Sunday, September 14, 2008

Người Việt đến Trung Quốc 500 năm về trước

Câu chuyện về người Việt đi dọc theo đường biển đến Trung Quốc từ 500 năm trước. Tôi từng biết đến khu vực mà người Việt mình định cư bên đó duy trì văn hóa rất Việt Nam, nhưng chưa một lần ghé qua cho biết. Hi vọng năm sau đi phó hội bên Trung Quốc sẽ tìm cách đến đó.

Thật ra, có bằng chứng di truyền cho thấy tổ tiên người miền nam Trung Quốc ngày nay xuất phát từ Đông Nam Á.



The Jing: People Who Sailed to China from Viet Nam

By Mu Qian*

In his spare time, 70-year-old Du Fuchao likes to sing a ballad, not only for his own enjoyment but also to tell young villagers about the history of their village and people.

"At leisure, let's sit down and talk about the ancient timeWhen our native land was Do Son of Viet NamOne day in the third year of Emperor Hong Thuan's reignOur ancestors floated here in Fuan."

Fuan is the ancient name of Wanwei, a village in Southern China where Du and 4,000 other Jing people live, while Hong Thuan was an emperor of Viet Nam who ruled from 1509 to 1516.

According to the song, the Jing people sailed to China from Viet Nam about 500 years ago. They settled on the three small islands of Wutou, Wanwei and Shanxin, which are located to the north of Beibu Bay in the South China Sea.
Today, hardly any detail of their migratory journey are known, except for those recorded in the ballad. Du learned this song from Ruan Jinyu, who composed the lyrics. After Ruan passed away in 2004 at the age of 92, Du became one of the few remaining singers of this important historical ballad.

The song fits in with a communal regulation found in Wanwei. Made in 1875, the regulation mentions that "our ancestors from Do Son (a promontory close to Haiphong in northeast Viet Nam) floated here in the third year of the reign of Emperor Hong Thuan(1511).".

"I don't have much knowledge, but I know that our ancestors came from Viet Nam," said 67-year-old Ruan Jiwu, a Jing villager from Shanxin Village.
Ruan Jiwu said that ancestors of the Jing people in China originally lived on Viet Nam's Cat Ba Island and later moved to Do Son. Making a living by fishing, they floated on bamboo rafts in Beibu Bay throughout the year.

One day they were pursuing a group of fish when they came to Wutou Island. Seeing that the area was rich in resources and the island appeared to be uninhabited, they decided to settle down there.

Later more and more Jing people arrived, and they began to live on the neighbouring islands of Wanwei and Shanxin too.

Through the ballad about the history of Jing people in Wanwei, the time of the first landing on the islands is brought to life:

".Upon arrival it was difficult to tell the directionsFor the island was surrounded by the sea and covered by dense forestsLaying down their feet, they asked aroundAnd found that east to the island was BailongIn the west they border ZhushanAnd the northern neighbour was TanjiThe beaches were filled with mangroves and oystersAt low tide there were more crabs and clams .

With no regular residence, these people had been floating with their boatsBathing in sunshine in the daytime and sleeping in frost at nightAll of them met and discussed togetherAnd decided to build cogon houses here."
It seems that there were different opinions as whether to go back to Do Son or stay in the three islands, and apparently the latter got the upper hand:

".The sun and moon rotated like shuttlesAnd time passed by like an arrowAt last, houses were completedNow there were places to shelter from wind and rainHome is so far awayNow this place has become home.After a while some people complainedThat though food and clothes were sufficient hereIt was not home after allSome one replied at that timeThat this was a scenic placeWhy not fish and enjoy happy lives here. "

These Jing people did not return to Do Son, but settled down on the three islands. Five hundred years have passed since then.

The three islands are now no longer islands but connected with the mainland after reclamation in the second half of the 20th century, yet they are still commonly called the "three islands of the Jing people". Administratively speaking, Wutou, Wanwei and Shanxin are three subordinate villages of Jiangping Township, Dongxing, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
With a population of some 22,500, the Jing is one of the smallest ethnic groups in China, though they are the majority in Viet Nam (called the Kinh in Vietnamese), where they account for about 86 percent of the country's total population.

While records of the Jing people's history on the three islands seems scarce in China, a few clues about their migration can be found in Viet Nam.
In Do Son, 66-year-old Hoang Thi Nhan said she had heard that Do Son people moved to many places around 500 years ago, including to the three islands in China. She said that some Do Son people went out fishing and did not come back, but she did not know further details.


However, after listening to a recording of Du's ballad, Nguyen Nguyen Hai, a teacher of history of world civilisation at Haiphong Public University in Viet Nam, said that Du's pronunciation was clearly of the ancient dialect of Do Son.
At the same time, To Ngoc Thanh, president of the Association of Vietnamese Folklorists, confirmed the authenticity of the song's melody. "This is a very ancient melody of the Vietnamese people living in the Red River Delta area," said To. "However, nobody in Viet Nam sings exactly like this now, for through centuries the melody changed and developed into two independent melodies, one for lullabies and one for narrative singing, but the Jing people in China still keep the original form."

