards also escorted and watched criminals being prosecuted. Criminals usually had committed crimes such as tax defaults or robbery. Great penalties were applied to criminals for two reasons: first, to display Vuong Chinh Duc’s power and second, as a warning to others. People were afraid even when the penalties were just read out loud.
The inhabitants inside the mansion were always more than 100 people, including all the members of the Vuong household such as his three wives, his children and their spouses, his grandchildren, maids, servants, workmen, guards, and his servant in chief. The mansion was crowded, but there was enough
food and water and weapons stored to defend the compound for a year in case it was attacked.
Vuong Chi Sinh was one of Duc’s most prominent children. He was the second child and, gaining Duc’s trust, was sent to China and Hanoi for further study. Sinh was brilliant, firm and hopeful that his education would help him to be more intellectual in ruling his people. When Sinh was invited to be a People’s Representative in the National Assembly, Duc felt too old and thus introduced his second child Sinh to take over this responsibility.
After staying in Hanoi until 1961, Sinh passed away. His coffin was moved next to his mother’s tomb in front of the Vuong mansion and
and engraved with a quote by President Ho Chi Minh: “Life devoted for the country – No acceptance of a slave.” This is still the living motto Vuong Chinh Duc’s descendents today.
Vuong King Palace Ha Giang
By: Kim Huong
Source: Heritage – Vietnam Airlines