Le Mat snake village

The name Le Mat, according to history, appeared before the time of Le Canh Hung (1740 -1786), but it was just acknowledged as a commune level administrative unit from the beginning of Nguyen dynasty, means that in the early of 20th century.

After many times changing place name, boundary, in the late of 1997, Le Mat became one of three hamlets (Le Mat, Truong Lam, Kim Quan), now belongs to Viet Hung commune, Gia Lam district, on the outskirt of Ha Noi city. Viet Hung commune, on the cadastral office map, lain to the Northern East of Thang Long capital, has common border with Due Giang town to the North and two communes Thach Ban - Gia Thuy to the Southern West and South, has common border with Hoi Xa commune to the East, Giang Bien in the Northern East and with Gia Lam town in the Northern West. Le Mat ancient village is a purely agricultural one but it is famous for its snake - catching vocation. Until before the August Revolution over 90 percents of Le Mat people lived on planting rice. This number reduced with over 60 percents in 1999 (according to census data in the April of this gear). The amount of population living on the vocation of raising and catching snake with new services generated around this job just takes 5 percents of total village people. The rest lives on many different subordinate jobs such as sewing, trade, transport. These new jobs have appeared since the country renovated economic structure. Maybe, Le Mat is the place where there are number of people who work at catching snake more crowded than anyplace in all over the North delta. Several legends and funny stories of snakes have been being preserved in cultural activities of Le Mat people community. This job makes the fame for Le Mat, but itself also makes many persons in the villages injurious, even died due to being bitten by venomous snakes. Le Mat people owns a treasure of knowledge and experience about snake catching techniques, making tonic medicine from snakes or medicine for treating injury bitten by snakes etc. They can recognize snakes' names as well as determine the light or weighty rate of injury when seeing a bite. Who was the first person handed down the snake catching vocation, nobody knows exactly. According to elders in the village, till the end of Nguyen court, this region still had plenty of snakes. Snakes usually lived in stagnant pools of water, in marshes around Le Mat villages and in the neighborhood.

The tradition of catching snakes in Le Mat has been partially lost in oblivion gradually since the second half of the 20th century. One part due to snake has no longer played the important role in daily eating and drinking activities of people as before. Other part due to this vocation has been lost tradition gradually. Thus, nowadays, the number of people living on this work has been a little bit. In spite of that, along village paths or big roads in Le Mat. you still see quite a lot of restaurants of snake specialties. Several families incomes have been increased considerably thanks to these restaurants. More than different dishes from only one snake may be made. In order to enjoy all dishes, it is necessary for customs to prepare a smallness sum of money. Not only of snake, dishes from other animals such as birds, goats, rabbits... are also processed in these restaurants with snake wine. The abundance makes ceaseless increase restaurant bosses incomes. To tell the truth, the village has long been famous for a traditional job: catching snakes. It is rumored that even the kids there are skillful in doing the job, and that's why there is no snakes left in the village and its surroundings. Nowadays, hundreds of families breed snakes to supply tens of snake restaurants in the village.

Not only famous for the talent of catching snakes, the village is also well-known for serving delicious dishes made from the reptiles. Just half an hour's driving from the center of Hanoi, you will find yourself in Le Mat village where snake - restaurants have mushroomed. Most of these dining venues are built on big plots of land surrounded by small farmer houses and rice fields. They are designed as rich houses of the old feudal time with wooden chairs and tables and precious potteries or porcelains. The most popular snakes served in these restaurants are grass snakes and cobras (the cobra is ten times more expensive than grass snakes, of course), and they are all alive. Guests can see how the chosen snake is prepared. Its heart and gall are poured into glasses of wine to drink. Other parts of the snake are cooked in different ways to make around ten dishes, for instance: grilled, fried, wrapped in leaves, rice soup, etc... Besides, snake alcohol is quite popular because it is believed to make ones healthier. Not many people think snakes are nice, but snake dishes are actually not so bad. Quoc Trieu, owner of one of the biggest restaurants there, says that everyday nearly a hundred snakes are cooked. After the Government banned catching snakes to preserve the wild creature, his family had to open a farm to breed snakes in order to meet the demand of restaurants. Originally a farmer who knew how to catch snakes 40 years ago, now he is quite rich, earning billions of dong worth of a snake restaurant and a farm of snakes. Le Mat is one of villages having many temples of forefathers. Le Mat people always respect the death anniversary and all bloodline relationships. According to elders in the village, from formerly till now, four biggest clans in Le Mat is Nguyen,-Truong, Pham, Tran. Besides, Hoang clans is also fairly big and of reputation in this locality. Le Mat is also the village whose persons passed many exams and did mandarins in courts of Le - Nguyen. Le Mat is also a land of plenty of daughters in - law and sons - in -law means persons from different places come here to reside and make a fortune. They almost work for their living prosperously. Le Mat village is of wide relations with bordering ones because its people's character is very open - hearted with progressive opinions about funerals and weddings. A girl in village is permitted to get married to another one in a different village, she was not forbidden austerely.There is no superfluous and wasteful procedure in funerals. An objective reason making such "free character" of Le Mat people is thanks to favorable geographical position and natural environment for exchanging and trading. Located near Thang Long capital, it is easy for Le Mat people to receive nice tradition from two great cultural regions to be Thang Long and Kinh Bac. Le Mat people do not refuse "aliens" like other villages in Viet Nam. On the contrary, they receive them open heartedly and regard this as truism. This represents humanity in Le Mat people's opinions, way of life and cultural behaviors in communal life.

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