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Village ponds - symbol of rural Vietnam

Village ponds are an essential part of the rural life in Vietnam. Each pond has its own character and a part of the beauty of the Vietnamese countryside. The image of the village ponds remains in the memory of those who now live far from their villages.

Depending on their different shapes, locations or function, ponds have been given such names pagoda pond, bombax pond, bridge pond, commune pond or communal house pond. Usually the name of the ponds is connected to a legend that is part of the village. Sometimes, a more recent occurrence has led to the naming of the ponds.

Ponds commonly separate homes in a village or this village with another. Ponds are all purpose body of water where people raise fish, do their washing and meet to chat after a hard working day.

In the days before Tet, the traditional Lunar New Year Festival, different kinds of fun and traditional activities take place at the ponds. People often drain their pond, distribute fish they catch to each other and take the wood tree they soak in the mud during the year to set up a new house. The most exciting moment is when women in the village enjoy gathering around the ponds washing Dong leaves to Chung cakes (cook square sticky rice cakes) and gossiping.

Spring is the season for traditional festivals and is the time when young couples in the village to engage and make colorful and exciting processing around the pond. In the summer, pink and white lotuses cover all the surface of the ponds giving the village a light sweet fragrance. The ponds have often been the place where people meet their lovers.

Professor Vo Quang Trong from the Folklore Research Institute said: "The rural Vietnam is home to many traditional customs and festivals, which are strongly imbued with national identity."

"The beauty of rural Vietnam is always connected with human emotion," Mr Trong said. "The banyan tree, the communal house and the pond are the symbol of rural Vietnam. And these images always stay live in the hearts of Vietnamese people."

According to Vietnamese concept, the ponds, with its pure water, symbolizes the wealth and vitality of the people. The pond in front of the house also represents the host’s hospitality. When a guest comes, the host gets some fish from his pond to cook for the guest. Lots of memories for people who have moved far away from their village.

"I have been away from the homeland for nearly 30 years, but the image of the house and the pond always live in my memory," said Nguyen Quoc Chinh, an overseas Vietnamese in the Czech Republic.

"Particularly, in snowy nights away from home, I long for the warm sun of the homeland," Mr Chinh elaborated. "At that time, memories of my childhood come to my mind and I remember the children’s games, climbing trees and swimming in the ponds."

As urbanization spreads, many village ponds have been filled and covered with high rise buildings. But, in many villages, the ponds remain a lively reality of rural Vietnamese life.

VOV - (30/11/2004)

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