Red cotton flower season

(No.2, Vol.9,Apr-May 2019 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

Red cotton trees blossom in the 3rd lunar month. The bright red flowers never fail to invoke the sense of nostalgia. The tree grows in almost every village of the northern countryside, usually at the village gate or alone amid paddy fields. The flowers are also given many beautiful literary names that associate them with some mesmerizing pieces of prose or poetry. To our ancestors, they are also the signal of changing seasons when farmers must change to other, more weather-suitable crops.

“Sow sesame when fireflies light the garden
And red cotton flowers cover the streets…”

Ancient people said, “Banyan tree shelters spirits, red cotton tree ghosts.” Perhaps that’s why red cotton trees are usually planted at the village gate to keep ghosts from coming in. Poor villages had only a red cotton tree instead of a gate. The five petal, scarlet flower spins beautifully as it falls. Cotton trees on river banks sprinkle their flowers on the water creating a poetic scene. The Red River section from the ceramic village of Bat Trang to Hung Yen, and the Day River section from Vac crossing to Ba Tha, for example, have many heart-warming red cotton trees. I was not born in the countryside, yet I can feel the touch, the soft but deep call of the places I have lived at the sight of a red cotton tree with kids playing in its shade. It always reminds me of the poem about the cotton flower and the love of a young couple:
Summer sun burns the petals red,
Paths carpeted with the color of home,
It’s the red cotton blossom season,
Come back to me to say you love me!
Beloved is the month of red cotton flower blossom.

Text And Photos By Le Bich
Following the tunes (“Spring comes to Muong Hum hamlet high up the mountains with heart-rocking distant singing…” ) of talented composer Nguyen Tai ...
In the heart of the darkness of Saigon's backpacker land,ambling along down raucous Bui Vien Street and wishing I had not come out without my ear ...
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