Story: Le Anh
Photos: Archive of Trang An Landscape Complex Management Board
Discover Vietnam’s cultural essence on a pilgrimage to Trang An during the festival season
Truong Yen Festival
An old saying about this former citadel advises: “Those who are the offspring of Dragons and Fairies/Go and join the Truong Yen Festival in March”. One of the largest festivals in Trang An, the Truong Yen Festival takes place from Lunar March 8 to 10 in memory of the illustrious deeds of Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang and Emperor Le Dai Hanh. According to legend, Lunar March 10 marked the coronation of Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang. A water procession and sacrifice ceremonies are held on this day. The water procession starts at Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang Temple and reaches the Hoang Long River by boat, then returns to the temple by land. After dark, sacrifices are performed simultaneously in the two temples of Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang and Emperor Le Dai Hanh. Fun games ensue, with the most famous being “reed fights” that reenact Dinh Bo Linh’s childhood as a shepherd. Thanks to his game, the Truong Yen Festival is also known as the “Reed Flag Festival”.
Thai Vi Temple Festival
Each year on Lunar March 15, a festival honouring the Tran Emperors is held in Thai Vi Temple in Van Lam Village, Ninh Hai Commune, Hoa Lu. The temple is dedicated to emperors Tran Thai Tong, Tran Thanh Tong, Tran Anh Tong, Tran Nhan Tong and Empress Dowager Hien Tu.
Old stories relate that following their victories over invading Mongolian troops, the Tran Emperors visited Thien Truong (Nam Dinh) to perform sacrifice ceremonies for their ancestors and celebrate their victories. The rituals include a palanquin procession and sacrifices for the Tran Emperors in Thai Vi Temple. These rituals are followed by local folk games and entertainment such as kylan dances, dragon dances, human chess games, wrestling matches, rowing, etc.
Saint Quy Minh Emperor Festival
Saint Quy Minh Emperor, also known as Saint Cao Son, is a folk deity worshiped in Tran Temple and one of the four sacred guardians of the former citadel of Hoa Lu. Legend has it that the Saint Quy Minh Emperor Temple was built by Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang in the 10th century in the hopes of ensuring security on the nation’s borders. Following his victories over Mongolian invaders, Emperor Tran Thai Tong chose the temple as a place to practice Buddhism, and rebuilt the first wooden temple into a grander marble building with unique decorative patterns. Known locally as Tran Temple, this tranquil site is only accessible by boat. During the festival on Lunar March 18, thousands of boats carry locals and tourists down the Sao Khe River to perform divine sacrifices, join a water procession and release fish to pray for national peace, bumper crops and favourable weather.
Bai Dinh Pagoda Festival
The Bai Dinh Pagoda Complex comprises the old Bai Dinh Pagoda and the grand Bai Dinh complex constructed in Sinh Duoc Village, Gia Sinh Commune, Gia Vien District in 2003. This spring festival lasts from Lunar January 6 to the end of Lunar March. Key events include a dedication of incense to Buddha in memory of the deeds of Saint Nguyen Minh Khong and sacrifices to Saint Cao Son, Saint Nguyen and the Holy Mother of the Mountains. There are also folk games and performances of chèo, xẩm singing and trù singing.