Nestled close to the gentle Nhue River, the 500-year-old Cuu Village owns the unique treasure of Hanoi. Those are villas with Vietnamese – French – Chinese classical architecture.
If you ask the people of Van Tu commune (Phu Xuyen district, Hanoi City) about the Cuu Village, you will get a very similar answer, that is, “village of the rich” or “Western Village.”
The needlework and embroidery skills of the Cuu Village was trusted by the French and the whole country, which became famous and named the Number One Tailor Village in Hanoi. Hundreds of Western visitors came in and out to do suits, giving the Cuu Village a new nickname “Western Village.”
Thanks to the hard work, the money earned from sewing has helped villagers soon become the upper class in Hanoi. The most magnificent and beautiful villas with the appearance of French villas sprung up from 1920-1945, contributed to that prosperity.
Down the Nhue River to the south, anyone who enters Cuu Village feeling a completely different scene. Although it is still a Vietnamese village landscape with banyan trees, wells, and communal yards, the architecture of the houses here have the blend of Asian and Eastern cultures. It is the half-Western half-Vietnamese, half-ancient – half-modern that has made the difference to this village compared to other ancient communities in Hanoi such as Duong Lam, Uoc Le, or Cu Da.
The clean village road stretches through several dozen old houses with domes and Gothic columns in the style of Western Renaissance architecture. Besides that, there are two lines of parallel sentences, which are the familiar Han-Nom characters on the grand porch of the gate or the carving of traditional Vietnamese artisans. In particular, there is a villa located in the large alley paved with green boulders, two buildings on both sides connected by a winding concrete bridge, specially decorated entrance gate, skillful charming pattern, showing the wealth of the house’s owner.
Entering spacious, clean, the deep curving alleys here, you seem to be immersed in a quiet, peaceful space with a garden, areca trees, green window frames. It all goes back to the old years when the market economy had not affected the village.
According to Ms. Huyen, a local living in the village, today there are only about 20 old houses. Some people are still living there, but most of the villas now are empty and being degraded.
Ms. Huyen explained further that the owners either left the village or are still in the town but have no money to renovate the house, nor dare to live in fear of collapse. By the 2000s, nearly a dozen old mansions were demolished and built modern homes because of the time demands. There have also been many ideas for restoration. However, because of funding constraints as well as unable to find alternative source materials, those old houses are degrading by rain and sun damage.
While other ancient villages such as Duong Lam and Cu Da have become popular tourist destinations, the Cuu village still retains itself outside the travel trade spiral. Most people who love ancient architecture find their way back to the town, looking back to the natural features of the previous century that are fading over time. The space of this Village was like settling, gently drifting, so that people could not realize that there are the hustle and bustle life outside.
Articles and photos: Huy Tung – https://nld.com.vn/diem-den-hap-dan/lang-cuu-noi-luu-giu-nhung-manh-ghep-thoi-gian-20200227222636386.htm