A middle peasant’s house dating from the 19th century is being kept in the precinct of the Hai Duong Museum.
The middle peasant’s house has been restored and preserved in its original form in the precinct of the Hai Duong Museum
This is a precious artifact that has been collected, restored, and preserved by generations of museum workers.
Around 1997, Tang Ba Hoanh was director of the Hai Duong Museum. Considered as the leader of the museum circle in restoring an outdoor ethnographic display area, Hoanh always wanted to find three house models representing the aristocracy, middle and poor peasantry.
Earlier, Hoanh and his colleagues looked for and brought the house of DLitt Tan, representing houses of mandarins and aristocrats, to the museum, but those of middle peasants were very difficult to find.
After many unsuccessful searches, it was fate as the son of a middle peasantry family in Thanh Ha said he still kept an intact house and would like to move it to the museum. That person was Hieu, then an official of a ward of Hai Duong town. The house was owned by his father – teacher Pham Sy Y – in An Luong commune.
Like striking gold, Hoanh and his colleagues immediately went to the locality. By that time, the old house had been dismantled and neatly arranged for the family to build a flat-roofed one.
To rebuild the house, the Hai Duong Museum invited experienced craftsmen of artisan Bui Ba Tu in Cuc Bo carpentry village, Kien Quoc commune, Ninh Giang district. The Cuc Bo craftsmen also successfully restored the house of DLitt Tan in the neighborhood.
According to the Hai Duong Museum, together with the middle peasant’s house, DLitt Tan’s house of the aristocracy and mandarins is considered a precious and unique legacy nowadays.
In Vietnam, no museum can collect, restore, and preserve the house of a celebrity or mandarin like the Hai Duong Museum.
The middle peasant’s house is now situated in a corner of the Hai Duong Museum and regularly checked and cleaned.
The house has five compartments and is roofed with goi (livistona saribus) leaves instead of thatching as its original form to limit annual replacement and repair.
The house has a veranda and steps down to the yard. In the veranda are bamboo screens to block the sun and prevent people from looking directly into the house.
In the front are three doors, two of which were opened everyday while the main door was only opened when the owner of the house had major affairs like anniversaries, weddings, etc.
Three middle compartments and two others on both sides have wooden partitions and doors. The two compartments were often used to store furniture, private rooms of women in the family, or wedding rooms of newlyweds.
The middle of the house is considered an important space for the altar of the ancestors. In front of the altar, the head of the family arranged a set of sofas to receive guests.
According to people’s conception, the middle compartment is an important space, a central compartment, and an altar there creates solemnity during communication and guests cannot talk outrageously since there is a “master god” as in folk concept.
Regarding the origin of the house, according to the Hai Duong Museum, the house represented the middle but well-off peasantry at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century because it is wide and was made of a lot of wood and methodically and solidly designed.
Despite attention to preservation, over time, many parts of the house have deteriorated. The back roof was disproportioned, and one standing inside can see light shining into the house. Some places on the walls were damaged by water dropping from the roof.
The middle peasant’s house is the enthusiasm and effort of generations of museum workers in Hai Duong. This is a precious legacy that should be further preserved.