Largest communal house pulse of Central Highlands

By Nguyen Chi Nam   April 13, 2020 | 02:18 pm GMT+7
Dubbed ‘roof of the tall mountains’, Kon So Lal communal house is a revered spiritual landmark of Gia Lai Province.
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Ha Tay Commune of Chu Pah District, northeast of Gia Lai Province, still preserves its traditional stilt homes. Amongst them sits Kon So Lal, the largest communal house in the Central Highlands. The village is located 50 kilometers from Pleiku Town, the capital of Gia Lai, near Kon Tum Province.

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The communal house measures over 320-square-meters and is 20 meters in height, making it larger than Kon Klor communal house in Kon Tum, which previously held the record for largest communal facility in the Central Highlands.

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Kon So Lal was recently built to replace the old communal house struck by lightning in 2015. In July 2017, the communal house was completed and put into use. Materials like wood, bamboo, and leaves for the roof were entirely donated by villagers.

The structure does not include the usual rafters but instead employs rattan and bamboo. The distinct roof is 20 centimeters thick and tapers in like one hatchet leaning against another. On the inside of the roof, wooden planks and bamboo branches are woven together to ensure sturdiness.

This job is usually handed to young and strong men who are unafraid of heights. Despite the detailed and demanding design, the builders did not need a blueprint. Instead, they eyeballed every component, measured, and marked as they went.

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A vegetable fern in the shape of the sun decorates the first pillar, staircase and roof of the house. To the Bahnar ethnic people, the symbol represents ambition, inclined towards the Sun God.

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The 12 main wooden pillars are made using resin and white lead tree wood with the width of two adult arm circles. Along with planks and bamboo, they are soaked in a mud lake for almost two years before usage to prevent termites.

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Similar to communal houses in nearby villages, Kon So Lal is the most revered spiritual landmark and a gathering spot for communal activities and festivals.

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Kon So Lal has nearly 600 inhabitants living in traditional stilt or mud homes, surrounding the commanding communal structure.

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Kon So Lal was once the oldest Bahnar village in Truong Son Dong Range,  surrounded by mountains and jungles. Later, villagers migrated to the current Kon So Lal three kilometers away, yet closer to transport and development opportunities.

 
 
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