Every year, a large number of visitors from all over the country participate in a national festival – Hung King Temple Festival – an incense offering ceremony in honor of Hung Kings, who were instrumental in the founding of the nation.
Legend of Hung King Temple Festival
It is said that thousands of years ago, Lac Long Quan (King Dragon of the Land of Lac) had superhuman strength and liked to stay near water. He succeeded to the throne of his father, and governed the Lac-Viet tribe. De Lai, king of a northern tribe, with his daughter Au Co made a trip to visit the south.
Admiring Lac Long Quan’s talent, De Lai got married Au Co to Lac Long Quan. Au Co became pregnant and gave birth to a membranous sac. The sac kept getting larger and larger, and burst on the seventh day. Surprisingly, there were one hundred eggs in the sac, which hatched into one hundred beautiful babies.
The children of Lac Long Quan and Au Co were the ancestors of Vietnam, and so the Vietnamese are known as “Dragon and Fairy descendants.” The eldest son of Lac Long Quan and Au Co, who was with this mother, established himself at Phong Chau, now the southern part of Phu Tho Province, and made himself king. That was King Hung I whose realm was made up by 50 tribes. The 18 Hung kings then ruled the country from 2879 to 258BC.
According to historical records, the regime of the Hung Kings was an impressive, brilliant and outstanding start for establishing Viet Nam as a sovereign nation. The 18 generations of the Hung Kings saw the birth and development of a nation and are credited with forging national characteristics such as the sense of community, mutual affection, patriotism and unwillingness to yield to oppression.
From this original settlement, the Hong (Red) River civilization and the pre-Dong Son cultures grew. From generation to generation, the Vietnamese people hold a festival nationwide on the 10th day of the third lunar month to commemorate the anniversary of their ancestor’s death, founder of the Vietnamese nation – the first Hung King.
When Does Hung King Temple Festival Take Place?
The Hung King Temple Festival is held annually from the 8th to the 11th day of the third lunar month. The main festival day is on the 10th day of the third lunar March, on which the National Assembly has approved Vietnamese working people to annually have one more national holiday to mark the anniversary of the Hung King’s death.
Every year, on this traditional occasion, Vietnamese people worldwide join their brothers and sisters in spirit to observe Vietnam National Day in commemoration of their ancestors. The main ceremony takes place at the Hung Temple on Nghia Linh Mountain in Phong Chau District, Phu Tho Province, some 85km northwest of Hanoi.
The Hung King Temple Festival is one of the most important and sacred festivals of the Vietnamese people, deeply imbedded in the minds of every Vietnamese citizen, regardless of where they originated from.
The Ceremonies in Hung King Temple Festival
The Hung Temple is an ancient and sacred architectural ensemble on the top of the 175 metre-high Nghia Linh mountain. The festival offers an opportunity for Vietnamese to visit their land of origin.
A day before the festival, ancient and modern flags are to be hung along the road leading from Viet Tri to Hung mountain. A large balloon will also publicise the festival to surrounding areas. On the eve of the festival, 100 flying lights are released into the night sky.
The main worship service is held in earnest the following morning, 10th day, beginning with a bronze drum performance with the participation of around 40 different villages. Next, an incense-offering liturgy will be displayed in order to hold the solemn national ceremony.
In Den Thuong (Upper Temple) where the Hung Kings used to worship deities with full rituals, the ceremony consists of a lavish five-fruit feast. Bánh Chưng (square cake) and banh giay (circle cake) are also served to remind people of the Lang Lieu Legend (the 18th Hung King who invented these cakes), and the merit of the Hung Kings who taught people to grow rice.
Next to the stage procession for deities, there are several marches in the procession such as the elephant march followed by the procession chair.
Activities at Hung King Temple Festival
In Hung Temple Festival, there are a wide range of folk games including bamboo swings, rice cooking competitions, sacred ball throwing through a ring, human chess, wrestling, lion dance, crossbow shooting, water puppet performance and so one. Each of the games plays an important part in the bustling ambiance of the festival, which appeal a huge participation of so many people.
The local residents often perform the “gheo” and “xoan” singing during the festival. Besides, other art demonstrations are also displayed beautifully on stage.
On the day of the Hung King Temple Festival, the Vietnamese always jubilantly take part in the festival with religious belief deeply imbedded in their minds, that is their love and pride of their ancestral land. The Festival not only attracts visitors from all over the country thanks to its special traditional cultural activities, but it is also a sacred pilgrimage back to the origins of the Vietnamese nation.