“LA VANG” ISSUE QUESTIONABLE
WHAT DOES IT MEAN, “LA VANG”
/ THE SOURCE:
was in “Thằng Mõ” (The Town Crier) Vietnamese Weekly Magazine [918 S.
First St, San Jose, CA 95110, USA, Tel (408) 297-05451297-5880, Fax (408)
297-5220], issue #832 dated Mar 28/98, an article (page 39) entitled “Tinh
Thần La Yang” (The Spirit of La Vang) by Mr. Trần Văn Trí.
The article comprised many sections, one of which was “Tên La Yang”
(The Name of La Vang) which read:
“There was in Dinh
Cat area one Catholic Parish named Cổ
Vưu established since century 17, also
known now as Trí Bưu.
The local inhabitants got a living by woodcutting (principally to provide
firewood). According to Father
Stanislaô Nguyễn Văn Ngọc, the Catholics and non-Catholics
there were close friends, a characteristic of the area.
Since century 16, the local inhabitants had practiced woodcutting.
They cleared a piece of land inside the forest 7 kilometers from Cổ
Vưu in order to plant potatoes, cassava,
and rice. The local people called
that piece of land “La Vang.”
Hồ Ngọc Cẩn said, “There was no quietness in La Yang Quarter
at night. The inhabitants
yelled/shouted noisily every night. They
beat the bamboo tocsins and the vessels loudly, in order to chase out the
ferocious beasts such as wild boars, elephants, and tigers which came from the
forests to destroy the potatoes, cassava, rice.
That was why that area was named
(Priest Lê Văn Thành: The La Vang Madonna, 1955, pp. 15-16.)
the following explanation by Fr. Philipphê Lê Thiện Bá, of
Vưu origin, has steadier
grounds: “According to the
documents established since the Lê dynasty, that area, the Trí
Bưu inhabitants’ field, was
called the Lá Vằng Quarter, because there were there many “Iá
vằng plants,” a kind of
plants which yielded edible seeds and the leaves being medicinal which were used
by the Dinh Cát
women to drink after deliveries. Afterwards,
people pronounced “Lá Vằng (Vằng
Leaves)” as “La Vang,” and
the place where the Madonna appeared was called “the La Vang Sacred Land
(Priest Stanislaô Nguyễn Văn Ngọc: The La Vang Sacred Land,
pp. 32-34 /Pniest Hồng Phúc: The LaVang Madonna, pp.
Vang had become a “Sacred Land” and the “historians,” mainly the
Catholic priests, could not help investigating and writing about its origin,
especially the origin of the place name. There
are here two explanations given by many priests: Bishop Hồ Ngọc
Cẩn quoted by Priest Lê Văn Thành on one side (“La
Vang”); and Priest Stanislaô
Nguyễn Văn Ngọc and Priest Hồng Phúc on the other (“Lá
THE “DOCUMENTS” THEMSELVES:
Priest Lê Văn Thành’s “document” was published in 1955 (in
the early years of Catholic President Ngô Đình Diệm who was against
the French colonialists, Bảo Đại ‘s feudal faction, and
Vietnamese Communists) and based on Bishop Hồ Ngọc Cẩn (La
Priest Stanislaô Nguyễn Văn Ngọc’s “document” was
published in 1978 (three years after the fall of the Republic of Vietnam,
and the Vietnamese Communists from the North had taken control of the South, of
all Vietnam) and based on Priest Philipphê Lê Thiện Bá, allegedly of
Vưu origin (Lá
3- Priest Hồng Phúc’s “document” was published in
(after the Vietnamese Communists had
launched their “đổi mới (perestroika)” renovation, and)
after the Catholic Church had begun to plan for the 1998
Festival in La Vang (Lá Vằng).
B) READERS’ QUESTIONS:
1- In “Saigon USA” Newspaper [345 E.
Santa Clara St. #108, San Jose, CA 95113, Tel (408) 293-6664, Fax (408)
293-7564, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org], issue #97
dated Monday 9-14-1998, there was an article entitled “Linh Địa
La Vang” (The La Vang Sacred Land) in which the author wrote: “... successively
under the two Parish Priests: Bonin (Ninh) and Cadière (Cả).
The latter contributed very much in the first phase to build the La Vang
Sacred Site, in 1903)
That was at the beginning of the 20th century, closer to the Virgin Mary
‘s Apparitions than the above-mentioned authors.
Priest Cadière was a French who had been well known as a Vietnamese
scholar. He studied, could
understand and explain many things, even the most difficult Chinese-originated
historical references and literary allusions in the Nguyễn Du ‘s Kim Vân
Kiều poetic story. He was a
prominent figure in the AAVH (Association des Amis du Vieux Hué: Association of
the Old Hue’s Friends) as well as the Far-East Academy of Archaeology (Trường
Viễn Đông Bác-Cổ). Over
all, he did serve as Vicar of Cổ Vưu.(Trí
Bưu) which La Vang belonged to. Why
had Priest Cadière not said anything about the meaning of the place name of
2- Bishop Hồ Ngọc Cẩn (an erudite, native of Quảng Tn
Province, which La Vang belongs to, according to Mr. Nguyễn Lý Tưởng
in “The La Vang Sacred Land”) had been popular not only in the Catholic
circle but also among the general public. After
the late Ngô Đình Diệm took power (1954-1963), his government in
general and the Vietnamese Catholic Church in particular had to do at least two
major things: to help Archbishop Ngô Đình Thục (Diệm’s
brother) get ordained Cardinal, and to enhance the importance of the La Vang
Sacred Land, because a Madonna’s Apparition Site would surely make the local
country religiously notorious and attractive to lots of international pilgrims
and tourists... Bishop Hồ Ngọc Cẩn was logically thought to be
the then most credible personage to explain the meaning of the place name of La
Vang, which Priest Lê Văn Thành quoted and published it, in 1955.
Had there been any different explanations, why did not any other people
voice their opinions?
3- Where had been Priest Philipphê Lê
Thiện Bá, who claimed and was claimed to be of
Vưu origin, since Bishop Hồ
Ngọc Cẩn’s explanation was published (in 1955)?
Even if Bá’s were more reasonable, why did he wait so long until 1978
years later, and 3 years after the
Communists had taken power of the whole country)
to have his say?
4- No problem whether La Vang was “La
Vang” or “Lá
Vằng” (and I do not take sides
with anybody), people may note by this that a “document” published by a
higher-ranking Catholic dignitary (Bishop Hồ Ngọc Cẩn) in 1955
might turn to be considered later by some lower-ranking priests of the same
church (e.g. Father Hồng Phúc) as inaccurate.
How about the so-called accuracy of
other Catholic “documents” dated as far back as in the l9th-16th centuries?
ĐỨC CỐ LÊ
LaVang Chapter II