No matter how far they may roam, rural people can never forget the image of their native village’s temple. The powerful symbol of community spirit is also an irreplaceable repository of local culture and traditions.
Together with two other common village symbols - the banyan tree and the well - the temple is essential to the spiritual life of almost all people in rural areas.
Dinh Bang village temple in Bac Ninh. (Source: VOVNews
The village temple serves as a common playground for kids, a place of worship for adults, and an ideal meeting hall for village elders to impart their wisdom to youngsters.
Every village in the countryside has its own temple and grounds that transform into a venue for religious rituals and contests during traditional festivals. The temple is also a launching pad for national patriotic movements or acts of charity.
The lead-up to the spring and Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday is an especially busy time as villagers make use of temple ground for communal preparations and celebrations. They gather for music and dance performances, and folk games like wrestling, ball throwing, and tug-of-war.
For centuries, the village temple has functioned as both a communal house and a place of worship dedicated to village founders and other notables who are seen as the source of all wisdom.
Hang Kenh village temple in Haiphong. (Source: VOVNews)
As a token of local culture, lifestyle and traditions, a typical village temple is built on highest ground with its huge wooden pillars resting on square stones. The temple roof is often constructed to evoke the shape of a ship and its intricate decoration includes images of dragons, flowers of four seasons, and human activity.
Villagers assemble at their temple on special occasions to offer incense and pray for fair weather, happiness, prosperity, and good luck.
Many old village temples have been preserved in good shape. Some like Dinh Bang temple in Bac Ninh, Hang Kenh temple in Haiphong, and Tra Co temple in Quang Ninh are living proof of original architectural styles which already reached a high level of civilization centuries ago.
Pillars of village temple. (Source: VOVNews)
Their impressive features are mentioned in local metaphors and similes to describe things, for instance, “as big as village temple pillars”, or “as huge as a village temple”. The image of the village temple is also depicted in poems and folksongs, as in the saying:
“Qua đình ngả nón trông đình,
Đình bao nhiêu ngói thương mình mấy nhiêu”
(Passing by, she doffs her hat towards the temple,
Her pangs of love could match its richly tiled roof).