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The life story of the ‘great grandfather tree’ through seven centuries

The great old da huong (cinnamomum comphora) tree in Yen Nhan commune in Y Yen district in Nam Dinh province has existed for hundreds of years. People call it ‘cu cay’, or the ‘great grandfather tree’, to show their respect.

Since the day it was recognized as national cultural heritage in 2013 and confirmed by Vietkings as the ‘biggest da huong tree in Vietnam’, the tree, which is 556 years old, has attracted special attention.

Chu Minh Giang, chair of Yen Nhan commune, said the ancient da huong tree is located in the precinct of Ngo Nu Thi Hoang’s shrine. Hoang was an imperial concubine of Le Thanh Tong King (1460-1497). When she passed away, her corpse was carried to the homeland for burying. A da huong was planted so that she could rest in the shade.

The da huong tree grew well on fertile land and has been taken care by generations of villagers. At first, no one knew what kind of tree it was. They just called it ‘moc huong’ because of the fragrance from the tree. Later, they found that it was da huong, a tree which resembles the famous da huong tree in Tien Luc commune of Lai Giang district in Bac Giang province.

The da huong tree in Bac Giang province is believed to be over 1,000 years old, while the tree in Nam Dinh is 550 years. However, the information about the age of the tree in Bac Giang has not been confirmed as it cannot be found in documents.

The information about the tree in Nam Dinh is accurate because it links with the story about the concubine.

After ‘cu cay’ in Nam Dinh province became famous, it unexpectedly was attacked by worms. The Yen Nhan commune authorities then had to ask specialists for help.

According to Chu Minh Giang, the representative of the locality, when the Vietkings’ appraisal board’s members came to see the tree, they found that the stump perimeter was 16 meters, not 11 meters, as people thought. The tree is now 45 meters high and has a 50 meter wide canopy.

The ancient tree has been respected by villagers for many centuries. However, the respect seems to be the reason for many fabricated stories.

People said in 1976, some locals cut roots and branches of the tree to make furniture and to use as fuel. They were reportedly punished by ‘cu cay’ and met misfortune in their lives. However, Yen Nhan commune’s chair said that this is just a fabrication.