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The buffalo is no longer toiling
Sunday,  2/14/2021, 14:39 

The buffalo is no longer toiling

By Phu Li

The Year of the Buffalo 2021 is considered one of good luck and great prosperity

A friend of mine told me that by the time this coming Tet—the Lunar New Year of the Year of the Buffalo—is over, he will have had a new family member. After saying the best wishes to him, I didn’t forget making a joke that previously although his family had only two “buffaloes,” he already was the richest at his place. Now that he would have another “buffalo,” signifying his new family member, nobody would be able to keep abreast with him. Hearing that, my friend gave a big laugh seemingly very satisfied.

My friend was born in the year of the buffalo. So was his mother. His kid to be born soon would be the same. So, his family would have three “buffaloes.” To put it a little bit humorously, as each buffalo costs tens of millions of dong currently, poor farming households don’t even dream of possessing one of them, let alone three.

In the old days, people would often say, “a buffalo is the start of a career.” Therefore, having a single buffalo at home to start a fortune used to be a wish or even a life-changing dream of many farming households. Strangely, however, few wanted them to be born in the year of the buffalo. At that time, when knowing that their kids or grandchildren were born in the year of the buffalo, parents or grandparents would take a deep sigh. They were worrying that those children would lead a miserable life later, just like that of a buffalo in Vietnam.

In the old days, Vietnam was still lacking agricultural machinery. The buffalo then in deed contributed greatly to the life of farming Vietnamese. A buffalo was supposed to toil to death from early dawn to late dusk to do all kind of jobs, from ploughing to traction, and from transporting to rice threshing. Yet it was the buffaloes that had to pull logs in the forest that evoked the deepest compassion.

As hardworking and diligent as they were, buffaloes were never treated decently. What they were allowed to eat was no exception. The worst hay which was refused by other domestic animals, even oxen and cows, were used for buffaloes. Apparently, buffaloes were aware of how little the time they had to rest. Therefore, they tried to be as full as they could be, regardless of how bad their food were, so that they would have enough energy for the next job.

But agriculture in Vietnam has since changed and buffaloes were replaced by machinery. Currently, only at a few places whose terrain is quite unsuitable for agricultural machine do buffaloes have to work. Also, the jobs to be done by them are much less burdening and the time for them to rest has increased. Instead of working tirelessly as their ancestors did, today’s buffaloes in Vietnam may take time to graze in a leisure way in the field and then bathe in a waterhole. Although buffaloes have relinquished much of their significance in Vietnam’s agriculture, they still play a role in her culture in addition to the food industry for their meat.

PHOTOS: NGUYEN TAM & LE HOANG VU

Changes in life have resulted in changes in conceptions. Such idioms as “cực như trâu” (literally, as toiling as a buffalo) are now seldom heard. Many, like my friend, have given a big smile when their children were born in the year of the buffalo.

In that spirit, the Year of the Buffalo 2021 is considered one of good luck and great prosperity. Therefore, many married couples have planned to give birth to their children this year.

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