On Cat Ba Island, 40-year-old resident Bui Tuan Anh said he did not know about the Jing people's moving from Viet Nam to China in the early 16th century, for it was too long ago. But every ear Bui attends the Ha Festival, a custom also observed by the Jing people in China.

The Ha Festival is celebrated on all of the three islands inhabited by the Jing people, but on different dates. In Wanwei it is the ninth day of the sixth lunar month, while in Wutou it is the first day, and in Shanxin the 10th day of the eighth lunar month. The different dates are based upon the time of the founding of each Ha Pavilion ("Ha Ting" in Chinese, or "Dinh Ha" in Vietnamese), in which the festival is held.

The Ha Pavilion is a communal house where Jing people worship their deities and ancestors. In the past, the Ha Pavilion often also served as a private school.
In Vietnamese, "Ha" means singing. At the Ha Festival, singers would sing to deities and ancestors for days on end, asking them to look after their harvest and the prosperity of the village.

Lasting from three days to a week, the festival contains four processes: welcoming the deities, worshipping the deities, feasting, and escorting the deities back.

Because the Jing people moved to China from different villages in Viet Nam, they brought different deities whom they worshipped at home. The gods revered by contemporary Jing in China also vary from village to village, but usually include the Hung Dao Deity, Sea Tutelary and Village God.

The Hung Dao Deity evolved from Viet Nam's 13th century general Tran Hung Dao, who led the Vietnamese army to victory over the troops of Kublai Khan, a famous emperor of China's Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Tran is worshipped throughout Viet Nam, and almost every city in the country has a street named after him.

"Tran is not only a hero in war, but a deity in the minds of Vietnamese people," said Nguyen Phuong Cham, a researcher from the Institute of Cultural Studies, Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences. "People believe that he has the power to protect them from natural disasters, and guard their health and luck."Nguyen Phuong Cham, who has carried out fieldwork in Wanwei and Tra Co, a Vietnamese village close to the China-Viet Nam border, noted that the Vietnamese people who moved to the border area regarded worshiping the Hung Dao Deity as especially important because they often felt in danger and needed more protection psychologically.


The Sea Tutelary comes from the legend of the "Three islands of the Jing people." Supposedly a long time ago, the location of today's three islands was called Bailong Bay, and a demon centipede lived there. He demanded a person to eat whenever a boat passed by, and if not appeased he would stir up the sea to capsize the boat. Afraid of the demon, passing boats would usually prepare a beggar to feed him.

Once an old beggar with a big pumpkin asked a boat owner to let him board. The boat owner agreed. On the boat, the beggar asked the crew to boil his pumpkin in a big pot.When the boat sailed through the Bailong Bay area, the centipede demon emerged to stir up the sea. Everyone on the boat was scared and the boat owner wanted to push the beggar into the sea.

"Wait a moment. Give me the pumpkin!" shouted the beggar. He threw the boiling pumpkin into the centipede demon's mouth, badly scalding its throat. Suddenly, the head, body and tail of the centipede broke apart. Later they became the three islands of Wutou, Shanxin and Wanwei.

The disguised beggar was really the Sea Tutelary, who is worshipped by the Jing people today.

"We are an oceanic people, so it is always important to have the Sea Tutelary to protect our safety in the sea," said Su Weifang, a 65-year-old villager of Wanwei.

Every year a chief worshipper is selected to praise the deities and ancestors on behalf of all the villagers. The standards for selection of the chief worshipper include having many offspring and preferably parents in good health.

At this year's Ha Festival in Shanxin, held from the 10th to the 14th days of the eighth lunar month in mid-September, 59-year-old Liu Yangshou acted as the chief worshipper. Liu has four children and six grandchildren.

During the ceremony, all the villagers' names are recited before the deities and ancestors. The chief worshipper's name is the first on the list, and then the citation follows in order of age, starting with the eldest.


The Ha Festival is a communal festival, and this is most obviously reflected in the feast. Villagers form groups according to their own will, and each day the food for each group is provided by each member in turn. At noon the food is mainly meat, fish and spring rolls, while in the evening people eat desserts and fruits.

Young people that work away from the community are supposed to return to attend the Ha Festival. Twenty-six-year-old Shi Weiyong and 27-year-old Liu Ziming, two young men from Shanxin that are seafood wholesalers in Dongxing, the city on Guangxi's border with Viet Nam, came home to attend the Ha Festival in 2005.

"In a way the Ha Festival is more important than the Spring Festival, for Spring Festival is celebrated by each family respectively, but the Ha Festival is a collective activity which all the people celebrate together," said Shi.
However, as more and more young people work far away, many are not able to attend nowadays. Shi and Liu could only stay for a day before going back to work in Dongxing.

