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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Land of legends

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Visit the Mekong Delta Province of An Giang and you will hear stories from ancient times about the people and events related to Ba Chua Xu Temple

I returned to Sam Mountain in An Giang which is home to the well-known Ba Chua Xu Temple and an intersection where the Tien and Hau rivers part into nine branches. I found peace of mind when standing on top of Sam Mountain to admire yellow rice fields and duckweeds flowing with rivers, and feel sea-wind blowing slightly.

On my trip to the province, I followed Nghia—a local tour guide. He led me and my friends to the peak of Sam Mountain to watch vast rice fields “dancing” with sea winds beneath.

Nghia explained us why locals call sea winds “gio chuong” in Vietnamese. It is because the winds blow from the sea to the Tien and Hau rivers, lasting from November to March. The time sea winds come also brings salty water to the rivers. Therefore, water creatures have to adapt themselves to the changing environment. Take dua (Pangasius kunyit) fish for example. These fishes move from the sea to the rivers. Local fishermen call them bong lau (reeds) as they can be found hiding themselves in reeds along the rivers.

It took us one hour to reach the peak. We got some rest while breeze blew to our face. Nghia showed us the position where locals found the statue of Ba Chua Xu, who is believed to be a young girl ravished to death hundreds of years ago based on the local legend.

There was also a legend of Sam Mountain. A legend has it that a trader traveled from Koh Trai Island, now Phu Quoc Island, to the province which was mostly covered by sea at that time. His boat sank but he was luckily alive. It broke his wife’s heart to hear about the sinking without knowing that her husband was still safe. She cried so much that Avalokiteshvara appeared and gave her a gem that would help her meet her husband. Then, the couple reunited thanks to the gem. But on the way home, she dropped the gem and both of them fell into the sea and died. Their body turned into Sam Mountain while the sea was transformed into rice fields.

According to researchers, the mountain was also known as Hoc Lanh Mountain where Nguyen Van Thoai, i.e. Thoai Ngoc Hau, a mandarin of the Nguyen Dynasty, who was appointed by the court to come defending and exploiting An Giang, held a ceremony to pray for deaths during the construction of Vinh Te Canal.

Ba Chua Xu Temple’s entrance

Some said that Ba Chua Xu Temple was a way local people showed their gratitude to Chau Thi Te, Thoai Ngoc Hau’s wife, as she passed away when helping people build Vinh Te Canal.

At the same time, a statue of Vishnu was found on the mountain. Before the statue was brought down the mountain, there was a one claiming to be Ba Chua Xu saying that locals should find nine virgin girls to take the statue down the mountain. On the way, the statue would be fallen and the place where it was dropped was the position the temple should be built. That would bring peace and prosperity to the people living there.

Now, Ba Chua Xu Temple on Sam Mountain attracts many pilgrims across the country. It may be because of the legends behind.

By Duong Thuy

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