Huong Pagoda Festival, Hanoi

Lost in the World of Fairies in Chua Huong Pagoda Festival, Hanoi, Vietnam

Rachel Tran
Rachel Tran | Published: November 20, 2019

The beautiful verse describes scenic spot of Huong Pagoda (also known as Perfume Pagoda), designated by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage site, which makes one can’t help having the feeling that is one were lost in a world of fairies. Huong Son attracts visitors not only with its wonderful landscape, but also with its sense of philosophy embodied inside its splendid caves, of which  Huong Tich and Tuyet Son are the most impressive. 

Visitors are bewitched by the beauty of these cases which look half real and half unreal. That explains the reason why the cold weather cannot keep thousands of pilgrims and tourists away from visiting the Huong Pagoda Festival in Hanoi, Vietnam, which is considered the nation’s longest and most elaborate annual festival.

Legend of Huong Pagoda Festival

legend of Huong pagoda festival

Legend has it that the festival is held to worship a princess named Dieu Thien who incarnated Avalokitasvara and attained enlightenment there. As the princess was born on the 19th day of the second lunar month, that date is now observed by all Vietnamese Buddhists as a saint day. The shrine in which she practised her religion was discovered in the 15th century by three monks. 

The pilgrimage to Huong Son dwindled to a trickle during the war years and the temples and shrines were left vacant. In 1770, Lord Trinh Sam wrote five Chinese characters to describe Huong Tich Cavern: Nam Thien De Nhat Dong (the most beautiful cave in Vietnam). The Huong Pagoda Festival started during the Le-Trinh Dynasty. 

Cave in Huong pagoda

In 1958, after the restoration of peace in North Vietnam, the Government and President Ho Chi Minh personally gave instructions for the repair of the pagodas and temples and the restoration of the festival. Annually, visitors to the festival to enjoy the beauty of the Huong Son limestone mountains at a time when apricot trees are in bloom and pay tribute to Buddha, specifically to Avalokitasvara, one of Buddha’s disciples.

According to the legend, a pilgrimage to Huong Pagoda in the spring will bring health, prosperity, good luck and happiness. And whether you believe in the story or not, there’s no disputing that a trip like this offers a perfect chance to get closer to both nature and Vietnamese tradition.

Highlights of Huong Pagoda Festival

Huong pagoda festival highlights

Officially occurring from the 15th to the 20th day of the second lunar month, Huong Pagoda Festival mainly consists of sightseeing trips to pagodas, temples and caves as well as visiting ceremonies to ask favours from Lord Buddha. Situated approximately 60 kilometers southwest from Ha Noi, Huong Son boasts quite a few pagodas built in the Posterior Le Dynasty. 

Annually, a vast number of pilgrims have been flocking to the northern province of Ha Noi’s My Duc District for the three-month Huong Pagoda Festival, enjoying the beauty of the Huong Son limestone mountains at a time when apricot trees are in bloom and pay tribute to Buddha, specifically to Avalokitasvara, one of Buddha’s disciples.

The festival is a traditional Vietnamese Buddhist celebration, held simultaneously in three locations: Huong Tich, Tuyet Son, and Long Van. The festival is the most crowded from the 15th – 20th day of the 2nd month of the lunar calendar as this period marks the the main festival.

However, since the first day of the lunar New Year, thousands of tourists and pilgrims have flocked to the sacred land to tour and pray for a prosperous and happy year. Spring is the idea time for both Vietnamese and foreigners come to Huong Son. Heading there, you have chances to live in a boisterous atmosphere of a spring festival amidst beautiful landscape. They seem to be free from all tiredness and sorrow and come to pay respect to the compassionate Buddha.

What are Activities in Huong Pagoda Festival?

activities at Huong pagoda festival

Unlike many other festivals in Vietnam, the Huong Pagoda Festival in Hanoi does not centre around traditional games, but rather romantic trips to caves, pagodas and temples and participation in ceremonies to beseech favours from Lord Buddha. The Venerable Thich Minh Hien rang the bell to officially open the festival at the Huong Pagoda, on the sixth day of the first lunar month. 

The opening ceremony began at the Thien Tru Pagoda with pilgrims and tourists are invited to take part in the incense offering ceremony. In order to warm up the festival’s lively ambience in the chilly weather, the traditional songs and dances took place before and after the ceremony.

Visitors attending Huong pagoda festival usually make some wishes and when they are worshipping Buddha in the pagoda, they pray for their wishes to come true. The visitors bring offerings with them from home, including boiled chicken, boiled pigs’ heads and steamed sticky rice. 

After prayers, each person will take a small portion of the offering (called loc) which is then carried home for their family. Loc is a sacred and precious thing as it is believed to bring good luck to those who eat it. In addition, cultural activities and sporting contests are also held on the occasion of Huong Pagoda Festival: boat racing, climbing, folk song singing, etc. These festive activities take place throughout the festival.

A pilgrimage to the Huong Pagoda Festival cannot only be for religious reasons, but to see the numerous natural shapes that are typical of the landscape and the buildings that are valuable artifacts of the nation. When you make a pilgrimage to Huong Pagoda you are in the middle of nature at its best, with a gorgeous river, caves, and mountains. Therefore, people of different ages all so interested in the Huong Pagoda Festival.

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