Kon Tum Rong House – A beautiful symbol of the longevity of the village community

Kon Tum is a border highland province, located in the north of the Central Highlands; There are six indigenous ethnic groups: Xo Dang, Ba Na, Gie-Trieng, Gia Rai, Brau, Ro Mam. In recent years, the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Kon Tum province has made many efforts to preserve, develop and promote the unique cultural identity of the Rong house. After 15 years of implementing Central Resolution 5 (term VIII) on “building an advanced Vietnamese culture rich in national identity” (1998-2013), up to now Kon Tum province has 511 villages/556 villages. Ethnic minorities have Rong houses as a place for community activities.

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Traditional Rong house of the Xe Dang people in Ngoc Reo commune, Dak Ha district (left photo); Celebration of the new Rong house of the Ba Na people, Thang Loi ward, Kon Tum city (right photo) – photo for illustration purposes

Through more than 20 years of monitoring cultural topics, we believe that the Rong house is a great work of art, including sculpture, painting, decoration…; especially the expression of sacred space, community strength, and the soul of the village. This is the place that occupies the most important position in the thinking and reality of daily life of all members of the community.

The importance of the Rong house in the subconscious of ethnic minorities in Kon Tum is formed from the ethnic people’s own perception that the Rong house represents the power and wealth of their villagers. is where the gods come to reside, an intermediate place between humans and Giang (heaven).

The late musician Pham Cao Dat – a long-time researcher of Central Highlands culture – during a tea session (when he was still alive) – talked to us many times about the topic of the Rong house of the people. ethnic minorities in the Northern Central Highlands. He said, according to traditional customs, at the beginning of construction, the village elder announced the decision to build a Rong house to all members of the village one year in advance to prepare materials, then held a ceremony to worship Giang to Ask permission for the village to do it. The Rong house is often chosen by village elders and elders in the most important position, usually right in the middle of the village. After that, people built houses around them and the house’s side often faced the Rong house. This is ancient village architecture that very few villages still preserve today. The village elder is the person who directly supervises and commands the villagers to ensure aesthetic effects according to traditional architecture, assigning responsibilities to each household to contribute effort, find materials and money.

Healthy young men take care of cutting and transporting wood, choosing hardwood trees that are likely to be termite-free, usually cachit wood. Older people are in charge of individual areas such as chiseling structures, sculpting statues, creating aesthetics… and these people often have to have experience in building houses. A Rong house can take many months to complete, but the 8 main pillars must be completed on the first day, this represents success and good luck for the next stage. Then there is the making of the frame, the arm beams, the scaffolding, the rafters, the rafters, the thatching… All work must run smoothly and smoothly thanks to the strong hands of the young men and the wise and talented management of the elders. village.

According to Mr. Dat, the Central Highlands people believe that a Rong house is a place where the sacred energy of heaven and earth gathers to protect the villagers, so in each Rong house there is a sacred place to worship sacred objects, sometimes just a knives, stones, buffalo horns… strangers are not allowed to see these objects, or if they want to see them, they must make offerings very carefully.

Many cultural researchers we have had the opportunity to meet believe that the Rong house in the Northern Central Highlands region is quite unique and diverse. For each different ethnic group, Rong houses are built with different shapes and have many different names. Accordingly, small and low Rong houses usually belong to the Gie-Trieng people; The Rong house of the Xe Dang people is high and mighty; The Rong house of the Ba Na people is soft but still no less majestic, looking like a mother hen standing in the middle, surrounded by stilt houses are a flock of chicks; The Rong house of the Gia Rai people is as elegant as an ax blade raised against the blue sky… However, the Rong houses all have in common that they are places where all people come to hold village meetings, organize festivals, and community activities.

Mr. So Lay Tang – former Secretary of the Kon Tum Provincial Party Committee said: According to the beliefs of ethnic minorities, if there is a village, there must be a Rong house. Any village without a Rong house lacks original vitality. The Rong House encompasses all the quintessence of human culture and creativity in the natural ecological environment, is both majestic and has hidden spiritual elements, and is an expression of forest culture and the connection of people. The village is associated with nature. For the ethnic minority community, “Ethnicity – Village – Communal House” is a close and inseparable relationship, just like the Kinh village is associated with the banyan tree, water wharf, and communal house yard. The majestic Rong House rises to the sky, expressing the strength of a village community, demonstrating the martial spirit and authority, as if dominating space and time to assert the sovereignty and territory of the village.

From another perspective, during a conversation with us in 2013 about preserving and promoting the traditional Rong house cultural identity of ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands, a cultural researcher Van Nguyen Ngoc said: The Rong House is the highlight of the Central Highlands gong cultural space. Along with a number of other ancient villages in the northernmost region of the Central Highlands, Rong house is where traditional festivals such as celebrating new rice, buffalo stabbing, Et Dong Tet… take place every year. Meanwhile, festivals are the living land of almost all types of traditional folk culture and arts, from rituals, customs and practices to various types of folk performances, ethnic musical instruments, costumes, language, behavior… The Rong House has both tangible and intangible cultural value, and is the place where festivals take place. Images of the flickering fire of the Rong house’s stove, wine jars tied in rows on both sides of the stove, the majestic sound of gongs, winding sinuses and the radiant faces of village elders, boys and girls in the village. The festival at Rong house represents a very rustic, warm cultural space, gathering in an inseparable community bond, creating a rich and unique identity of traditional culture under the roof. Rong.

According to Mr. A Ja (Banar ethnic group, Kon Tum city), Rong house – in addition to religious, traditional and spiritual activities, nowadays many villages also organize activities in many new forms such as: Organizing flag saluting at the beginning of the week, public service announcement ceremony, launching major movements of organizations and unions… In Rong houses, many villages have hung pictures, statues of Uncle Ho, the Fatherland flag, the National insignia, and signs. Internal notices, forest protection conventions, security and order conventions, content and criteria for building a Cultural Village…

Over hundreds of years with many social events, Kon Tum’s Rong house has always been a beautiful symbol of the longevity of the village community, a place to train and educate the next generation of villagers, a place to promote The traditions and folk beliefs of indigenous people have become a symbol not only of Kon Tum province but of the Central Highlands provinces.

Article and photos: Thao Nguyen

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