ISLANDS AND ARCHIPELAGOS OF VIET NAM 8

The very rich Ly Son culture is a chest of legends, folk stories and songs. The competition of “tu linh” boat rowing is organized in the early spring. The “ceremony of the substitution of soldiers of Hoang Sa” is organized in the 2nd and 3rd lunar months. Throughout the year Ly Son people also perform other ceremonies of the folk beliefs and they still keep the habit to worship the Ong (Whale) fish. Especially, Ly Son Island still preserves lots of important documents proving that Hoang Sa is a territory of Viet Nam, for example the Edict on the Hoang Sa Navy Group issued by the Nguyen dynasty in the 19th century. This edict had been kept by the Dang family clan for over 170 years. The Dang family clan organized a ceremony of handing over this valuable document to the Viet Nam state. Upon coming to Ly Son, we may also hear stories about the Hoang Sa Navy Group and the sons of the heroic Ly Son Island who were determined to sacrifice their lives to protect the beloved Hoang Sa of the Motherland.
Chua Hang is the largest of the caves on Ly Son Island. It is located inside a huge and sharply steep cliff on the Thoi Loi peak. The cliff is nearly 20 meters in height. The width of the cave is 30 meters; the depth is 25 meters. The door of the cave is 15 meters in height and gradually lower inwards. At the end of the cave are beautiful long stone beds and chairs. In the front of the cave are ancient luxuriant “pheu”– terminalia catappa trees. Chua Hang cave is a place for Buddha worship so it is otherwise known as Thien Khong Thach Tu Pagoda. But, along with the Buddha, seven sages of Ly Hai village are also worshiped in it.
In Dong village (of Ly Hai commune), are located a communal house and a temple of the sages of Ly Hai commune. The communal house was built in 1820 and repaired four times. Its former architectural features are still preserved. It is the most ancient communal house of Quang Ngai province. It is also the single place where periodical spring and autumn festivals have been performed so far. Other cultural activities (boat races, wrestling, etc) are also performed here.
Except Hang Cave and Ly Hai communal house, there are on Ly Son Island other vestiges such as Cau Cave, Ba Chua Ngoc Temple, Am Linh Pagoda, Ba Roi Mansion and the King’s Well. In particular, in the soil of Ly Son are laid artifacts of the Sa Huynh and Cham civilizations, for example animal bones, pottery objects and bones of ancient people dating back about 2000-3000 years.
For hundreds of years people of Ly Son district have carried out “the ceremony of the substitution of soldiers”. Early after the Hoang Sa Navy Group was established, Ly Son people were recruited into this group as soldiers or workers who would go to exploit and protect Hoang Sa and Truong Sa. This ceremony, known as “substitution of soldiers”, is unique and imbued with the national tradition “When drinking water, lets remember its source. When living in a peaceful country we should feel gratitude to those who founded and protected it.” It asserts the merits of the old people (the An Vinh group of the Hoang Sa Navy Team) who departed to seek sea products and place marks of the sea boundary; but they did not return.
This ceremony is performed in Am Linh Pagoda on the 18th, 19lh and 20th of the 4lh lunar month each year. It is a great ceremony not only of Ly Son district, but also of the whole Quang Ngai province. The organization of the ceremony is very elaborate and goes through lots of stages. The most special ritual is the ritual of releasing paper boats into the sea. This ritual implies that boats will forever set out to the sea as in former times. On the ceremonial day the local people also build and remove symbolic graves of the soldiers of the navy team. These graves are called by the local people Mo gio (Wind graves).
Now this ceremony is rather significant for researchers of culture and for tourism of the Vietnamese coastal communities. It reflects the history of the country.
The exploitation of sea products is an economic advantage and one of the two principal occupations of Ly Son people. Farming is also a mainstay here. Ly Son Island is called “the Garlic Kingdom” because garlic here is especially aromatic, tasty and effective for the treatment of disease. On 31 March 2009 the kinds of garlic and onion of Ly Son were officially granted the trademark “Ly Son garlic and onion.” Income from production and trade in garlic and onion has enhanced the living standards of the local people.
Phu Quy Island
Phu Quy Island (other names: Cu Lao Thu or Cu Lao Khoai Xu) is a small island with an area of 16 km2 belonging to Phu Quy Island district, Binh Thuan province. It is located 120 kilometers to the southeast of Phan Thiet city; 540 kilometers to the northwest of Hoang Sa archipelago; 150 kilometers to the south of Cam Ranh town, Khanh Hoa province; 330 kilometers to the northeast of Con Dao; 200 kilometers to the east of Vung Tau city. Apart from the principal island of Phu Quy, there are also small satellite islands such as Hon Da Cao (to the northwest of Phu Quy), Hon Do (to the northeast of Phu Quy), Hon Tranh and Hon Hai (to the southwest of Phu Quy).

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