Why you should not miss the Hung Kings Festival this April?
Hung Kings Festival is an annual public holiday of Vietnamese people to honor the Hung Kings. According to the Vietnam traditions and historical records, Hung Kings are the founders of the nation and became its first emperors. Therefore, the Hung Kings festival is oriented around the theme of filial piety, ancestor worship, and patriotism.
When and where Hung Kings Festival takes place?
The fest takes place from the 8th to the 11th days of the third lunar month. Whilst, the 10th day is the most important day with featured rituals and activities. This year, it lands on Monday, 15th April. Hung Kings Festival has an official name as Death anniversary of the Hung Kings, but it doesn’t mark the death of any specific Hung King.
The ceremony takes place at Hung Temple, on Nghia Linh mountain, Phu Tho province. It draws a huge crowd of million people coming to pray and give offerings to ancestors. This is a big and meaningful holiday that expresses Vietnam unique culture and national pride.
UNESCO recognized Hung King Festival on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2012.
The story about Vietnam dawn history and Hung King Festival
Kinh Duong Vuong founded the Hong Bang Dynasty. After his death, the Kinh Duong Vuong was succeeded by 17 Hung Kings. Through 18 generations, Hung Kings established the feudal system in the Red River Valley, set up the country’s foundation, tradition, culture, and national values.
The Hung Kings also strengthened the diplomatic relationship with China to preserve Vietnamese sovereignty. Therefore, Vietnamese culture is more similar to Chinese culture compared with other Southeast Asia cultures.
Especially, Hung Kings also taught the locals to grow wet rice. Thanks to this, Vietnam now is one of the countries with the most developed rice industry in the world. They chose Nghia Linh Mountain to perform rituals devoted to Gods to pray for good harvests. This is the highest spot in Van Lang’s capital. It also explains how this mountain is where the fest takes place.
Locals built the Hung Temple from the reign of King Dinh Tien Hoang (924 – 979). However, under the Hau Le Dynasty (15th century), they rebuilt it and it remains the current state.
From the Hau Le Dynasty backward, all Kings of Vietnam frequently offered incenses at this temple. They assigned the temple for locals to look after, repair, worship and hold the Death Anniversary on the 10th March lunar month. In return, locals will be exempted from taxes and military service.
In the second year of Khai Dinh (1917), under the Nguyen Dynasty, the court recognized Hung Kings Death Anniversary as a National Holiday and formalized by law. After the August Revolution (1945), President Ho Chi Minh signed an edict for civil servants to rest on this day to participate in activities of the Hung Kings Death Anniversary. Then, since 2007, the festival has become the National Holiday and all citizens have a day off. Through up and down of historical eras, Hung Kings Festival always plays a significant role in local spiritual life, culture, and history.
>> Read more about the Vietnam temple architecture.
How local people celebrate the Hung Kings Festival?
Like many festivals in Vietnam, Hung Kings festival has two parts including ceremony and festival. People organize the ceremony solemnly with a lavish procession on the main day of 10th March lunar month.
Vietnamese people carry a sedan of offerings from the foot of the mountain to the Den Thuong ( High Temple) at the summit. They feature the offerings with three animals (1 pig, 1 goat, 1 cow), Banh Chung (sticky rice cake), Banh Day (crushed sticky rice cake) and colorful sticky rice. During the procession, they play traditional music with ancient bronze drums. The procession is the most outstanding activities of the fest that attracts huge public attention. People wear bright costumes and traditional garbs in royal colors and patterns to do the procession. Colorful banners and flags also go along with the procession. All of them make a brilliant and vivid festive scene.
Besides the ceremony, the Hung Kings Festival also holds many interesting cultural and sports activities. In this year, there are lots of festivities like cultural camps, promotion and introduction of featured products of Phu Tho province, folk music festival, Banh Chung and Banh Day contest, traditional swimming competition, sports and folk games (volleyball, chess, wrestling, etc) and so on. Moreover, there will be a stunning firework performance for the festival opening.
Hung Kings Festival is a beautiful custom of Vietnamese people. It symbolizes the national identity and community’s spirit to go back the cultural roots and feel proud of the glory of the country. On the other hand, to some people, this occasion is a day to enjoy time away from work, relax and have a trip.