Chem Communal House – Hanoi

The Chem Communal House is located in Thuy Phuong Village, near the southern end of Thang Long Bridge. The village is part of Tu Liem District, a suburban area of Hanoi. The temple turns its back on one of the dykes, and overlooks the Red River.

The Chem temple is dedicated to Lý Thân, alias Lý Ông Trọng, a legendary figure during the reign of the Hùng Kings. A native of Chem area, he was a tall man with unequalled physical strength. He used to stand by the poor and, for that reason, was guilty of murdering a cruel local notable.

In deference to Lý Thân’s integrity, the Hùng King commuted his death sentence into exile to China as a tribute to China’s Emperor Qin Shihuang. The Chinese Emperor entrusted Lý Thân with the task of safeguarding the northern frontiers against the Huns invaders task which he fulfilled most successfully.

His feat of arms was duly rewarded by the Emperor who gave him the hand of one of his princesses. As he grew old, Lý Thân requested a home leave and thereafter no longer returned to China. As an alibi, Vietnamese authorities told China that Lý Thân had died. But the Chinese Emperor demanded that Lý Thân’s corpse be sent to him.

To avoid complications for his own King, Lý Thân committed suicide. The King had the body embalmed and sent to China. As the corpse remained intact, the Chinese Emperor could identity it as belonging really to Lý Thân, and thereupon had a big statue of Lý Thân made. The statue, with movable arms and legs, was put at the entrance of the Shen-Yang fortress as a deterrence against Huns invaders.

In admiration for Lý Thân, the local villagers built a temple in his honor. Them temple was reportedly built during the third period of Chinese rule over Vietnamese (603-939 AD), but its present features dated from a major renovation at the beginning of the 20th century. The temple is not large but it is an old piece of architecture, with many sculpted figures. It contains, among other things, two glided wooden statues of Lý Thân and his wife, made in 1888.

In remembrance of the hero, Thuy Phuong Village and two others, Lien Mac and Hoang Mac, jointly organize an annual festival from May 14 to May 16 (lunar year), May 14 is the pre-festival day, and May 15 the remain day.

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