Story: Winlinh
Photos: Ba Ngoc

Celebrated annually during the first month of the lunar year, the Trieu Khuc Village Festival dates back to the 8th century

Transporting the royal robes

Trieu Khuc (Tan Trieu Commune, Thanh Tri District) is an ancient village on the outskirts of Hanoi known for its historic communal houses, pagodas, temples, mausoleums, and shrines. It is also a traditional artisanal village that specializes in making quai thao hats (flat palm hats with fringes), products from chicken feathers, and worship items. Above all, its most valuable treasure is the Trieu Khuc Village Festival – a national intangible cultural heritage. Every year, from the 9th to the 12th days of the first lunar month, the villagers celebrate the anniversary of King Phung Hung – Bo Cai Dai Vuong’s enthronement and the arrival of a prosperous new year.

The Trieu Khuc Village Festival

The Trieu Khuc Village Festival starts with incense offering, a le ruoc sac (transport the robes) ceremony, a le nhap tich (mark one’s maturity milestone) ritual, and a worshipping ceremony. A group of young men perform a solemn procession bearing King Phung Hung’s imperial robes from Sac Communal House to Dai Communal House. During this procession, the villagers prepare trays of fruit, incense and lamps as offerings to pay their respects to King Phung Hung. The procession circles the pond in Trieu Khuc Pagoda before returning to Dai Communal House, where the elders begin to read the liturgy, open an iron box, and take out a pen to perform the worshipping ceremony. Outside, the festival kicks off with lively folk dances in open spaces decorated with colorful flags and banners, performed by villagers in traditional attire. The dances include flag runs, dragon dances, lion dances, senh tien dances, and the most anticipated dance of all – the Bong Dance.

The Trieu Khuc Village Festival

The Bong Dance, also known as “Con di danh bong” (Girls playing drums), is the highlight of this festival and a source of pride for Trieu Khuc’s villagers. According to legend, when King Phung Hung led his rebellion against the Tang Dynasty in the 8th century, he had some soldiers dress up as women and carry drums to dance and sing in order to motivate his troops before battle and to celebrate their victory. The dance is notable as it involves the selection of single, attractive young men from noble families in the village. They put on makeup and dress up as girls, wearing black culottes or pants, soft silk scarves embroidered with peacock motifs, and kerchiefs. Each young man wears a small drum painted in red around the front of his waist, skillfully fastened by a red silk band tied at his back.

While the dance moves are fairly simple, involving spinning, reaching out with the arms, bending the legs, leaning back-to-back, and hugging, the lively band, high-spirited drum beats, and the dancers’ swinging movements and flirty eye contact make this dance captivating and ecstatic. Their vibrantly colored dresses flutter with each jump and drum beat to create a powerful impression. When the dancers spin, the multi-colored silk strips on their outfits twirl, creating magical circles in the air. Even when dressed as women and performing gentle and graceful dances, the young men exude a manly and liberal demeanor as well as the chivalrous spirit of soldiers.

The Bong Dance contains the soul, pride, and spiritual heart of Trieu Khuc Village

The villagers credit great artists such as the late Bui Van Tot, Bui Van Luc, Trieu Dinh Van, and Trieu Dinh Hong for their efforts in preserving this dance. Artist Trieu Dinh Hong, who is passionate about this folk dance, has spent years persuading young village men to learn and perform this dance to keep it alive. In 2010, he was awarded the title “Folk artisan”. In 2015, the Bong Dance Club, which he chaired, was officially recognized and sponsored by the Hanoi Folk Arts Association. Today, the Bong Dance has spread beyond this small village’s borders. Not only has it reached other regions and festivals across the country, but it has also been performed at ethnic groups’ cultural festivals in Vietnam. This unique folk dance has remained popular among locals and visitors from all walks of life.

The Trieu Khuc Village Festival and the “Con di danh bong” dance undeniably hold the soul, pride, and spiritual heart of this village. When spring comes, everyone can feel the excitement, and the village comes alive with joy and a traditional festive spirit. The festival not only helps to preserve the village’s traditions and create a joyful atmosphere in which people can bond, but it also brings about deeply personal and precious memories that people cherish.