The Chu Dong Tu Temple Festival

The festival originates from another legend. The 3rd King of the Hung Dynasty had a daughter, Princess Tien Dung. At the age of 18, Tien Dung had become a beautiful girl. Instead of settling down to a married life, the Princess preferred sightseeing. In spring, she loved to travel by boats on rivers, and even into the sea.
Meanwhile, a very poor fishermen, Chu Cu Van and his son, Chu Dong Tu, lived in Chu Xa (now part of Gia Lam district, Ha Noi). They had only one piece of loin cloth between them. When one of them wore it, the other had to stay in the water. When the father bacame gravely ill, and was about to pass away, he told his son to bury him naked so that the latter might have used the loin cloth. But filial affection did not allow the son to follow this advice. Instead, he buried his father along with the coin cloth. Thereupon, the son had to remain in the water all the time.

One day, while he was fishing on the river. Chu Dong Tu was deeply frightened as he heard sounds of music and saw boats, with fluttering flags, coming. To keep out of sight, the young man rushed to the bank and buried himself deeply in the sand near a bush of reed.
Indeed, it was Princess Tien Dung boating in the river. As she found the scenery poetic and inspiring, she ordered to stop the boat for some time in this section of river. As fate ordained it, she ordered that a certain place on the bank, with a bush of reed, be surrounded by a long and wide trip of gauze cloth so that she could bathe there. That happened to be very place where Chu Dong Tu was hiding. The water, which she poured on herself, removed the sand in the area and soon exposed Chu Dong Tu naked body. Shyness and surprise seized the princess, but after a few minutes she composed herself and started questioning the young man. After listening to him, the Princess concluded that this was, indeed the husband whom God had chosen for her, and she decided to marry him. On hearing reports from escort officials, the King was incensed and refused to recognize her as his daughter. Therefore, Princess Tien Dung and her husband had to remain at their original meeting place, which was, in reality, the estuary of a river. She opened a shop and the place soon became a market and a port for foreign trade.
One day, Chu Dong Tu accepted the invitation of a foreign trader and embarked on a long sea voyage. He reached Quynh Vien island where he met a monk who had attained enlightenment. At his earnest request, the monk agreed to teach him. After Chu Dong Tu had successfully completed his studies, the monk, upon farewell, gave him a conic hat and stick. He said: “Remember, these two objects are sacred”. On his return, Chu Dong Tu and his wife gave up business and travelled extensively far and wide to preach religion and provide medical care to the population. Once, they had to spend the night at a deserted place on the bank of a river, as crossings could be attempted only in daytime. They planted the stick on the ground and put the conical hat on one end of the stick in order to have a small roof over their heads. During the night, a castle with ramparts and a populated city sprang up in that very place. A kingdom indeed! The angry Hung King soon sent troops to attack the city. As the troops reach the other bank of the river at sunset, they had to spend the night there and wait for dawn before attacking. But at midnight, the whole area was overwhelmed by winds, lightning, thunder and violent rains and, as a result, Chu Dong Tu, Princess Tien Dung, their castle and city vanished into the sky and the whole area became a lake which was later called as “Nhat Da” Lagoon, that is, “One Night Lagoon”.
Another version says that Chu Dong Tu also had a concubine, a member of the Nguyen family and a native of nearby Dong Cao village whose inhabitants built a temple dedicated to all the three spirits.
At present, many villages on both sides of the Red River, from Gia Lam down to Thuong Tin (right bank) and in Chau Giang (left bank) worship Chu Dong Tu and his wife. But the main place of worship is Yen Vinh village (Khoai Chau district, Hung Yen province) where the Da Trach Lagoon is located. From Ha Noi, one can reach this village by following the dyke on the left bank of the Red River for 22 km.
The Chu Dong Tu temple in Yen Vinh village contains three big rooms, with the back chamber holding the tablets of the three spirits. A festival is held every year at the temple from the 10th to 13th days of the 2nd lunar month. Opening the festival is the water procession, which is preceded by a golden dragon, a number of flags and parasols and a palanquin carrying a profusely decorated stick and conic hat – the tow magic objects bestowed on Chu Dong Tu” by Lord Buddha. Then come three palanquins containing the tablets of the three spirits. When the procession reaches the bank of the river, several decorated boats row to the middle of the river and fill a jar with water, symbolizing the bath of Princess Tien Dung.
The procession proceeds to the temple, where incense is presented. The ceremony is performed by an old man and an old woman, both of whom are well-respected members of the village.
The ceremony is followed by a castanet dance performed by a group of 13 to 14 year-old girls, wearing traditionally coloured dresses and turbans. The girls play the castanets while they dance.
Outside the temple, games are organized, such as wrestling, cockfights, human chess and traditional and religious dances, including a dance of the “girl of easy virtue”.
A “touring ceremony” is held on the second day. A procession of the three palanquins travel around the village, including to the Da Trach Lagoon, stopping at places where the castle and ramparts are supposed to have been located in the past. Symbolically, the ceremony provides an opportunity for Chu Dong Tu and his wife to visit old places which are close to their hearts.
On the third day, more ceremonies are held, with the concluding one marked by fireworks on the shore of Da Trach Lagoon.
What underlies the Chut Dong Tut Temple Festival is a legend associated with the development of new settlements, rural and urban, in Vi§t Nam. It also marks spring merry-making in an area of the Red River Delta.

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