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The white chrysanthemum by green Ho Guom – A Short Story from Vietnam

Hoai Huong, an eminent writer from Vietnam, the land of Blue Dragon, shares her short story.

Hoai Huong  

Writer Hoai Huong - Sindh CourierBy profession, Hoai Huong is a journalist and member of Ho Chi Minh City Writers’ Association and Ho Chi Minh City Cinema Association. Her published works are Moments of Life and Death (A collection of short stories); Going along the memory season (short prose – short story); Saigon! I love you (Volume of prose); Alluvial Delta (A collection of short stories); Saigon 7,000 nights & Love… then remember (Essay); Hanoi Flower of Love (short prose); Tham – San – Si (A collection of short stories); Love wandering (Story prose & Essay); A general in my heart (Short stories); Literary Talk (Talks about authors – works); Green essay (short prose – essay). Awards: 4th prize for essay of District 5 – Ho Chi Minh City, 2020; Consolation prize for short prose “45 brilliant years with golden names”, Labor Newspaper, 2021; Prize B for short story “The image of soldiers of the People’s Police” – Ministry of Public Security, 2022 and Third Prize in essay “From the Memory”, Labor Newspaper, 2022.

The white chrysanthemum by green Ho Guom

By Hoai Huong

1.

– I know you will wait for me.

Nam was startled when he heard Bach Cuc’ voice next to him. The noisy sound of guests leaving the communal house after singing show made Nam could not hear her footsteps approaching, or the full moon was sprinkling silver dust on the street, created an illusory light as a woven chiffon by night dew.

Hanoi street was like in a fairy tale a few hundred years ago, rows of ancient trees were whispering to each other about human stories. Nam seemed to be lost in space 10 centuries ago…

Turned sideways, almost touching her hair, a little confused. The moonlight once again made Nam bewildered, a super beautiful of Bach Cuc. Nam is an artist, quite sensitive to the beauty, looking at her and thinking in doubt, maybe there is a beautiful face, the golden ratio every centimeter is real, not in ancient legends…

– If you don’t mind, don’t want to waste this full moon night, then walk around Hanoi street to watch the moon with me.

– But… we don’t know each other yet… Is there anything strange?

– Yes, but I know you like to draw white chrysanthemums…

–  How is it possible? I just went to Hanoi for the second time. I just met you for the first time…

– Two years ago, you sat for a long time on the bank of Ho Guom. You drew white chrysanthemums, a painting you drew white chrysanthemums in a colorful flower garden, another you drew chrysanthemum on the Buddhist altar, especially I remember the painting of white chrysanthemum in a blue Bat Trang porcelain vase, placed on a wooden carved with chrysanthemum petals, the background was the wall wood hanging a set of To Nu paintings…

– Yes, I remember, that painting was created after I entered the Hanoi Fine Arts Museum, looked at the To Nu paintings and had a strange feeling, a mysterious connection, and painted it as if would be lost the image of Vietnamese women in the painting… Yes, while I was painting, I felt someone was looking at me, but there was no one around…

– I was there. But you didn’t see. That’s why I was able to see the white chrysanthemums you painted. Therefore, I recognized you as soon as you entered the Communal House to listen to the song…

Returning to the southern city a long time, later Nam could not forget the full moon night of Hanoi, and the girl named Bach Cuc, like a fairy-tale dream through space, very real but also very strange, at dawn. On a new day, passing the old street near Ho Guom, suddenly Nam lost the girl Bach Cuc in the misty lake…

2.

Until congratulated by classmates for the watercolor painting “White Chrysanthemum on the green Ho Guom” winning a special prize in the open painting competition for students of the City University of Fine Arts, Nam still did not quite believe this unexpected result. Because this was a “match” of all professionals, including teachers and seniors, many famous people in the art nationwide.

–  Nam! Where did this model come from? It’s as beautiful as a fairy?

–  Nam! Why you are in Saigon but to draw at Ho Guom Lake in Hanoi?

–  Nam! Seriously, was this model in Hanoi?

– Nam! Tracing all the beautiful Vietnamese models, no one has this face. Did you use AI technology- Artificial Intelligence as a model?

A series of questions of friends rushed to Nam, no one asked Nam how to paint, how to use watercolor techniques, so that the painting was so transparent, deep and vivid like a three-dimensional space. They all focused on asking about the girl in the painting, a beauty like autumn dew, like moonlight, a graceful figure, wandering like old paintings.

3.

Was it true that the girl of Hanoi as she came out from the painting of the To Nu that Nam has been passionately watching when entering Kim Ngan Communal House – Hang Bac Street, the house worshiped the ancestor of Hanoi’s silvers profession? A sweet recalling that Nam was still a thinking whether it was a dream or real in this 4.0 era? The Hanoi girl named Bach Cuc who seemed to melt in the wind and sun of Ho Guom, leaving only a faint scent of chrysanthemum in the lake space. She made Nam swoon, earnestly remembered and unable to stop being entangled in love, could only draw in the painting…

Nam remembered, after a field trip to the Northwest organized by the university for final year fine art students. The group returned to Hanoi quite late. Almost everyone was tired after climbing mountains and wading streams during the day, singing and dancing with the villagers all night, and drawing and painting all week…. Therefore no one was interested in exploring Hanoi at night. But Nam was regretted that not always could fly to Hanoi, again on the night of the full moon in the old quarters… Nam wandered down the road of the hotel where he was staying, suddenly heard the sound of drums. From somewhere, following the sound, came in front of Kim Ngan Commune House, and then as if there was an invisible attraction, Nam’s feet seemed to be attached in.

