“Wherever you go, don’t forget the ancestral feast of the lunar March 10”. These popular words speak of a very important festival of the Vietnamese: Feast of the Hung Kings. This festival has long been one of the best festivals in Vietnam. Each year, on the tenth day of the third lunar month, the Vietnamese go to the sacred mountain of Nghia Linh in Phu Tho Province, in commemoration of Hung Kings. These beloved Kings founded the kingdom of Van Lang, ancestor of present-day Vietnam. In 2012, the cult of the Hung Kings in Phu Tho was on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Hung Kings Festival takes place on Lunar March 10 annually in Phu Tho Province, Vietnam

The sacred Hung Kings Festival often takes place annually on Lunar March 10 in Phu Tho Province, Vietnam

1. The Founding Legend of the Country

According to Vietnamese legend, the Viet people were born from the love of the fairy Queen Au Co (on the land) and the Dragon Lord of Lac (under the water). They got married despite their different natures. They gave birth to a hundred eggs, where a hundred children would have come from.

However, despite their love for each other, Au Co had always desired to be in the mountains again and Lac Long Quan, too, yearned for the sea. They separated, each taking 50 children. Au Co settled in mountainous Northern Vietnam where she raised fifty young, intelligent and strong leaders. The eldest son, left with his mother, stayed in Phong Chau (now as Phu Tho province) and founded the country of Van Lang. He took the title of Hung Vuong (King Hung). All of his successors have also taken this title – Hung Kings. Van Lang became the first country to be named Vietnam and King Hung was the very first king in Vietnam.

2. The Meaning of Hung Kings Festival

The worship of the Hung Kings is a strong expression of awareness of national history and the respect of the common people for their ancestors. This cultural practice constitutes the emotional bond between families, villages and the nation. It is a national symbol linking the past to the present which constantly nurtures solidarity between ethnic communities. By respecting the moral principle “When you drink water, think of the source”, the Vietnamese always remember the great merits of heroes and the duty to follow their example.

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This Vietnam festival takes place in thousands of King Hung temples across the country, but the main ceremony takes place at Hung Temple, in Phong Chau District, in Phu Tho province.

3. Hung Kings Festival’s Activities

The Hung Kings Festival is one of the most important festivals in Vietnam. This festival is generally divided into two main parts: the ceremony and the cultural activities. The celebration takes place a few days before with many popular cultural activities. For example, the Tro Tram festival in the town of Tu Xa, the Banh Chung and Banh Day contests in the town of Kim Duc,… It ended on March 10 through the lunar procession ceremony and the offering of incense at the Thuong Temple.

Hung Kings Temple, Phu Tho

Hung Kings Temple, Phu Tho

The Ceremony

It takes place solemnly at the Den Thuong (Upper Temple) which is at the top of the mountain. It begins with the procession of the palanquin of the offerings. They consist of “Le tam sinh” (a pig, a goat, and a cow), Banh Chung (sticky rice cake square), Banh Day (round sticky rice cake) and colorful sticky rice. Banh Chung and Banh Day have long held a special position in Vietnamese culture.

The “Banh Chung” is the symbol of the ground due to its square shape, while the round shape of the “Banh Day” represents the sun. These two elements are very important in an agricultural country. Thus, they always appear in the offering trays during special events, especially in the festival of the festivals of the Hung Kings, to express their gratitude for the Earth and the Sky which provide food to the peasants.

Cultural Activities

After the ceremony, cultural activities take place at the foot of the mountain. There’s also the participation of the villagers such as the course of canoes, folk songs, and traditional games. The cooking competitions of sticky rice cakes and Xoan songs are also essential activities during the party.

The participants in traditional feast customs offering Banh Chung in front of Hung Kings Temple

The participants in traditional feast customs offering Banh Chung in front of Hung Kings Temple

A Day of Remembrance for the Founders of the Country

It is a project launched in 2015 by scientists, intellectuals and leaders of associations of “Viet Kieu” (Vietnamese living abroad) in seven countries. Is has a purpose of paying homage to the founding Hung Kings. The project aims to strengthen solidarity between the Vietnamese and to promote Vietnamese values ​​in the world. Many events in this context have taken place since 2015 in many countries. They are Czech Republic, Russia, Hungary, Germany, Laos, Thailand, Japan, Canada, Poland, and Ukraine.

4. The Hung Kings Festival 2020 Edition

This year, the holiday falls on April 2 of the solar calendar. The 2020 edition of the Hung Kings Festival will be solemnly organized with only three main rites and accompanied by measures to combat COVID-19. The Provincial Health Service is preparing the disinfection of the temples where the rites and the pedestrian bridge will take place, as well as disinfectant hand gel and protective masks for participants.

This year, faced with the rapid spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus around the world, the organizers decided to organize the Day on the Internet. According to a press release issued by the organizers, the Day will include a contest to write articles on Facebook and a collective change of Facebook profile photos.

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Bich Ngoc

As a true Vietnamese enthusiast of music, books and coffee, Bich Ngoc loves researching into those typical cultural characteristics of Vietnam as well as exploring further destinations in the country of thousand years of civilization.

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