Old lifestyle can be relived
Lifetime work: A house at the museum display a 40-year collection of antiquities.
by Hoai Nam
Film director Doan Huy Giao took seven years to build his own museum – the first such private institution in central Viet Nam.
The 20,000sq.m museum, on a hill near Linh Ung Pagoda in Son Tra Peninsula, 10km east of Da Nang, houses a precious collection of 800 antiquities from dynasties in Viet Nam, the Champa Kingdom and ethnic groups of the Central Highlands.
Giao, 60, has a 40-year collection of ancient ceramic, terracotta, pottery and stone relics from the great cultures of Sa Huynh, Cham and ancient Dai Viet (the former name of Viet Nam from1054 to 1804).
Giao has also restored old houses and added showrooms at the site, set amid a stream, rocks and forest, where he guides visitors at weekends.
He says the museum is the realisation of his dream of preserving antiquities. “Time is always priceless, so the museum protects the old objects to show visitors the history of Viet Nam.”
Giao was also careful to preserve the surrounding environment when he designed his showpiece. He says the layout of showrooms and antiquities provide a full picture of Viet Nam’s culture and history.
“I want visitors to the museum to leave with a deeper understanding of Viet Nam’s culture and history as well as the lifestyle of local people. So the museum is free for all.”
Feat of clay: Museum owner Doan Huy Giao stands by a case exhibiting pottery from the Sa Huynh and Cham cultures. — VNS Photos Cong Thanh
The museum is on Hoang Sa Street, which links My Khe Beach and Son Tra Mountain. But, as it is near a bend in the road, it is hard to find without the help of local guides.
A brass sign on a rock and a narrow uphill paved path take visitors to the museum, which is 600m above sea level. But the shadow of bamboos and the murmur of the stream help refresh visitors after the uphill walk. The museum is hidden amid trees but the main showrooms are clearly visible.
Giao has restored an ethnic Xe Dang house to stay in at weekends.The wooden home, built on stilts, is complete with fishing baskets, a cooking fire, a crossbow and a coat made from the bark of a big tree.
“Historians and archaeologists identified the coat as having been made by the Ba Na ethnic group over 100 years ago. I found the coat on a trip to Kon Tum Province.
“The house is also a unique showroom of objects I collected in the Central Highlands between 1977 and 2012.”
He says ethnic groups in the region have always created extraordinary tools that can be used for hundreds of years.
His museum collection also features a drum believed to be 200 years old. The drum skins were made from elephant hide for a leader of the Mo Nong ethnic group, the barrel from a century-old tree.
A 19th century wooden panel house at the complex stores pottery antiquities of Sa Huynh culture including stone bracelets and ear rings and egg-shaped pottery jars.
A ceramic plate with a carp carving, from the Mac dynasty (1527-92) and found at Dong Duong tower, is unique in Viet Nam.
Giao is also proud that a cosa linga (a male sex organ used in worship at Cham tower), coated with silver, is only one of six in the world.
Room with a view: Museum owner Doan Huy Giao shows a drum made from elephant’s skin and a trunk of big tree.
A corner of the museum is a restored section of a fishing village on Son Tra Peninsula. It contains fishing tools, including a net, basket coracles and a kitchen typical of coastal fishing communities in the past.
“I took months to buy old fishing boats from local fishermen. I also asked local people to give me old vessels for free. I dismantled masts, paddles, fishing rods and pieces of wood from these boats to restore the fishing village house. I’m afraid that people cannot image the homes of fishermen from past centuries. The old fishing villages with thatch and tin-roofed houses have been replaced by new buildings.
“Visitors can image they are on a fishing boat when they enter the house.”
Ngo Tuan, a freelance guide, says the museum is a comprehensive collection of antiquities from the 11th to 19th centuries.
“Tourists come to the museum to experience exhibits and stories of lifestyles and cultures of local people from previous centuries that they can hardly see now,” he added.
The museum also has a small house dedicated to paintings, both oil and lacquer.
In the museum’s backyard is a pottery kiln for workshops, where artists and potters can create their own works to be displayed at the museum.
The museum opens from 8am to 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays but tour bookings can be arranged through travel agencies. Around 100 visitors have been to the museum to date.
Da Nang has recognised the museum as a tourist destination along with the city’s popular Museum of Cham Sculptures, the Linh Ung Pagoda and dozens of resorts and beaches. — VNS