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Hoang Sa Flotilla Museum

Friday - 16/10/2020 12:53
The museum is located in the center of Ly Son Island, on an area of 400 square meters. In the entrance garden, a statue of the Paracel Flotilla greets visitors. It is a massive 4.5 meters high stone-made statue that weighs 40 tons. Carved into the front are the words: “Thousand miles to the Paracel.” Cut into the back is a quote from King Minh Mang’s decree in 1836, declaring “The Paracel is the most vital to the country’s sea border.” 

Behind the statue is the museum, which includes an exhibition hall, library and artifact storage facility. The exhibition hall displays historical artifacts of the country’s sovereignty and items from the flotilla, such as maps of the Paracel and Spratly archipelagoes, fishing boats, the necessities of the flotilla soldiers, and other historical items.

From the 17th century to mid-19th century, the Tay Son Dynasty, and then the Nguyen Dynasty, mobilized young men from An Vinh and An Hai villages on Ly Son Island to set up the Paracel Flotilla. They were directed to set up the country’s landmarks, observe seaways, draw maps and discover precious resources.  When seeing off the soldiers, their families hosted parties and conducted a ‘replacing soldier’ ritual — making tablets and dummies of the soldiers hoping these replicas would take all the risks and misfortune for the soldiers. This practice has been retained for hundreds of years and has become an important part of the spiritual life of Ly Son residents.

Many of the flotilla soldiers ended up missing in action. A popular saying still used today laments: “Immense sea to the Paracel, men seen off but not seen back; Around the Paracel is nothing but water, longing to the second month to see off the souls.” Since they recovered no bodies, relatives had a conjuror make replicas of the missing soldiers and conduct a ritual, calling the missing soul back into the replica of the body. There are still many soul-summoning tombs on the island. The Paracel Flotilla soldiers are among the first whose lives determined the national sovereignty of these archipelagos.
 
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