Today was a calm day despite the gloomy weather. Our group went to the Cat Tuong Quan Zen House to do mediation. When we arrived, I was surprised how calm I already felt being in the Zen House after arriving. We were greeted by three attendants who were happy to see us. I was amazed by the beauty of the place with its architecture and the lush green gardens surrounding the four buildings. We were introduced to Qigong, a series of body movements that are meant to help with your posture and breathing. After that we were given a tour around the place, there were four buildings set up in a square layout with a water pool in the middle. One house had a Buddha temple, another was the library, also a dinning room for guests, and lastly the mediation room. With the exception of the dinning room, these buildings also had simple bedrooms in adjacent rooms for overnight guests at the Zen House. Our guide explained how the some parts of the architecture had specific meanings such as the number of pillars inside the house or the symbol of “many years” was everywhere in the buildings, including the bricks used to build the buildings. It was obvious that the founder of this business put a lot of effort and thought into her buildings and how they represent the Buddhist culture. We learned 6 steps of Qigong along with mediating for about 30 minutes before eating a delicious vegetarian lunch. I think a lot of us needed that peaceful time at the Zen House after many days of continuous traveling around.
After the Zen House, we went to the Imperial City in Hue City that used to be the capital of Vietnam during the Nguyen dynasty. There was a walking tour through the intact temple and through the ruins of what was left of the Imperial City. This Imperial City had the Citadel, Imperial City, and the Forbidden Purple City. I was amazed by the colors and details on the entrance gates and on the buildings that hadn’t worn away over the years. There were details of dragons painted on the walls outside of the temple in red while there was yellow dragons on gates. A lot of color and carving was used to make these buildings and gates beautiful. We got to go inside the temple where we learned about the leaders of the Nguyen dynasty since there were altars dedicated to them. One emperor had 500 wives and 142 kids!
After that we went to dinner. Dinner was special since we were eating at a local family’s home where the family would be preparing the dinner for us. It was the Quy Nga Family. They were very welcoming when we arrived despite our language barrier however the oldest son spoke great English. He was able to introduce us to his parents and show us around their home. We got to watch his mom prepare the dinner for a few minutes and she explained to us what she was making. All of the dishes were delicious! We got to try these soft rice cakes with dried shrimp and seasoning drizzled in chicken broth, beef soup with noodles, and other dishes. Throughout the meal, the son explained some family customs such as how the eldest son has to take care of the parents until he is unable to then the responsibility is transferred to the next oldest child. He also explained wedding customs and showed us his wedding photos along with other family albums. It was a great way to learn more about Vietnamese culture.