The Tay in Binh Lieu district, Quang Ninh province, show their respect for the wood stove by worshiping the Kitchen Genie who chases away evil spirits and wild animals and blesses them with good luck and prosperity.

It’s easy to spot the original earthen house of Phan Ngoc Sinh among the concrete houses in Dong Thanh hamlet. It’s one of 10 old houses of the Tay that have been preserved in Hoanh Mo commune, Binh Lieu district.  Sinh says that for mountain people, the fire in the kitchen symbolizes vitality and the people’s will to conquer a hard nature.

“In the mountains, we frequently gather around a fire in winter. When the temperature drops to around 7 or 8 degrees Celsius, old people and children stay at home all day. We sit around a fire to keep warm and cook food.”

The Tay’s wood stove is built of clay bricks. It has two parts: the big and the small stove. The big one is used to cook bran for pigs and brew wine. The small one is used to cook food. 

La Siu Quang, a Tay man in Binh Lieu, says, “We follow our ancestors’ method of making a wood stove. This stove can hold the heat very well. I’m boiling Chung cakes. I put in two logs of firewood and the heat is very good.”

The wood stove reflects the lifestyle and culture of mountain people. Nong Thi Phuong, a daughter-in-law of Mr. Quang, says, “I’m proud that my family has maintained our traditional culture. We have to follow our customs. During Tet, the whole family gathers around the fire.”

The Tay in Binh Lieu believe that there is a Kitchen Genie who keeps the eternal fire and protects the family’s happiness. On the first and the 15th day of the lunar month, during the New Year celebration, and at family events, they worship the Kitchen Genie with meat, cakes, and wine.

Out of respect for the Kitchen Genie, they build the wood stove in the center of the kitchen. They choose lucky days to build or upgrade the stove to avoid disturbing the genie. The 30th day of the 12th lunar month is the best day to repair a wood stove because the Tay believe that the Kitchen Genie returns to Heaven on that day.