Mount Ba Vi in Vietnam

Mount Ba Vi is the highest

About 60km from Hanoi to the Northwest lies in the earthen and limestone Ba Vi mountain which stretches out in an area of 5,000 hectares within the territory of three districts, namely Ba Vi (Hanoi), Luong Son and Ky Son (Hoa Binh).

Ba Vi mountain range lies in the middle of a plain with scattered mounds and hills, dissected by bed rock platform and old alluvial platform of Red river on a stable geological base which was formed by the tectonic movements taking place in the late Triassic age (roughly 210 million years ago). Archaeological research results show that Ba Vi mountain range lies in Doai region - an ancient land of the Viet people where numerous stone artifacts were discovered (such as axes, graters, pressing and chopping boards spearheads, spears, arrows, jewelry etc.) and bronze artifacts (bronze stuff, porcelain etc.) dated in Sơn Vi Culture, Phùng Nguyên Culture, Đồng ĐậuGò Mun Culture, and Đông Sơn Culture dated back thousands of years ago. At Phuong Khe archaeological site under Phuong Khe mountain, archaeologists discovered two bronze drums class I, which symbolize the brilliant achievements of bronze casting during the Metal age. Culture,

The climate in Ba Vi area is nice and cool. Ba Vi mountain has been considered an ideal resort in Northern delta since 1932, just like Sapa in the Northwest, Da Lat in Central Highlands.

In the 19th century, the book “Bắc Thành địa dư chí” (Northern land annals) wrote: “The mount is round like a canopy so it is called Tan Vien. It is immense high and mighty, guarding the whole region. It is 2,310 units of ten feet high, circumference of 18,605 units of ten feet. In the west, there are Da river, thick bushy forest and beautiful scenery”. There are many peaks in Ba Vi range, but the most famous one is Tan Vien peak (also called Ngoc Tan, Tan Son or Phuong Hoang Son). Tan Vien mountain is 1,281m high. Going from mountain foot up to peak it becomes narrower, but its peak spreads like an umbrella, so that why, it is called Tan. Apart from Tan Vien, there are a lot of high mountains upon Ba Vi range including Ngoc Linh, Tuong Mieu, U Bo, Nui Tre, Ghe Dung, Tram Voi, Ngoc Hoa and Vua mountain.

The Ba Vi mountain has not only an important geographical position but also a unique significance in the spiritual life of the ancient Viet people, which is similar to Olympus peak (2,917m high), the reigning place of God Deus in the belief of ancient Greek. Since the 15th century, Nguyen Trai affirmed in his book “Dư địa chí” that “That mountain is the founding mountain of our country”.

In 1836, King Minh Mạng ordered to cast “Cuu Dinh” (Nine Dynastic Urns) placed in Hue imperial city symbolizing the prestige and stability Nguyễn dynasty. On Thuan Dinh which is 2,32m high and weight 1,950kg, Tan Vien mountain miniature was engraved together with images of Can Gio seaport and Thach Han river, the most beautiful landscapes of our country. Then, in 1850, King Tu Duc decided to classify Tan Vien mountain as “linh sơn” (sacred mountain) of our country, which was recorded in national Dictionary for annual-ceremonial offering. In Vua mountain (King mountain), on the highest-mount (around 1,296m high, there is a temple worshipping Ho Chi Minh president.

During the past centuries, Ba Vi mountain has been closely linked with folklore culture of Doai region and Son Tinh - Thuy Tinh legend. There was a popular saying that:

“Nhất cao là núi Ba Vì,

thứ ba Tam Đảo,

thứ nhì Độc Tôn.”

(The Ba Vi mount is the highest

The Tam Dao mountain is the third, and

The Doc Ton mountain is the second)

Actually, Ba Vi mountain’s height is just 1,296m, while the Tam Dao mountain’s height is 1,581m. Ba Vi mountain however is the residence of Mountain God Tan Vien - the first-rank god among “the Four Immortals” worshiped by the ancient Vietnamese people, for this reason, Ba Vi mountain was entitled as the highest and most sacred mountain. The “highest” Ba Vi mountain, highest here means it has the highest place in the people’s consciousness and spiritual life not geographically speaking. According to legend, Ba Vi mountain height was due to Son Tinh (or Mountain God Tan Vien) who had raised up the mountain to prevent the flooding water in fighting against Thuy Tinh army.

