Lo Hanh communal house is the most ancient communal houses in Vietnam. It is just after the Tay Dang communal house in Hanoi. According to several researches, Lu Hanh communal house was built in the the Mac dynasty in 16th century.
Lo Hanh communal house is located in Dong Lo commune, Hiep Hoa district, about 1 hour drive from Hanoi. It is the worshipping place of the five villages including Cham, Chung, Khoat, Chua and Hanh. It is 23.5 meters long, 12.3 meters wide, the height from the top beam is 6.6 meters.
Lo Hanh communal house has not many ornamental motifs, but these are quite special. This “greatest communal house of Kinh Bac region” is preserving many traditional carvings of mascots on the architectural structures representing the typical cultural values of this period.
The dragon image at the great building within Lo Hanh communal house was carved under the form of “carp leaping over the dragon’s gate” and dragon sun (the sun’s image is a stylised daisy). The two dragons are lifting a horizontal lacquered board engraved with the characters “Long live the Emperor”.
The dragon image in this period is rarely seen in other relics except the stone dragon at Doan Minh pagoda in Tho Ha village, Viet Yen district. The dragon in this period was carved with big eyes, short mouth, and fat body especially thin swords flying from its eyes, knees, body to the back.
Besides, Mac dynasty marked the diversity of the phoenix images in the architectural works. The image of phoenix at Lo Hanh communal house was carefully carved on woods with long beak, round eyes, backward hair, chubby body and long legs.
The phoenix stands on spiral clouds with flying thin swords symbolizing saints, universe and justice in which its eyes represent the sun and the moon, its back is carrying the sky, its wings symbol the wind, its tail represents the stars, its feather is plants and grass and its legs represent the earth. The image of phoenix at Lo Hanh communal house with flying swords bears super power to call for happiness representing the wish for rain and bumper crops by the wet rice cultivators.
The carving features of phoenix at Lo Hanh communal house embody the free artistic spirit with a desire to go beyond the shapes and sizes to merge into the folk cultural features.
The image of flamingos was found at Lo Hanh communal house for the first time. The flamingos standing firmly have the same features with those of following periods. In addition, a number of little birds pecking the qilin are also found on some carvings at Lo Hanh communal house.
As the carving of qilin at Lo Hanh communal house is symbol of the super power, intelligence and purity, it is believed to control the soul of the pilgrims. The image of two qilins beside the sun at Lo Hanh communal house bears the folk features with tall and well-built body and sitting style like a dog.
Tiger symbolizes the power of the earth. The carving of tiger at Lo Hanh communal house is also a work of folk art with high value. The tiger is in the position of movement and silence. The image is in leaning layout but the tiger’s face seems to look forward while its tail is squeezed upward. Its strong body embodies the hidden power not the fierceness. The curves on its belly, back and tails represent gentleness, flexibility and harmony.
Ancient people believed that tiger governed the earth had power to exorcize, thus it often appears on the front face of the painting in the communal houses and temples. Tiger is not included in the mascots of the super power, thus, its image carved on one piece of wood at Lo Hanh communal house is still a question mark for the researchers.