In the Communal House, the electric lights were bright, the main hall was the solemn altar of the ancestor in accordance with the style of worship rituals, the side wall that caught the attention of Nam’s eyes, was the To Nu painting in the style of folk painting of Hang Trong – Hanoi, four Vietnamese girls wearing traditional dress of the Nguyen Dynasty, and standing with four different gestures. Four girls, four beauties that were the typical of old Vietnamese girls. Nam stopped at the painting of the lady strumming the lute, like an unspoken sympathies, he felt like meeting the very light smile of the girl in the painting.

White Flower - Vietnam
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Close to the wall opposite of To Nu paintings, were two large low mahogany panels, on which more than two dozen guests, in the middle of the shrine was a woven sedge mat, two musicians trying lute, drums, beats… And when the surrounding lights were dim, all the light seemed to focus on the middle…

The singer had a radiant flower face, sparkling eyes, and a beautiful figure. At that time, the musician had an elegant style, hugging the bottom instrument, bowed slightly to greet guests…

– The following is the performance of Bach Cuc singer from Bich Cau inn…

A gentle and dignified look, sparkling eyes like water under delicate eyebrows and luxuriant eyelashes for a more enchanting look. She wore traditional dress with pure white layer. Everything made her look stunning.

A holy beauty made the whole atmosphere of the house suddenly only can hear the very light breathing of people. The feeling of all noise was silence when looking at that beauty. Thought she was only in ancient poetry, now appeared in front of everyone’s eyes. People was afraid that just a slight noise would ruin the ecstatic emotions. When she stopped her eyes at Nam’s seat, as if there was a strange wave, Nam’s heart suddenly was arrhythmia, their eyes met. She seemed that just sent Nam with a mysterious voice, an appointment to meet after the show…

The scene of Tay Ho praising someone who is clever,

In a private town, a forest.

The shadow of the flag tower, the moon and the water,

Old trees, ancient houses…

(Tay Ho poem – Nguyen Cong Tru – 1778-1859)

Like an intoxicating harmony of vocals, beats, drums, a string of elaborate sounds like gold and silver echoes in the space of the ancient communal house, it stayed in guests’ heart unforgettable melodies.

The singer’s voice sometimes was high-tone or low and soft like the morning sun, the song was sad though not mournful but deep, profound, as if permeated into the guest’s soul. The musician was a talented person mixing with the drums and beats, creating a magical virtual chord, as if wanting to drain the heart of passionate and infatuated customers.

Holding Nam’s hand boldly, Bach Cuc chirped and chatted, taking Nam away in the night of Hanoi streets, the full moon was fanciful or twisted around each step. Nam was almost swept up with Bach Cuc in a strange, curious, excited, and reserved attitude.

Walking around the old streets, Nam suddenly realized that the two of them had entered a garden full of white chrysanthemums, under the moonlight, the chrysanthemums seemed to glow, suddenly like an illusion, not flowers but a magical beautiful dance gliding along the thin wind, tossing invisible fragrant seeds into the space, embalming the sweet night in a dreamy drunk.

–  Where is this? Nam suddenly lowered his voice as if afraid to startle the flowers.

Bach Cuc’s voice was like a soft whisper:

– Yes, this is the garden of Bich Cau inn, southwest of Thang Long citadel thousands of years ago. This is considered to be the gathering place of the fairies to practice magic in the legend. Why do you like white chrysanthemums?

– In Oriental art, chrysanthemum is one of the “four honorable flowers”. The ancients saw chrysanthemum flowers as the honor and gentle, leaves do not fall from the branches, petals do not leave the flowers, although withered, always clinging to the branches like a gentleman full of spirit for life pursuing its true ideals.

The white chrysanthemum symbolized the noble spirit of the soldiers who wanted to stay away from the vicious circle, despite the cold frost, despite the harsh weather surrounding, the chrysanthemum still has a unique character. Calm and leisurely, chrysanthemum still stands upright in many arduous situation, proudly sprouting flowers and branches…

– Why is your name Bach Cuc?

chrysanthemum- Vietnam-1– My mother gave birth to me on the night of the full moon, when the chrysanthemums of Bich Cau garden were in full bloom. Mom said, when I was born crying, the whole room smelled of chrysanthemums, and three days later, did not know who put a white chrysanthemum at the top of my crib, so my grandfather named Bach Cuc, with his wish, I would be a pure girl, ethereal personality, strong temperament, intellectual personality, wisdom…

There was a moment when Nam was engrossed in the white chrysanthemums soaked in the moonlight. There was a moment when Nam vaguely touched the scent of flowers or touched a soft, sweet lips. There was a moment when Nam was alone with dreams in the illusion of a fairy holding white chrysanthemums in his hands…

In the early morning dew, in the thin rays of dawn, in the ripples of the lake mirror, somewhere echoed the sound of the city in a new day… Nam heard Bach Cuc’s voice singing the song “The chrysanthemums” by Truc Lam ancestor Huyen Quang (1254 – 1334) “The years of autumn coming back and blooming beautifully/The moon is cool and windy with earnest love/Laughing at someone who does not know the miraculous branches/Returning to the land full of virgin flowers” … gradually drifting away magically …

______________________

(Translated into English by Khanh Phuong)

 

 

 

 

 

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