Like all countries, Viet Nam includes regions that are marked by particularities which cause their inhabitants to be noted wherever they go. In this respect, there can be no better example than the case of Nghe Tinh.
Nghe is abbreviation of Nghe An, and Tinh one of Ha Tinh. These two provinces often merge under the name of Nghe Tinh. This frontier region of ancient Viet Nam was for a long time disputed land involving Viet Nam and Champa. It was limited in the south by the Transverse Pass (Deo Ngang).
Nghe Tinh, also called Nghe Country (Xu Nghe), has an area of over 22,000 square kilometres and a population of three million. For people of ancient Vietnam, it was a far-away land with a savage and mysterious beauty. A folk song said:
Mount Hong Linh and river Lam (523 kilometres) are its emblems. A large part of the land lies under forests and the area devoted to rice growing is far from fertile. Agriculture is subject to the whims of a harsh climate; the scorching wind coming from neighbouring Laos in the west (Lao) carries with it dry heat which causes plants to wither.
Nghe country is full of memorable spots. The king who founded the second Viet state (Au Lac) in the 3rd century BC, An Duong Vuong, is venerated at a temple in Dien Chau. Mai Hac De (8th century), the prestigious leader of a revolt against the Chinese occupier, is worshipped at Nam Dan, where he established a resistance base. In 1788, the glorious Nguyen Hue, who later mounted the throne with the royal title of Quang Trung, came from the south at the head of an army of peasant insurgents. In Nghe Tinh, 90,000 men joined him for an offensive on Thang Long (Ha Noi) which routed the Chinese Qing army occupation. The King wished to build a new capital at Mount Quyet near Vinh, but the project could not be concluded. In the course of contemporary history, Nghe country witnessed many episodes of the patriotic struggle: the scholars’ movement led by Phan Dinh Phung “to save the King” (Can Vuong), the Nghe Tinh Soviets (1930), the Do Luong mutiny (1944) - all savagely repressed by the French colonial administration; the Americans dropped on the region 3,000 tonnes of bombs and razed to the ground the industrial city of Vinh.
The first settlers in Nghe Tinh were soldiers, exiles, and adventurers. The continual population movements and the repeated struggle against a harsh nature and hostile neighbours give the people distinctive traits: Nghe Tinh men have a reputation of being resilient and tough, courageous, hard-working and intelligent, but also very stingy. There is a story about a Nghe Tinh man who is so tight-fisted that at meal served to him at an inn, he would have nothing to accompany his rice but a wooden-fish taken out of his own haversack, which he would dip in a little fish sauce and lick. Hence the nickname given to Nghe Tinh men of ca go (wooden fish).
Nghe Tinh scholars are reputed for their love of study. In the time of triennial competitions Quynh Doi village alone accounted for 94 doctors of humanities and 152 licentiates of humanities. A record number, for selection was so tighlty conducted that many a village in Viet Nam could not boast a single doctor, even a single licentiate.
Nghe country has its sentimental side. The love songs of weavers’ guilds (hat phuong vai) are exquisite.
Last but not least, Nghe Tinh is the cradle of some of the most illustrious people of the nation: poets like Nguyen Du, author of the immortal Tale of Kieu, Nguyen Cong Tru, Ho Xuan Huong - historians like Su Hy Nhan, physicians like Le Huu Trac (alias Hai Thuong Lan Ong), thinkers like Nguyen Thiep (La Son Phu Tu), scholar patriots like Phan Dinh Phung, revolutionaries like Ho Chi Minh...
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