Worship of Hung Kings in Phu Tho
The worship of Hung Kings originates thousands of years ago in the era of Hung Kings Dynasty in the belief that all Vietnamese people have the same origin "Dragon's children and Fairy's grand-chil- dren"; and also expresses Vietnamese philosophy "When drinking water, remember its source" creating power for building national unity in Viet Nam.
Hung Kings Temple Relic Site (Viet Tri City, Phu Tho Province) is the original place of worship of Hung Kings in the whole country - the cult of National Ancestor which has been steadily conserved in Vietnamese history.
According to historical documents, the worship of Hung Kings has strongly developed for a long time before officially honoured in Post Le Dynasty (1428-1788). It was acknowledged by the imperial dynasties of Post Le (1428-1788), Tay Son (1778-1802), and Nguyen (1802-1945) by means of codified legends, royal conferment, and provision of lands to support the worship.
Today, the Vietnamese Government pays much attention to the safeguard, restoration and maintenance of the spaces of the worship of Hung Kings, especially at Hung Kings Temple Relic Site. Legends of
Hung Kings have also been included in the school curriculum in order transmit the tradition to young generations. Since 2007, the National Assembly has approved a public holiday on the 10th day of the third lunar month so that people nationwide can participate and organize sacrificial activities.
Annually, on this occasion, millions of people take pilgrimage to Hung Kings Temple Relic Site to commemorate the ancestors and to pray for good weather, abundant harvests, good luck, and good health. In addition, the worship of Hung Kings is also held throughout the year at the Hung Kings temples nationwide. This tradition affirms the origin of Vietnamese people, cultural characteristics and morality; expresses the power of Vietnamese national solidarity, which created great strength for the Vietnamese people to overcome all challenges and obstacles in the progress of building, developing and defending the nation.
On 6 December 2012, in Paris (France), UNESCO officially recognized the worship of Hung Kings in Phu Tho Province as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This is the first belief in Viet Nam recognized as a world heritage. This was the UNESCO's first recognition of an ancestral worship ritual as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. The recognized space includes 109 villages in Phu Tho Town, Viet Tri City and districts of Cam Khe, Doan Hung, Ha Hoa; Lam Thao, Phu Ninh, Tam Nong, Thanh Ba, Thanh Son, Thanh Thuy and Yen Lap (Phu Tho Province).
According to legend, Lac Long Quan - son of Kinh Duong Vuong Loc Tuc got married with Au Co - daughter of King De Lai and gave birth to 100 sons. After that, 50 sons followed Au Co to mountainous region and 50 others followed Lac Long Quan to the sea to settle their life. The eldest son followed his mother to the area of Phong Chau (now Phu Tho Province) and established Van Lang Nation and became King Hung. Van Lang was the first nation of Vietnam in history and successively ruled by 18 kings.
Hung Kings taught local people to grow rice and selected Nghia Linh Mountain, the highest mountain in the region to perform the religious rituals of the agricultural population as worship of rice god and sun god for good weather and good crops. To commemorate the great merit of Hung Kings, the people set up the temple (Hung Kings Temple Relic Site) at the centre of Nghia Linh Mountain and chose the 10th day of the third lunar month as Ancestral Anniversary day. Since then, the worship of Hung Kings has gradually spread nationwide, and now it is practiced at temples in Northern, Central and Southern regions and also by Vietnamese overseas.
Forms of Worship
The worship of Hung Kings has many forms, mainly the joint worship of Hung Kings with other gods and deities as Princesses Tien Dung and Ngoc Hoa; Saint Tan Vien; Trung Trac and Trung Nhi... in temples in Phu Tho Province; or with Long Hai Dai Vuong, Phu Dong Thien Vuong (Saint Giong), Mai An Tiem, Chu Dong Tu, Lac Long Quan's sons... in temples in Ha Noi, Thai Binh, Hai Duong, Thanh Hoa... Temples of Hung Kings have been built in many localities in the Central and the South of Viet Nam. Totally, there have been 1,417 temples of Hung Kings nationwide.
Hung Kings Ancestral is worshiped by Vietnamese people but is not being the object of monolatry in any ritual activities. Evenly, in many places, Hung Kings are also joint-worshiped at family's altar.
Activities in the Worship
Every year, on the 10th day of the third lunar month, Ancestral Anniversary day is held at Hung Kings temples nationwide, of which the biggest one takes place in Phu Tho Province at the Hung Kings Temple Relic Site. In Phu Tho Province, each village selects a Festival Organizing Board (Bon Khanh Tiet) of 6-9 mature, knowledgeable individuals of good conducts who lead and manage the rituals. The Board appoints suitably temple guardians to tend worship sites, instruct devotees and offer incense to Hung Kings year round. Temple guardians of Upper, Middle and Lower temples at the main Hung Kings Temple Relic Site are selected by default from the three villages of Co Tich, Treo, and Vi as "heads of customs". In addition, villages also select strictly Ritual Committee and knowledgeable elders.
The ritual life of the temples is overseen by a separate Ritual Committee comprising 9-11 mature men of good character and respectable family, not in mourning, and known to be respectful of local laws and customs. To organize the worshiping ceremony in a new year, the former officiating priest has responsibility of guiding and transmitting necessary ritual procedures to a new officiating priest.
