National Geographic : 1967 Feb
the seat of the senior Buddhist monk in cen tral Viet Nam, but he was unavailable. For a time, at least, the ranking monks were hiding. As I felt more at home in Hue, my friends felt more at home with me-and we talked much about elementary things that mattered deeply. About the power of the woman in the home. About the peasant's feeling for the buf falo. About everyone's awe of the spirits. Golden Circles Bring Good Health The voices of the girls of good family, pitched high and almost inaudible-weren't they the quintessence of docility? "Dangerous!" said Trang. "These women of central Viet Nam-marry one and she turns into a tiger." Friends from Hue didn't deny that their women were in a much stronger po sition than might appear to foreigners. Thus the wife was now the family treasurer, the 182 keeper of the gold. The gold, of course, was the family's savings. If you needed a little cash, you sold a bit of gold-and only the wife knew where the gold was hidden. To the people around Hue-the peasants on the great, flat ricelands-a buffalo was as valuable as gold and more endearing, because it had a soul. Not that any but a very few could afford one of these beasts. In Viet Nam a man was glad if he could find the money to rent a buffalo for the plowing. That's why little Cho Em was so lucky. He wasn't tending some rich stranger's buffalo this one, named Phao, meaning "Cannon," belonged to his father. Cannon was a very good buffalo: nine years old, nearly eight feet from horns to tail. Best of all, on each side of his blackish hide curled a circle of golden hair. "This symmetry means good health," said Trang.