The Hung Temple Festival

The Hung Temple is located on Mount Nghia Linh of Co Tich village, Hy Cuong commune, Phong Chau district, Phu Tho province.
According to old annals, after settling down in Phong Chau and making it the Capital of the country (1st millennium BC), the Hung Kings chose Mt. Nghia Linh as the place for performing religious ceremonies in honour of the Sky, the Earth and other geniuses. Mt. Nghia Linh (also called as Hy Cuong, Nghia Cuong, Hung Linh, Nui Hung) is 175 m high. It is covered with luxuriant vegetation and is surrounded by a series of mounts. According to legend, there were 99 hills symbolizing 99 kneeling elephants differentially turned toward the Mother Mountain (Nghia Linh). But one of the hill has a big crack; legend explains that a recalcitrant elephant refused to bow to the Mother Mountain and was, therefore, beheaded.
In order to visit the Hung Pagoda, one should, starting from Ha Noi, go along Highway N°. 2 to Co Loa, Dong Anh, then to Viet Tri Industrial Area (which is 92 kilometres north of Ha Noi), then proceed for five more kilometres. Then one would see the pine trees and the three-entranced, two-storey temple gate. It is covered by a curved roof the edge of which bears two dragons turning their heads towards the Sun. The big, tall gate is flanked on both sides by walls and two columns bearing two lamp posts and young lions.
From this gate, the visitor must climb 225 stone-steps to reach the Ha Temple (the Lower Temple). According to legend, it was here that Lady Au Co gave birth to 100 eggs from which 100 children came into being. Fifty children followed their father, Lac Long Quan, to the sea. Forty-nine others followed their mother to the highlands, leaving behind the 50th son to rule over the country as the first Hung King.
The Ha Temple area also has a Buddhist pagoda, the Thien Quang Pagoda, which has a big bell tower and is famours for a 700-year-old tree in its yard. It was here that President Ho Chi Minh had a talk with officers and men of the 308th Division in August 1954 concerning their tasks in taking over Ha Noi, the capital. Among other things, the President said to them:
“To their credit, the Hung Kings founded our State And it is now our duty to defend it”.
Leaving the Ha Temple, one visits a house containing stone slabs, then goes down the foot of the mountain to the south-east. After crossing a few score of stone stairs, one arrives at the Well Temple, where Princesses Tien Dung and Ngoc Hoa, daughter of the 18th Hung King are worshipped. A legend says that prior to their marriage, the princesses used to comb their hair, using the water in the well as a mirror.
Climbing up 168 stone stairs, from the Ha Temple, one reaches the Trung Temple (the Middle Temple) where, according to legend, the Hung King used to confer with the Court officials on State affairs. One hundreds stone stairs bring the visitor to the Thuong Temple (the High Temple) where the Hung Kings performed ceremonies in honour of the Sky, the Earth, the Mountain Genius, and the Paddy Genius. The temple includes a large horizontal boad inscribed with 4 Chinese character “Nam Quoc Son Ha” (Southern State). A stone column is planted in front of it on a high rostrum and darkened by the smoke of incense sticks. It is called the “Swearing-in Stone”. That was the place where King An Duong Vuong (who ascended to the throne in the 2nd century BC) swore to perform regular ceremonies in remembrance of the Hung King and defend the heritage left by the Hung family. The tomb of a Hung King, the ancestral tomb, stands at a lower place near the Thu’png Temple. It was a piece of simple architecture rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century.
Thus, the Hung King complex of historical monuments comprises 4 temples, one pagoda, one tomb, most of which have been rebuilt or renovated less than a hundred years ago. Yet, excavation and surveys have detected in Mt. Nghia Linh many relics pertaining to the architecture prevailing in the Ly and Tran dynasties, such as old-style bricks and tiles, small terracotta stupas, and stone columns. Even the Swearing-in Stone column was initially intended for use in the construction of temples and pagodas. It contains holes for fitting bars and beams.
As some local old folks still remember, the Trung Temple was built at the earliest date by the Treo village (which later became Trieu Phu village on account of the family name of many of its inhabitants) to worship the Hung Kings. The population grew and the Treo village subsequently broke into three villages – Trieu Phu, Co Tich and Vi Cuong. The latter two also built temples on the mountain to worship the Hung Kings. Thus the Thuong Temple was built by Co Tich village, and the Ha Temple by Vi Cuong village, while Trieu Phu village, as the root unit, continued to be in charge of the Trung temple as had been the case previously. These 3 temples also worship the Mountain Genius but their respective tablets carry different names. The Thuong temple also has in its altar a big rice husker made of stone (which was later replaced by a wooden one). The inhabitants also take care to preserve a big piece of stone with a diameter of over 2 metres atop Mt. Troc, which is called the “rice hulling mill”. These two relics, and other pieces of stones arranged on both side of the rostrum of the altar in the Ha Temple give us an idea of the primitive worship rites of the people during the reign of the Hung Kings. Some places and villages around these temples recall historical facts: Tham Thinh village was where paddy was husked and supplied to the King; Ke Su was where the King worked; Ke Trau was formerly a garden growing betel leaves for the King; Ke Doi was the training ground of the royal troops; Ke Gat was the Palace where the King chose his son-in-law.
Over recent years, efforts have been made to preserve and rehabilitate the Hung temples with the construction of new roads, stone steps and guest houses, and with the digging of Lake Lac Long Quan.
The Hung Temple Festival opens every year on the 10th day of the 3rd lunar month. In ancient days, en envoy of the Vietnamese King officiated as the master of the ceremony. The festival involved many games such as the unicorn dance, tugs of war, and swings. In particular, Co Tich village is famous for its offering: rice pies, steamed white glutinous rice, steamed red-coloured glutinous rice, steamed violet-coloured glutinous rice (which symbolize the different varieties of paddy planted during the reign of the Hung Kings when the Vietnamese state was still in its initial stage).
At present, the Hung Temples Festival is regarded as a nationwide event. Another items is the “bronze drum beating” ceremony held in the Thuong Temple. Games include circular swings, vertical swings, wrestling, sword dance, “Xoan” folk songs (folks songs of Phu Tho province) contest on the banks of Lake Lac Long Quan and musical performances.
New games and cultural items are being added to the programme of the Hung Temples festival in order to remind the present and future generations of the origins of our nation and the feats of our founding fathers, which are the sources of strength we should draw upon in our present nation-building endeavours.

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