The offerings in the ceremonies (opening, procession, closing) are carefully prepared including sticky rice, fruit, wine, rice, salt, boiled chicken, raw pork (black pig), bonh chung (square sticky rice cake) and bonh day (round sticky rice cake), carp, buffalo meat, three green rice seedlings, bamboo elephants and wooden horses.
In the festival, the procession brings palanquin from temple to communal house, then goes around village and comes back. The order of procession is clearly defined: the first is dragon dance, followed by flag team, palanquin team, music team, incense palanquin, throne palanquin, ancestral tablet palanquin, worship team, and local people. The worship ritual consists of incense burning, offerings presenting, testament reading, praying, traditional art performing (bronze drum beating, Xoan singing...)
During the festival, folk games are organized such as catching a goat while blindfolded, tug of war, flag scoop, boat racing, duck catching in pond...
Hung Kings Temple Relic Site
Located in Hy Cuong Commune, Viet Tri City, Phu Tho Province, Hung Kings Temple Relic Site is a complex of majestic architectures that consist of Ha (Lower) Temple, Thien Quang Pagoda, Trung (Middle) and Thuong (Upper) temples, Hung King Tomb, Gieng (Well) Temple, Mother Au Co Temple, Father Lac Long Quan Temple, and Hung Vuong Museum.
225 brick steps lie between Dai Mon Gate and Ha Temple which was built in the 15th century. According to legend, in this place, Au Co gave birth of 100 sons. In this temple, President Ho Chi Minh had a talk with the soldiers on their way to Ha Noi in 1954. He told them "The Hung Kings had the merit of founding the country. You and I must stick together to safeguard it."
Thien Quang Pagoda:
located on the right of Ha Temple, the construction mainly built of tien duong (5 compartments), tom bao (3 compartments), thuong dien (3 compartments).
located 168 brick steps from Ha Temple. According to legend, the Kings Hung usually chose this place to rest and hold political meetings. It is also where the 6th Hung King ceded the thrown to Prince Lang Lieu who created sticky rice cakes (bonh chung and bonh doy).
Over 102 brick steps from Trung Temple to get to Thuong Temple, where exclusively used for the kings to have offerings to the Sun God, the Earth God, the Rice God.
Hung King Tomb:
located to the east of Thuong Temple. It was the tomb of the 6th Hung King. Before his death, the 6th Hung King asked his men to bury him on a high mountain so that he could safeguard the territory.
Vowing stone pillar:
After being ceded the thrown by the Hung King, Thuc Phan An Duong Vuong built this stone pillar and vowed that 'Til defend the nation and worship Hung Kings forever".
Gieng Temple (Well Temple):
At the foot of the mountain is the Gieng Temple, where worshipped Princesses Ngoc Hoa and Tien Dung, the 18th Hung King's daughters. It was said that the two princesses used to comb their hair and look at themselves in the water of this well.
Mother Au Co Temple:
Located in Van Mountain, the temple consists of the main shrine worshipping Mother Au Co, western and eastern pavilions, house of stele, stone pillars, three-entrance gate... The temple was decorated similar to patterns on Dong Son bronze drum.
Father Lac Long Quan Temple:
Located at the foot of Sim Mountain, the temple is a complex of gate, western and eastern pavilions, stone pillars, shrine and bronze statues of Father Lac Long Quan and his generals.
Hung Vuong Museum:
Located on an area of 3,912 square meters, the museum displays items of diversified themes: nature, land and people of Phu Tho Province, items of Prehistory era, Chinese domination period, period of insurrections and struggle for independence, resistance war against foreign invaders (1883-1975); and period of development and protection of the nation from 1975 to present day.
Hung Kings Temple Festival
The festival, which is proclaimed the Ancestral Anniversary Day, is held from the 8th to the 11th days of the third lunar month in Hung Temple Relic Site, with the main festive day on the 10th day.
The festival begins with a palanquin procession performed by three villages of Co Tich, Vi Cuong and Trieu Phu. The procession carries bamboo elephants and wooden horses symbolizing the submission of animals to the Hung Kings and the wedding of Saint Tan Vien and Princess Ngoc Hoa. Banh chung (square sticky rice cake) and bonh day (round sticky rice cake) are indispensable offerings in the procession in order to honour the merit of the Hung Kings who taught local people to plant rice and to remind people of prince Lang Lieu who invented these
The worship service is held on the 10th day of the 3rd lunar month in Thuong Temple. The procession has the attendance of the State senior representatives, one hundred young men and women in traditional costumes symbolizing "Dragon's children and Fairy's grand-children" and pilgrims, representatives of ethnic groups, local villages and visitors. The procession marches are followed by a Xoan singing performance in Thuong Temple, Ca Tru singing in Ha Temple, and other activities including bamboo swings, nem con (throwing a sacred ball through the ring), cham thou (beating bronze drum), dom duotig (pounding rice), wrestling...
Hung Kings Temple Festival attracts visitors from all over the country because of its special traditional cultural activities. It is considered a sacred trip back in time to the origin of the Vietnamese nation. People usually show their love and pride of their homeland and ancestral land. This religious belief deeply imbedded in the minds of every Vietnamese citizen, regardless of where they were born and live.
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