The expression lingered in the mind of the Viet people like a reminder of finding way back to the root as August and March came to join vivid festivals in memory of Father and Holy Mother, who founded and protected the supernatural land. One of such traditional major festivals, serving as a pride of indigenous inhabitants as thinking about the kingly race of the Viet’s nation is Tran Temple Festival.
I. How is Tran Temple Special?
Tran Temple, located in the suburb of Nam Dinh Province, is a famous attraction dedicated to the Tran Kings and mandarins of this dynasty. In the surrounding areas of this temple, there are many communal houses, pagodas, tombs, temples and stone shrines.
There is a flag fluttering in front of the temple. It has striking colours, which stand for 5 basic elements. The square shape stands for earth (negative) and the sickle-shaped tassels for heaven (positive). The word “Tran” is embroidered amidst the flag in Chinese characters by two combined words “Dong” and “A”.
The structure of Tran Temple has 3 main buildings, consisting of Down Temple, Center Temple and Up Temple.
1. Down Temple (Co Trach Temple)
Co Trach Temple is the place worshipping Hung Dao Dai Vuong-Tran Quoc Tuan, a successful commander of Vietnam who defeated the Mongols out of the country in the 13th century. His family, most reliable assistants as well as other mandarins are also memorialized besides him.
There are 4 compartments included inside Co Trach Temple. Tien Duong worships 3 generals of Tran Hung Dao (Nguyen Che Nghia, Pham Ngu Lao and Pham Ngo), Trung Duong worships Tran Hung Dao and his 4 sons while Thieu Huong has Tran Hung Dao and 9 Buddhist statues. It is said that Down Temple was built to be Tran Hung Dao’s home. There are also many altars dedicated to the generals who were under the command of Tran Hung Dao in the past.
2. Center Temple (Trung Hoa Temple)
Of all 3 main buildings of Tran Temple, this is the latest one, which was constructed in 2000 by the local authorities. 14 Kings under Tran Dynasty and their most respected mandarins are worshipped here.
3. Up Temple (Thien Truong Temple)
This temple comprises of 4 compartments: Tien Duong is used to worship ceremonies, Trung Duong is for the 14 kings of the Tran Dynasty, Chinh Tam is for 4 forefathers of the Tran Family and Thieu Huong is for the mandarins in the Tran Dynasty. Tran Kings’ wives are also commemorated on the 2 sides of the temple.
II. The Activities
Tran Temple Festival annually lasts from the 15th-20th of lunar August. In the odd years, the festival is launched more magnificently than in even years. Nevertheless, visitors all over the country do not wait for the very happening of the festival to join but eagerly go on pilgrimage far prior to the day.
In this festival, there are processions from neighboring villages to Thuong Temple. The incense-offering rite involves in 14 virgins carrying 14 trays of flowers into the temple and placing them on thrones in the musical vibration. This act is the image of the former feudal courts.
Various cultural activities included in the festival such as cock fighting, five-generation fighting art performances, wrestling, unicorn dance, bai bong dance, sword dance, cheo singing, van singing and so on.
According to historic records, under the rule of King Tran Nhan Tong, after the Mongolian invaders were defeated, the King offered feast through 3 successive days known as “Thai binh dien yen”.
The Great tutor Tran Quang Khai composed the dance for the victory namely “bai bong” and taught the imperial singers to perform. The dancers were pretty ladies dressed in the ethnic clothes, putting on their shoulders a short pole hanging with flower baskets or paper-made lanterns at the two ends. The dancers also held on to a fan to enrich their performance.
“Bai bong” dance contained acts of “bat dat”, “luc dat” and “tu dat”. Nevertheless, it was neatly adjusted under the Nguyen Dynasty. Currently, there is still a team of skilled dancers of the kind in Phuong Bong ward on the outskirts of Nam Dinh. It is said that Hat Van is derived from Hat Chau composed under the Tran Dynasty, popularised and trimmed under the Le Mat time.
Over the last few years, branches and departments, especially the culture-information sector in Nam Dinh, have paid attention to preserving and enhancing such cultural identities. Nam Dinh Province takes pride in its reference of “national root”, giving birth and nursing hearts and souls of “Mother” and “Father” of the people.
On the occasion of the festival, people across the country are warmly welcome to the place by the local friendly and simple residents.
III. How to Get There?
Tran Temple is only 4km from Nam Dinh city and 90 km from Hanoi. If you are staying in Nam Dinh, it just takes around 30 minutes to reach. And if you are in Hanoi, you can also choose car, bus or train as transportation to Nam Dinh before catching a taxi to Tran Temple.
IV. Tips and Tricks
- It is highly suggested that visitors should wear long clothes that cover their knees and shoulders before entering the temple
- Do not make noise inside the temple
- You should visit the temple during daytime before enjoying the festival outside
The unique cultural activities, especially the splendid and radiant atmosphere of “Dong A”, make Tran Temple Festival attractive to travelers everywhere!