D A V I C O M

30. Whale Mausoleum (Ngoc Lang Nam Hai)

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Phuoc Hai Town, Dat Do District, Ba Ria - Vung Tau Province, Vietnam ( Chỉ đường )
0254 3688 868
The Whale Cemetery also called as “Ngoc Lang Nam Hai” is located right on the clean and beautiful beach, hidden in a poor hamlet of Phuoc Hai fishing village. The cemetery has more than 200 graves covered with poplar trees all year round with the wind blowing, divided into 5 areas, in which each area contains about 50 Whale graves. On each grave, there is an incense bowl and a tombstone with the words “Nam Hai chi mo” and the date of His death. Behind each tombstone is engraved the names of those who discovered His body and carried Him ashore. Villagers contributed money to build tombs, guest house and planted many trees, making the Whale Cemetery a comfortable and interesting stop for those who come to this coastal fishing village.

The Whale Mausoleum in Phuoc Hai town, also known as the Ngoc Lang Nam Hai shrine, is truly one-of-a-kind. Recognized by the Vietnam Record Center in 2011 as the “largest Whale cemetery in Vietnam,” this site holds a special place in the heart of the local community. The town of Phuoc Hai, where the Ngoc Lang Nam Hai shrine is located, was established in 1999 and covers an area of approximately 3000 m². It stands about 2 km away from the revered Dinh Ong Nam Hai. Within this sacred space, in addition to the central altar dedicated to Nam Hai General, locals also pay homage to various gods such as Thanh Hoang (City God), Quan Thanh De Quan (God of War), Ba Ngu Hanh (Five Elements Goddess), Tho Chu (Earth God), and Tho Vo (Land Spirit), among others.

The renovation and fundamental reconstruction of Dinh Ong Nam Hai in Phuoc Hai took place most recently in 1989. Every year, the Nghinh Ong Phuoc Hai Festival is held for three days on the 15th, 16th, and 17th days of the 2nd lunar month (with the 17th being the main day) at various main locations: the ancestral tombs of Tien Hau – Hien Hau (located about 2km west of Dinh Ong Nam Hai), Dinh Ong Nam Hai itself, and the tomb area known as Ngoc Lang Nam Hai shrine. This festival also marks the “opening of the sea,” signaling the commencement of the fishing season for Phuocc Hai’s fishermen. In contemporary times, the Nghinh Ong Nam Hai Festival in Phước Hải has evolved into one of the largest and most spiritually significant events for the local residents.

On the main altar in Dinh Ông Nam Hải, there is a large portrait of the revered general along with a statue of three Whales lying side by side, facing the sea. The Goddess of the World (Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva) shrine sits near the seashore. Local fishermen share a legend about Lord of the World, who, bestowed with divine authority by the Supreme Being, became the South Sea Goddess to rescue people at sea. Following divine orders, the goddess tore her saffron robe into countless pieces, scattered them across the sea, and transformed into Whale to assist boats in distress. She also appointed the Whale as the Great South Sea King.

Fishermen have a tradition that if they find a deceased Whale at sea, they promptly bring it ashore, notifying their families to prepare for a funeral. When the boat returns to land, everyone must be present to escort the Whale’s remains. It is believed that encountering the remains of Whalr during a fishing trip brings good fortune to that boat.

The remains of Whale are brought to Ngoc Lang, cleaned thoroughly, and carefully prepared. The eldest son of the boat owner kneels and mourns the “ancestor” throughout the ceremony. Afterward, the remains are placed in the tomb, and a stone slab is erected. Each tomb is covered with sandy soil, offering incense, and marked with a stone inscription that reads “Nam Hai chi mo” (Whale’s tomb), along with the date of death.

The eldest son of the boat owner is responsible for mourning the “ancestor” and is identified on the stone slab.  After three days of burial, a ceremony is held to open the tomb, followed by a 21-day period of praying for the departed soul. After three months and ten days, the family conducts a weekly commemoration and an annual death anniversary.

Many boat owners continue to visit and offer incense, especially before heading out to sea. “For three years, the mourner must abstain from certain activities, akin to mourning one’s parents. Failing to observe these restrictions will incur punishment from the ‘ancestor,'” says boat owner Hung Nhan.

After three years, the mourner performs a ceremony called “Thượng ngọc cốt” (Elevating the sacred remains),  where Whale’s remains are moved from the tomb back to Dinh Ong Nam Hai, about 1 km from the tomb. This ritual is known as “Thỉnh ngọc cốt” (Inviting the sacred remains) when the remains are brought into the shrine.

Right outside the shrine’s gate is the repository of the remains of hundreds of Whale. Families who have mourned an “ancestor” come to pay their respects during the annual commemoration day (16th day of the 2nd lunar month). Many people from other regions also visit to seek the blessings of the “ancestor.”

The remains brought back from the tomb are placed under the shrine’s repository. Some fishermen mention that obtaining a tooth from the Whale during the relocation ceremony brings good luck, ensuring peaceful sleep without disturbances. It is worth noting that every year in Phuoc Hai, dozens of deceased Whales wash ashore, leading to several instances of cremation due to the sheer volume of remains.

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