In his house in Gia Cam Ward, Viet Tri city of Phu Tho province, Mr. Ma Ngoc Bao, headman of the Ma family, showed us the family annals, which has been translated from Chinese into the Vietnamese language, with 79 families.
Mr. Bao is over 70 but he looked very healthy.
He is the 77th patriarch of the Ma family.
The first patriarch was the family’s ancestor, Mr. Ma Khe, who died in 259 BC, at the age of 95.
The youngest man in the family records is Bao’s first grandson, Ma Tan Thanh.
Thanh is now only seven years old and belongs to the 79th generation.
Mr. Bao’s father, Ma Van Thuc (1917-2004), was the headman of the 76th generation.
Thuc received the family annals from his father, Mr. Ma Van Thi (1878-1950).
“In the wartime, the original family records were destroyed or lost, but my father quickly re-wrote them in Vietnamese.”
Bao made several copies of the family annals to send to family branches in other provinces like Yen Bai, Tuyen Quang, etc.
Mr. Nguyen Huu Nhan, a researcher of folk culture of Phu Tho province, said:
“Legends about the Ma family are connected with the 18th Hung King, with ancient temples, the names of mountains and rivers in Phu Tho province.”
“Among them is the Kim Giao temple, which worships Mr. Ma Khe, in Van Khuc commune, Phu Tho province.
Legend has it that the Ma family of Tay ethnic minority group who lived at the foot of Doi Den mount recruited troops to help the Hung King to defeat foreign invaders,” said Mr. Nhan.
The Ma family also built a citadel named Ma Thanh.
However, as ‘ma’ in Vietnamese means ‘ghost,’ this citadel was called Me.
There are still Me market, Me wharf, etc. in Phu Tho today.
According to Ma Ngoc Bao, after the generation of the ancestor Ma Khe, Ma family led a secluded life until the 43rd generation, when Ma Xuan Truong (930-996) was named in historical books.
At that time, the Ngo dynasty was broken up; the country fell into a period of chaos and civil war – the time of 12 warlords rebellion.
The northern region was controlled by a man named Kieu Thuan.
He had a general named Ma Xuan Truong, who rescued Kieu Thuan once.
Truong then brought his family to Yen Bai and died there, at the age of 36.
There is still a temple for Ma Xuan Truong in Yen Bai.
After successfully suppressing 11 other lords, Dinh Bo Linh ascended the throne, proclaimed himself emperor under the title Dinh Tien Hoang, establishing the Dinh Dynasty, and renamed the country Dai co Viet.
He did not punished Kieu Thuan but gave him the title “Loyal to the king and patriotic” and permitted people to build a temple for Kieu Thuan.
That temple is situated in Tru Mat village, Phu Tho province.
This temple was built in 970 to worship Kieu Thuan and Ma Xuan Truong.
It has been repaired many times. The temple has been recognized as a national historical relic.
The man who takes care of this temple, called Mr. Tu, is over 90 but he still rides a bicycle to the temple every day to clean the site and burn incense.
He showed us ancient books in Chinese scripts, which writes about the temple’s history.
Legends about the Ma family are closely associated with the Hung Kings worshiping belief of Vietnamese people, which has been existing for over 2,000 years.
Historian Dao Duy Anh said that legends about the ancestor of Ma family, Mr. Ma Khe, are pre-historical legends but they are very spiritual and the pride of Ma family today.
Mr. Bao said that the Ma family is many in number and they live everywhere in the country. In 1902, the family was divided into three branches.
The first branch holds the family records.
The second branch preserves the knife of the family and the third keeps the ancient timber horse of the family.
The horse was lost but the knife is still preserved at Tru Mat temple, where Ma people group up annually to worship their ancestors.