Kien Bai Communal House - The artistic relic of Hai Phong City

Kien Bai Communal House is located in Kien Bai Commune, Thuy Nguyen District, Hai Phong City. In the past, Kien Bai was also called Ho Bai Trang in Thuy Duong District, Kinh Mon County, Hai Duong Region.

(Photo: To Uyen)

  1. History of Kien Bai Communal House relic

According to "The god stories of Thuy Nguyen District" currently archived at the Institute of Chinese Studies in Hanoi, Kien Bai Communal House was built by the local people to worship two tutelary gods Tong Tien and Loi Cong, who are twin brothers. Legend has it that both of them were handsome and intelligent, but died early. They were very sacred and had many times helped Kien villagers to have peaceful lives and prosperous businesses. When the Mongolian army invaded our country (1287 - 1288), two gods supported King Tran Dynasty to fight the invaders. The King built a temple and conferred the title: the Supreme God Trung Quoc Cam Ung and the Supreme God Loi Cong Uy Dieu.

The altars of two gods Tong Tien and Loi Cong (Photo: To Uyen)

In 1288, Hung Dao Dai Vuong commanded the navy forces and land forces to come there to establish a battle on Bach Dang River, he let the army rest overnight at Ho Bai Village. That night, two gods Tong Tien and Loi Cong appeared in his dream, promising to raise a "sound wind" - the southeast wind to throw fire rafts, contributing to killing the enemy. After the victory on Bach Dang River, Tiet Che Quoc Cong Hung Dao Dai Vuong saw the miraculous dream, so he gave the villagers 300 mandarin money to repair Kien Bai Communal House more spacious, and at the same time, he asked the King to conferred the title: the Supreme God Trung Quoc Cam Ung and the Supreme God Loi Cong Uy Dieu. Currently, on the column body of Kien Communal House, there is still the inscription "the 6th Year of Chinh Hoa" - the year 1685 of the solar calendar.


  1. Architectural and artistic value of the relic

The front of the communal house with two symmetrical stone altars through the middle worshiping compartment was made in 1893 (Photo: To Uyen)

The stone steles record the age and existence of the relic (Photo: To Uyen)

Kien Bai Communal House was built in the second half of the 17th century, the architecture is completely made of ironwood. It is a rare communal house in Hai Phong that still retains the original flooring system. The outside communal house, also known as the front hall, consists of three compartments, the middle one is the place where the rituals are conducted. The inside communal house (the sacred one) consists of three compartments with the resting place of the tutelary gods. The roof system of the communal house has 4 roofs with lotus-shaped tiles, the roof structure has a square cross-section space with the arrangement of seeds. The sacred hall is squarely connected with the front hall at the middle compartment with a width equal to the width of the middle compartment, and a length of 8.3m. The scared hall has a similar structure to the front hall.

The middle compartment with the main altar of the communal house (Photo: To Uyen)



The altar in the communal house (Photo: To Uyen)


Inside the communal house, the wooden floor has still remained as the original (Photo: To Uyen)


The rare carving and sculpturing art on the wooden architecture of the relic (Photo: To Uyen)

Kien Bai Communal House attracts tourists and researchers from all over the world because of not only its historical value but also the talented and liberal architectural decoration art of the ancients. The whole relic is a collection of precious wood carvings created on the background of ancient and elegant architecture. The decorative arts in Kien Bai Communal House are mainly focused on showing off their positions with beauty. Dragons are a popular and dense topic in decorative animations. In each piece of sculpture, in the center, there is always a large dragon (mother dragon) with a fat, short body that curves from the bottom up with the raising head and the turning out face.

Image of dragon palanquin (Photo: To Uyen)


Image of precious wood carvings of the communal house over the years (Photo: To Uyen)

The dragon has a big head, a protruding forehead, a wide mouth, a lion's nose, and hairs as clusters of lance-shaped fire blades flying back to create a movement sensation in a still space. The dragon's body is round-shaped and covered with a layer of snakeskin, the legs have four sharp claws like the spurs of fighting cocks. Around the mother dragon, there are many baby dragons with odd numbers such as: 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13. Accompanying the dragon, there are the four supernatural creatures such as phoenix or unicorn. The phoenix is often shown in the posture of the traditional art performance with graceful dance movements. The dragon is not only shown with its fellow beings or the four supernatural creatures but it also is mixed with other animals on the top of roofs or the outside front. Those are animals that are very familiar to Vietnamese villages and people, such as pigs, dogs, goats, deer, cats, and fish... but with pigs at most. Pigs have fat bodies as shown in Dong Ho paintings but they are also naughty as wild ones. Pigs sit on dragon backs, holding the beards and hairs, and even have the guts to hold the dragon's tails in their mouth. In addition, the communal house also has peaceful countryside scenes such as pigs eating leaves, cats sleeping during the day, people riding elephants, horses and elephants cuddling, and war elephants racing...



Image of drums and gongs placed inside the communal house (Photo: To Uyen)

  1. Cultural values of Kien Bai Communal House

The recognition certificate of  the cultural and historical relic of Kien Bai Communal House (Photo: To Uyen)

In addition to the unique ancient beauty, Kien Bai Communal House is also known as the venue for many big festivals annually held from the 10th day to the 13th day of the first lunar month. On those days, villagers go to the communal house to worship and join festivals: Dum singing festival, Chung cake cooking festival, and folk games on fighting for cotton trees… to unite villagers, improve spiritual life and maintain the uniqueness of Vietnamese culture.

People come to worship at the communal house on holidays and Tet Festival (Photo: Collection)

Kien Bai Communal House is a typical architectural relic of Post-Le Dynasty period, a cultural product of the 17th century - the century of the most brilliant development of folk art. The carvings are of great value, showing deep nationalism, with diverse themes from people to animals close to the countryside. With those historical and architectural values, Kien Bai Communal House was ranked as a national historical-cultural relic by the State in 1986./.

Vu Thi To Uyen