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Worship of Hung kings - Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

1. History related to the festival

Legendary speaking, thousands of years ago, Lac Long Quan (King Dragon of Lac Viet tribe) had superhuman strength and liked to stay near water. He got married with the fairy Au Co (daughter of De Lai, king of a northern tribe on the highland) when she made a trip to visit the south. Time went by, Au Cơ gave birth to a pouch filled with one hundred eggs, which soon hatched into one hundred beautiful children. The children grew up strong and smart like their father, and as kind-hearted and skilful like their mother. They were taught well how to cultivate their lands and live nobly. But soon after, the couple started to grow unhappy. Lac Long Quan always finds his heart longing for the coasts while Au Cơ constantly yearns for the highlands.

The couple decided to divide their children, of whom fifty will live with Lac Long Quan along the coasts. Au Cơ will lead the other fifty to dwell with her in the highlands. However, they made a promise that despite the distance and separation, they must look after each other and always be there to lend a hand should one be in need. The children of Lac Long Quan and Au Co were the ancestors of Vietnam, and that’s why Vietnamese people call themselves as "Dragon and Fairy descendants”. This legend also represents for a strong national unity and cultural tolerance of Vietnamese nation.

Hung Kings

The eldest son of Lac Long Quan and Au Co, who was with the 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 258BCE.

According to historical records, the regime of the Hung Kings was an impressive, brilliant and outstanding start for establishing Vietnam as a sovereign nation. The 18 generations of the Hung Kings saw the birth and development of Vietnam 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 generations to generations, the Vietnamese people hold a festival nationwide to commemorate the day when the first Hung King acceded to the throne

2. Why is it on the 10th day of third lunar month?

According to Yi Jing (or I Ching), the oldest Chinese study of images and numbers, the chosen day of Hung King temple festival can be explained simply as follows: Number 3 in “the third lunar month” is the month of Dragon accoding to the calendar of Ha Dynasty (2100 – 1600 BCE). And in Vietnamese culture, Dragon always represents for the king. Number 10 in “the 10th day” is Tsa Kua, literally means “the starting and ending point of the circle of life”. Therefore, to memorize the founders of Vietnam, local people chose the 10th day of the third lunar month to hold the worships of Hung kings. This year this festival is on Thursday, April 6th, 2017.

3. What are the highlights of this festival?

People from surrounding villages dress in splendid costumes and compete to provide the best palanquin and most highly valued objects of worship for the key rite in which drums and gongs are conveyed to the main temple site.

Worship of Hung Kings in Phu Tho Hung Kings temple festival

Communities make offerings of rice-based delicacies such as square cakes and glutinous cakes, and there are verbal and folk arts performances, bronze drum beating, Xoan singing, prayers and petitions. Other traditional activities also take place such as cross-bow shooting, rice cooking, swinging contests, cock fighting, and dragon dancing.

Banh Day (Day cake) Hung King temple in Phu Tho

Worship of Hung King is not only a festival but also a special occasion where tradition embodies spiritual solidarity and provides a good time to acknowledge national origins and sources of Vietnamese cultural and moral identity. If you are travelling to Vietnam, make sure you don’t miss this occasion to find out more about Vietnam and its culture.

Pictures credit: Unesco and Vietnam Tourism

By Tiger team


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