In Feng Shui concepts, Nghia Linh mountain (the ancient capital of old Van Lang country) was regarded as the center, point, the Ba Vi and Tam Dao mountains are the two symmetric points, forming “arms of the throne” of King Hùng dynasty. Doai region embraced all three by rivers namely: Đà, Thao, Lô. The Bach Hac intersections is where these rivers meet and then poure the water to the beginning of Cai river (Red river) forming a very fertile land which is nowadays the Red river delta.

Ba Vi mountain is not only a legendary one, closely linked with Son Tinh - Thuy Tinh legend but also the sacred mountain of Doai region. Legend claims that an emperor of Đường (Tang) dynasty (China) considered Ba Vi Mountain as the head of a powerful dragon whose body stretched out long to the South (i.e. the present Truong Son range). In an attempt to prevent the Southern country from proclaim an emperor, Tang emperor assigned Cao Bien, a general cum sorcerer, to use his magic power to exercise, by digging a hundred wells around the foot of Ba Vi mountain to destroy the favorable geomantic features of Viet country. However, all hundred wells collapsed when their construction was nearly completed; covering up all the vital points of the earth and Heaven. Finally, the emperor and mandarins of Tang dynasty had to abandon this attempt because of the sacred mountain of Viet country.

Presently around Bavi mountain area, there are many  names of lands, villages, hills, field, rivers, streams, terrains, lakes, ponds, plains, temples, shrines, and human beings which are closely associated with the legend of Son Tinh, which is deeply reflected in the folklore stories of Doai region. The Mom hills and Choi mounds of Tong Lenh area to the North of Ba Vi mountain; mountains of Su Da, La Phu, and Thach Khoan areas; Che mountains and Chem rocky mountain range to the West of Da river; Mang Song hills, Gieng hill to the East of Ba Vi mountain, all these places were the feats of arms of Son Tinh, who had carried soil day and night to build the defense line to fight against Thuy Tinh. Legend claims that Vai Hill, the highest hill in Kim Son village was a rock falling down from a soil basket of Son Tinh. Dum hills stretching along Xuan Son village were soil falling down due to a bamboo frame got broken when Son Tinh used it to carry soil. Chong rocky area used to be spiked area of Son Tinh etc.

In the old battle field still exist many vestiges of the legendary fight between Son Tinh - Thuy Tinh, such as Di stream, Tich river, Tom canal, Mom pond, Mit pond, Sui pond, Rua hamlet, Ca sau (crocodile) hamlet (in Van Hoa village, Ba Vi District); Ran Giai hamlet in Phu Khang (Duong Lam village), Thuong Luong legend in Cau Hang (Thanh My village); Sea Monster Legend in Ghenh Bo on Da river etc. All these places carry the traces of the lost battles, the defeated generals and the army remnants of Thuy Tinh. Folklore legends about the fight between Son Tinh and Thuy Tinh proved that the Vietnamese ancestors initiated the flood control and land expansion at the basin of Da river and Tich river, resulting in a prosperous Ba Vi area.

Around the Ba Vi mountain area there are hundreds of temple and shrines where Tan Vien God - Son Tinh are worshiped such as Trung temple, Ha temple, Thuong temple, Da Den temple, Vat Lai temple, Mang Son temple, Khanh Xuan temple, Yen Noi temple, Mo Lao temple, Quat Dong temple, Dong Vien temple, Quan Huc temple, Phu Thu temple, Thanh Hung temple, Thuy Phieu temple, etc.

Ba Vi mountain is a marvelous mountain, which is one of the most ancient mountain of Vietnam. Archeological findings about Ba Vi ancient cultural area have proved that this is an ancient land, which developed early during the course of nation building. Ba Vi mountain is also a forever reigning place of Tan Vien God - the most sacred god among the “Four Immortals” in Vietnamese people’s religious belief.

Source: Hanoi Famous Landscapes, Information and Communication Publishing House