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A lineage Hall in Hạ Lan, a village South of Hue. Image by author

This project looks at the lineage hall[i] (clan ancestral hall) typology in Hue city to examine the connection between architecture and place-making, cultural production, spiritual experiences, collective memories, and identity construction. Among the many cities in Vietnam, Hue still has one of the strongest cultures of clan identity. This architectural typology is unique in the sense that its main function is not merely private (residential), it is also public (place of gathering) and religious (it is ancestor-worshipping). Thus, understanding its architecture is dependent on an understanding of its location within a village in relationship to other structures and, especially, on the collective memories of the clan itself. Studying the ancestral halls could also tell us a large amount about the establishment and development of each village itself. Therefore, I propose that to investigate the typology, it is necessary to not only use quantitative research methods but also qualitative ones such as ethnographic research as well. 

On the one hand. I would want to map all the lineage halls within a couple of sample villages to find their urban-scale pattern. My hypothesis is that there is a geographical pattern underlying the layout of each village with a similar relationship between each clan ancestral hall and other important structures (the communal hall – worshipping the genius loci, the temple(s), and other important elements such as the river, canal, rice fields). Each lineage hall’s architectural language may change over time, but the “chosen site” or the “genius loci” is probably physically preserved or documented. Moreover, as the clan grew over time, so do the branches and their migratory movement. Thus, I am interested in looking at related villages (brother village, many have an upper and lower brother, whose locations are topographically related) with a history starting before the Nguyen Dynasty (during the great migration from the North, which infers that there might be ‘brother’ village in Northern Vietnam), seeing whether they worship the same/ similar figures, whether they have customs in common, and which direction they grow (North-South, East-West).

Đình làng Bao Vinh (communal hall), Hue City. Image by author

On the other hand, I am interested in looking at the architectural language, spatial organization, and material/ornamental choice of each lineage hall. I suspect that there may be a relationship between the choice of architecture with the clan’s place of origin or a hybrid between the architecture of the clan’s place of origin and place of arrival (i.e. the current village). I am also interested in how the lineage hall evolved over time after renovation or reconstruction. I assume that the architectural language and materials might change but the spatial organization would stay the same or become simplified as worshipping rituals and customs are minimized in modern times.

[i] Lineage hall (clan ancestral hall;  Vietnamese: nhà thờ họ, từ đường, mỗ tộc từ đường): The lineage hall is a traditional place of worship of a clan or its branches through the paternal line, popular in North and Central Vietnam. Each clan, once settled in a new place, would together build a structure to commemorate their ancestors, to remind the next generations of their origin and to establish kinship. The lineage hall’s architecture and size depend on the clan’s financial capacity and the status of the clan’s most prominent members. (Note by author).