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Unique bell-shaped stone stele

(BGO) – The stele in the temple of Thiet Son county is a circular pillar shaped like a bronze bell often seen in pagodas, a rare design of stone stele in the northern countryside. The stele was discovered under the old ground of vestiges of the temple of Thiet Son county, Yen Dung district, Lang Giang province of the former Kinh Bac region - now Minh Duc commune, Viet Yen district, Bac Giang province.

According to local people, during the anti-French resistance war, the enemy pulled cannons from the Mo Tho blockhouse to destroy the temple and the stele was hit by artillery shells and then buried together with many other worshiping objects. After a period of time, the people found and erected it on the old ground.

Unique bell-shaped stone stele, Bac Giang province, Thiet Son county, circular pillar, rare design, former Kinh Bac region, anti-French resistance war, cultural artifact

The bell-shaped stele is on display at the provincial Museum.

But because of difficult economic conditions, the locality did not recover the relic, so the artifact has been collected and displayed at the provincial Museum since 2006. From the distance, the stele is still intact but when reaching it, we can see that its body bears "injuries" caused by nine artillery shells. Therefore, many pieces of the stele are broken, with many lost words that are unable to be recovered.

The stele is made of blue stone, and now its sole has been lost. The overall height of the stele is 120cm and its body circumference is 160cm. The tip is 22cm high and the body 98cm. The stele is engraved with 34 lines, each line with 18 words on average. The full text has about 600 words with no main or subheadings. The inscriptions on the stele are basically in Chinese characters, with some Nom scripts inscribing the names of some destinations. The text was written on a good day in the first month of winter, the Year of the Tiger in the 3rd Long Duc reign (1734).

The content has four relatively coherent parts. The first part records prayers to “hau hien” (the person who contributed to building and developing the village and commune), while the second one writes the names of some figures in communes who were members of the ritual council of Thiet Son county witnessing and participating in the election of “hau hien”. Part 3 features the merit of Duke Giap Dang Luan and the last one records the amounts of money and fields donated by “hau hien”, the names of destinations, the ritual to worship “hau hien” after he turns 100.

Finally, an auxiliary part indicates the time of erecting the stele and the name of people who wrote the text. The person elected as Duke was Giap Dang Luan because he was a native and donated money and many good fields to the ritual council of Thiet Son county. Therefore, after he turned 100, in spring and autumn every year, the council held ceremonies to worship him.

The stele in the temple of Thiet Son county is an artifact of great value. It reflects the traditional fondness for learning and respect for the "drinking water, remembering the source" tradition of Thiet Son people. The stele has a round shape like a bronze bell often seen in pagodas in the North. This is a rather unique type of stele in the northern countryside as well as in the country.

This stele is not only a cultural artifact but also the evidence denouncing the brutal abuse of cultural heritage of the French colonialists. It is not included in the collection of Vietnamese steles so its documentary value is even more special.

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Nguyen Van Phong

Unique bell-shaped stone stele, Bac Giang province, Thiet Son county, circular pillar, rare design, former Kinh Bac region, anti-French resistance war, cultural artifact
 
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