Since Ha Festival means the "singing festival", singing is a very important part of it. Every day during the festival, some singers would sing songs in the morning and evening to ask the deities and ancestors to protect the village. The poetic and encyclopaedic lyrics of the tens of songs sung at the Ha Festival cover legends, history, and customs of the Jing people.

In the lyrics of Ha Festival collected and compiled by Su, there are 41 songs. Besides songs of praise and proverbial tunes, there are also some love songs, for example, "Love without Luck":

"At time of disturbance I ask the moonBut why does the moon never reply?Opening the bolt, I walk out of the garden on a spring dayAnd wait for the south wind to blowOur distance is so farThat the boatman's hands would be tired from paddlingGood wine makes one drunk even before he drinksThinking about you day and night tears my heart apartEnough firewood has been collected for a whole night's burningBut will your iron heart melt?."

"Because the Ha Festival is a serious occasion, love songs sung at the festival are usually rather implicit," said Su, who has been collecting Jing folk songs for many years.

Most of the lyrics of Wanwei's Ha Festival are the same as those of Viet Nam, but some lyrics have been changed to suit the local conditions, including three pieces written by Su about contemporary Wanwei.

"The functions of the Ha Festival are worshipping deities, celebrating the harvest, praying for peace and disseminating culture," said Su. "This characteristic festival is a result of the geographical environment and social development of the Jing people."


Su used to be the vice-director of the Public Security Bureau of Fangchenggang, Guangxi. Since retirement in 2002, he has devoted himself to recording the folk songs of the Jing people.

Now he has collected more than 1,000 folk songs, including the Ha Festival standards, historical songs, narrative songs and love songs. He recorded them in Vietnamese and translated them into Chinese, hoping to have them published some day.

However, not many young Jing people sing these songs today. Liu Hongtao, 25, from Shanxin said that he preferred to listen to pop songs in putonghua, and he is not uncommon among his contemporaries.

Last and this year, four women singers from Van Ninh in Viet Nam are invited to sing at Shanxin's Ha Festival, mainly because Shanxin's singers are too old to sing nowadays and the young have not kept the tradition going.

The situation is a little better in Wanwei, where Su and other elderly singers have trained some of the younger generation in their 20s and 30s. Now both elderly and young singers perform at the Ha Festival in Wanwei.

Su has also held classes where interested villagers can learn the zi nan ("chu nom" in Vietnamese), traditional Vietnamese system of writing based on Chinese characters. The system is not used in Viet Nam today, but many old Vietnamese books are written in this script, as are many manuscripts detailing traditional folk songs kept by the Jing people in China. Now about 20 people can read zi nan in Wanwei.

On the other hand, since 2004, the Dongxing Jing School at Wanwei has run a Vietnamese language course, teaching the Latin-based Vietnamese writing system that is used in Viet Nam today.

About 85 percent of the students of the school are Jing people, but all students from the fourth grade of the primary school to the third grade of the middle school are required to take Vietnamese language lessons.

"Besides the Jing students, Han and Zhuang students are also interested in learning Vietnamese, for this area is close to the border with Viet Nam, and they have plenty of chances to use Vietnamese in their daily lives," said Shi Weiming, the school's Vietnamese teacher.

Shi Weiming said the problem now is finding a suitable textbook. Their present textbook, published by the Foreign Languages Teaching and Research Press, is designed for college students. It is a little too serious for primary school and middle school students, though Shi often relates daily life in his teaching to make the lessons more vivid.

In music lessons, students learn Jing folk songs and dances, including those performed at the Ha Festival. Interested students can also learn to play the duxianqin ("dan bau" in Vietnamese), a traditional one-stringed plucked instrument popular among the Jing people.

"When our school was founded in 1995, the primary task was to implement the nine-year compulsory education among Jing students," said Su Jiuchun, principal of the Dongxing Jing School. "Having completed this, now we will work more on passing on the culture of the Jing people."

Su Jiuchun said the school was planning to organize exchange programmes with schools in Viet Nam, so that the students would have more opportunities to learn about the Vietnamese culture.

At the same time, the Jing people in China have intrigued scholars in Viet Nam. Nguyen Phuong Cham has just finished her doctorate thesis entitled "Marriage Rite of the Jing People in Wanwei".

"Though living on the other side of the border, the Jing people in China have very strong cultural links with the Vietnamese people," said Nguyen Phuong Cham. "In Wanwei you can often see weddings in fancy restaurants on the beach, and people may wear modern clothes, but they still keep traditional wedding procedures of the Jing people."

For Nguyen Phuong Cham, the three islands are a good place to carry out fieldwork on the transition of the Jing people's society. She plans to go there again to investigate marriages between women from Viet Nam's Quang Ninh province and men on the three islands, a phenomenon that seems to have become more and more prevalent recently.

*Mu Qian of 'China Daily' did this story under the 'Imaging Our Mekong' media fellowship programe, implemented by IPS Asia-Pacific (

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