Kon Tum ancient town, tomorrow you will remember

The first time I came to Kon Tum, I couldn’t help but be surprised that a city on the Central Highlands had the appearance of a plain urban area, located in a flat valley, with the gentle Dak Bla river winding and embracing. Compact in the heart of a small city with gentle beauty, not hustle and bustle like other urban centers. Although according to the development trend of society, house architecture has changed a lot, I still recognize the nostalgia still lingering somewhere in a street corner, road… Fascinated by this, I I searched every page of documents and learned that after many historical ups and downs, immigration from many different lands of different ethnic groups came to this place to live. When the Kinh people settled here, Kon Tum has since become a residential area of ​​many ethnic groups and has formed the oldest town in the Central Highlands.

3.5.22 3.5.23Ancient houses on the corner of Ho Tung Mau Street, City. Kon Tum.

The fact that Western missionaries went to Ho Village (Kon Tum) to preach and did not choose Da Lat, Ban Me Thuot or Pleiku was due to its historical reasons, even though those other lands were favorable in many aspects. than the Kon Tum region at that time: geography, economy, culture. Because during the reign of Minh Mang (1820 – 1840), the Nguyen Dynasty issued an edict “Slaughtering the Left in Binh Tay”. To avoid being massacred or deported. Since 1846, Master Sau Do (later ordained a priest) obeyed the order of Bishop Stéphan Cuénot of Qui Nhon diocese to go west, choosing Kon Tum because at that time it was a completely isolated area, not affected by of the Nguyen family.

Kon Tum at that time was very wild and remote. Only the Ba Na, Xe Dang, Ja Rai… settled. Nguyen Do chose this place as a place to stop, carrying out the purpose of immigrating and building a Christian foundation in the mountains and forests of the Central Highlands. He recorded in his diary: “No Kinh villages have appeared here yet. Only a few sporadic groups of people from the An Luy area (later renamed An Khe) crossed the mountains to bring salt and needles to exchange for wild animal skins and ambarella…”. The merchants only stayed here for a few days, then returned home after exchanging goods, not daring to stay long.

Priest Do’s missionary process in Kon Tum developed strongly within 40 years (1846 – 1885). Most of the Ba Na villages along the banks of the Dak Bla River had converted to Buddhism such as the villages of KonRoBang, KonM’nai, ChuHreng… In 1885, to facilitate the care of parishioners, Nguyen Do gathered a number of small villages along the southern bank of the Dak Bla River. established Plei Rohai village. This is the first settlement-based administrative unit that later, together with other villages, established Kon Tum town.

3.5.24Trung Luong village communal house next to Phan Dinh Phung street, City. Kon Tum.

In the year of At Dau (1885), when Dong Khanh ascended the throne, he promptly issued an edict to establish Kon Tum religion with the first leader being Ton That Toai. When Ton That Toai took office, he recruited people from three provinces: Quang Nam, Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh to reclaim land and establish hamlets to create political position with the Kon Tum church of priest Nguyen Do. This is the first migration of Kinh people to Kon Tum. Some Kinh people, when coming to Kon Tum, abandoned Buddhism and adopted Catholicism for economic benefits, establishing Tan Huong village (also known as Cay Mit village, now Quyet Thang ward). Tan Huong Church was born from there (1886). On the royal side, leader Ton That Toai later founded Trung Luong village. The very name of the village shows the political consciousness of the Kinh people who settled here: “Loyalty means being loyal to the king and not following religion.” Currently, only traces of the old Trung Luong village remain: Trung Luong communal house.

During the reign of leader Vo Vong (1894), to expand his power and leadership. He allowed Mr. Ngo Tu, Dang Ngai and monk Phung Hien to establish Luong Khe village. By 1914, Luong Khe village communal house was built, spacious and majestic. Currently, in addition to the place to worship the village God, the people who have contributed to building Luong Khe village, the communal house is also a place for people in the province to organize the Hung King’s Anniversary every year.

3.5.25Luong Khe village communal house, located on Tran Phu street, City. Kon Tum.

After that, the Hue court appointed Mr. Vo Chuan as the governor of Kon Tum. Mr. Vo Chuan continued to mobilize people from Binh Dinh, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai… to explore and settle to establish Vo Lam village in the northern region of Kon Tum city. And he was also the person who was instrumental in exhorting people to build Bac Ai Pagoda (1932) to worship Buddhism according to the “Co Son Mon” sect. More and more people gathered here and established a village communal house and school, the Vo Lam communal house next to today’s Bac Ai Pagoda.

3.5.26Vo Lam Communal House, located on Mac Dinh Chi Street, City. Kon Tum.

With the villages of Tan Huong, Trung Luong, Luong Khe, Vo Lam… Kon Tum town was established. Despite the rugged terrain and difficult transportation, in return the rich nature, vast primeval wood forests, countless rare products: Amomum, wild ginseng, precious animals… have attracted Kinh people from the coastal areas. The Central Coast came to Kon Tum to settle and make a living.

In 1892, the French established the Kon Tum Administrative Agent Court, and on February 9, 1913, Kon Tum province was officially established.

Although it was born the earliest in the Central Highlands (Da Lat was discovered by Yersin in 1893; Ban Me Thuot was established in 1923; Pleiku in 1932), Kon Tum is still not as developed as other regions because the Dak Bla stream divides it in two. South – North shore. Transporting goods to Kon Tum Street must be by boat or raft, so it is not easy to circulate. It was not until 1935 that a Frenchman named Molini built a bridge using reinforced concrete. In 1940, the bridge was completed and people called it Molini Bridge. In 1956, Ngo Dinh Diem rebuilt a new bridge and named it Dak Bla Bridge – the name of the river, the southern gateway to the City today.

So it can be said that the history of establishing a town in Kon Tum is closely linked to the time of the appearance of the Kinh community. The terrain is located in a large valley, and there is the romantic Dak Bla river like a soft silk strip running through the city. Therefore, Kon Tum old town has the features of a plain city rather than a mountain town.

Kon Tum Street has been built more properly, spaciously and modernly. Nowadays, coming to Kon Tum is easy because of convenient roads: National Highway 14 (Ho Chi Minh Road) is the second route parallel to National Highway 1A running from North to South; Highway 24 connects Kon Tum with Quang Ngai… But somewhere, in the heart of the city, there are still ancient moss-roofed yin-yang tiled houses that have existed for many generations, are witnesses of history, evoking people’s hearts. something very far away – a plot of people starting to build a city.

Tan Huong Church is still there. Tinh Hoi Pagoda (1896), more than a hundred years old, still has regular footsteps of people offering incense to Buddha. Kon Tum Prison with its examples of loyalty will forever resonate in the history of the heroic struggle of the Vietnamese revolution. The villages of Luong Khe and Trung Luong Vo Lam… now only remain in the memories of the old people. They became the names Quyet Thang, Thang Loi, Thong Nhat…

Will the young generation of Kon Tum tomorrow, while going up and down the busy road of life? Or sometimes you can relax and walk on modern, spacious streets. Have you ever wondered about the day when your ancestors founded a village and built a town? So now we have the small town of Kon Tum.

Article and photo: Tuong Lam

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