Phu Le Communal House - a great cultural relic in Ben Tre

The old Communal House of Phu Le lies 40 kilometers by road from the Ben Tre Township toward the province's seaside district. It is seen as a place of spiritual inspiration and worship by the local people. Based on writings on remained stone stelae, historians have proved that the Phu Le Communal House was officially built under a directive by the Minh Mang King of the Nguyen Dynasty, issued on June 14, 1862. On April 14, 1896, the Communal House was first erected with very simple materials (thatched roof, wooden columns, board waffles, and laterite floorings) and on the land donated by Mr Le Van Sung. In 1923, the structure was renovated and became one of the largest communal houses of the province. 

Phu Le Communal House is a house of 10 apartments, in which the 6 main apartments are built-in to the house roof, the rest 4 apartments are specially used as guest rooms and the kitchen.

In 1945, under the war threats, many worshiping and decorative objects were brought into hide by local people following a call by the management council. All brass instruments and tools were intended to be used in the brass work for making weaponry for used in the guerrilla war. Unfortunately, the intention was unable to be fulfilled when the French colonial troops poured into the commune and occupied the Communal House. So the materials were also brought into hide.

After the war, only worshiping objects were returned to the Communal House and have been laid there until now. In 1972, the Communal House was again repaired due to war damages.

In 1950, the Communal House was again totally rebuilt on the same old ground base, with contributions from the commune's people. The new Communal House was built with concrete walls, new roof tiling, and more new concrete columns. The main reception hall was rebuilt with corrugated roof in 1967.

Phu Le Communal House is of high value thanks to not only the antique factor, but also its valuable artistic carving and engraving works and many other old-time decoratives made by craftmen from the
Central Vietnam
. Today, one of its halls was degraded and has never been able to repaired due to lack of funding.

According to local elderly, the Communal House was used as a place of worship to the Tutelary God. Worshiping rites are held twice a year, on the 18th and 19th days of the Third Lunar month and the 9th and 10th days of the Eleventh Lunar month. The Third Lunar month ceremony is called the Ky Yen (Pray for Peace), at which people pray to the God to bless for peace and good life. The Eleventh month ceremony is called the Cau Bong (Pray for Good Crops), which is asking for a good crop season to come.

Besides, there are other worshiping events at the Communal House on the main ram (the 15th of each Lunar month) occasions of the First, Seventh, the Tenth, and on July 27 every year. On such occasions, local people, and some from other parts of the province, gather to the Communal House to pray for whatever they wish to.

The ceremonies at the Communal House are also occasions for the whole community to come and share their life stories, to exchange information on various topics, from the very niches of their village life to even worldwide events. And, there is the indispensable nights of hat boi (a form of triditional drama). 

Though its original designs and features have been largely damaged by the two wars decades ago, and degraded through time, the Phu Le Communal House remains to be a symbol of the Vietnamese finest traditional morality: the loyalty of the people and the way of social living behaviour among the neighbourhoods.

So, visiting the Phu Le Communal House, tourists not only have chances to look at an artistic structure, but they also are able to sink themselves in the ancient and tranquil air of the House itself.

Written by: 
(http://english.bentre.gov.vn)

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