Visiting Van Thuy Tu Temple to learn the whale-worshiping tradition of Vietnamese fishermen


Located on Ngu Ong Street, Duc Thang Ward, Phan Thiet City, Dinh Van Thuy Tu (Van Thuy Tu Temple) is a famous tourist destination during any Phan Thiet tours, which worships Nam Hai God – Ca Ong (the friendly name of the Vietnamese fishermen to refer whales). The street was named Ngu Ong in order to express the historical significance of Ong Nam Hai with the local fisheries, the reverence of fishermen as well as the belief of local people and fishermen in Ong Nam Hai. The history of the formation of Van Thuy Tu Temple was closely linked with the tahe history of Phan Thiet City and Binh Thuan Province when the very first fishermen came to this place and created the fishing industry along with the popular traditional fish sauce production.


Van Thuy Tu Temple

Beside the spiritual values, the great fulcrum for the fishermen when going out to the sea, the temple is also considered as a small museum of Phan Thiet tours, which keeps the largest fin whale skeleton in Southeast Asia. This skeleton is 22m in length and 65 tons in weight. In addition to the giant whale skeleton, Van Thuy Tu Temple also stores and worships more than 600 different whale skeletons. For Vietnamese fishermen and fishing villages, whales have long been considered as the God of the sea, so every time there is a whale who died near the shore, the local fishermen always hold a ritual funeral. The famous fisherman here must be Mr. Nguyen Sau (also known as Mr. Sau Veo), who has luckily met whales for almost 20 times.


The largest fin whale skeleton

Coming here in your Phan Thiet tour for family, it would be a great luck of you if you have a chance to sit down with Mr. Sau Veo and listen to his “faithful” fishing story. At that time, when he dragged the fishing net, he realized that there was a whale stuck in his net. So he decided to leave all the fish he had caught, including the whale. But the same thing happened for the next 2 times. Then he guessed that the whale was about to die and he stopped his fishing trip to bring the whale back to the shore.

Van Thuy Tu Temple is one of the largest and oldest temples of marine fisheries in Binh Thuan. The temple was designed from the year of 1762 (Nham Ngo) with the Main Hall, the Tien Vang House and the Vo Ca House, of which the Main Hall is to worship Nam Hai God, Mr. Thuy on the left side and Mrs. Thuy on the right side. Behind the Main Hall is the Tien Vang House which worships the ancestors contributing to the village formation. In the front side, there is Vo Ca House where people often organize singing and dancing performances during festivals.


Nam Hai God

Every year at the Van Thuy Tu Temple, there are ceremonial occasions and festivals held solemnly on the lunar month: 20/2 (Te Xuan); 20/4 (Cau Ngu); 20/6 (Chinh mua); 20/7 (Chèo doc) and 23/8 (Man mua). During the festivals, local people also organize many interesting activities such as singing, dance performance, and races. Thus, there is no reason for Van Thuy Tu Temple and Phan Thiet City not being on the list of best tours in Vietnam.

On architectural values, Van Thuy Tu Temple was built with “Tu tru” (Four Pillars) architecture. All of the trusses, pillars, halls are started from the top of the four pillars; the wood structure system is made of precious wood with elaborately carved small details. Up to now, compared to other dozens of different temples worshipping the Sea God along the coast of Binh Thuan Sea, Van Thuy Tu Temple still preserves the original status of its ancient architecture. In the temple, people also preserves 24 honor books under the Nguyen dynasty as well as many cultural relics of Han – Nom related to the sea and fishing occupation, parallel sentences on Dai Hong Chung Bell.


Foreigners visit Van Thuy Tu Temple

In 2003, the People’s Committee of Phan Thiet City invested in the construction of the Exhibition Hall and assembled the largest fin whale skeleton so as to have a better preservation and create more favorable conditions for local people, visitors, as well as scientists, coming to explore and study during their Vietnam private tours. With the help of the Department of Conservation – The Institute of Oceanography in Nha Trang, the Exhibition Hall was opened on the occasion of the Cau Ngu Festival in 2003. Throughout the preservation of the people, the fin whale skeleton is almost intact and is identified as the largest fin whale skeleton in Vietnam in particular and Southeast Asia in general.

Author Since: Jan 16, 2019

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