There 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.”


“Bishop 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 La Vang (Noisily Shouting) Quarter (Priest Lê Văn Thành: The La Vang Madonna, 1955, pp. 15-16.)


“However, the following explanation by Fr. Philipphê Lê Thiện Bá, of Cổ 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. 30-31).”




La 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 Vằng”).




1- 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 Vang);


2- 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 Cổ Vưu origin (Lá Vằng);


          3- Priest Hồng Phúc’s “document” was published in 1997 (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).




          1- In “Saigon USA” Newspaper [345 E. Santa Clara St. #108, San Jose, CA 95113, Tel (408) 293-6664, Fax (408) 293-7564, Email:], 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 “La Vang?”


          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 Cổ 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 (23 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 (mid-20th century) 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      


LaVang                                                  Chapter II