The Trieu Khuc Village Festival

Trieu Khuc village now belongs to Tan Trieu commune, Thanh Tri district, a suburban area of Ha Noi. To reach it, start from Ha Noi City, follow the Ha Noi-Ha Dong highway up to kilometre 18, and then turn left and follow a communal road for 2 km.
Archaeological findings show that Trieu Khuc village is the site of a 4,000-year old ceramics production centre. Local villagers have also learned from their ancestors that an insurgent leader, King Bo Cai Dai Vuong Phung Hung and his troops liberated Dai La (Ha Noi nowadays) in 791 from the Tang invaders of China and that during the operation, some of his army units were stationed in Trieu Khuc village. For this reason, Trieu Khuc village worships Phung Hung as its Spirit Protector. Its second Spirit Protector is Vu Uy, who served as Ambassador to China, where he learned how to weave straps for conic hats. Later, he came and stayed in Trieu Khuc village and trained local villagers in this new trade. Since then, Trieu Khuc has supplied hat straps to the whole country. Some time later, it developed silk weaving. At present, the village produces banner fringes and decorative silk patterns. It also buys chicken and duck feathers from various parts of the country: high quality feathers are exported to Hong Kong, others are turned into feather dusters for sale in the domestic markets, both as household utensil and as a handicraft item.
The relative affluence of Trieu Khuc village is reflected, among other things in the revelry of its festivals. The festival on the 10th of the 1st lunar month involves many games: dragon procession, lion procession with flag, wrestling, and cockfighting. But one of its main focuses is a ceremony in honour of village tutelaries, a ceremony marked by a religious dance which is combined with a “liquor offering rite” performed by two young men disguised as women of easy virtue, called “girls’ offerings”. The whole ceremony is designed to beg the tutelaries for peace and prosperity for the village.
During the dance, the two young men, wear white long dresses, crepe turbans, white trousers inside and black gauze skirts outside, along with five-colour fringes and a rosy belt. They perform the dance and the presentation of liquor amid traditional music and folk-songs, in particular the “Ngu Boi” tune. It is a most solemn ceremony and women’s attendance is strictly forbidden.
A highlight is the dragon procession on the main road of the festival, followed by a dragon dance in the yard of the communal house. The dance originates from an ancient belief of the Vietnamese people that they are the offspring of a Dragon and a Fairy. The dragon has become a sacred symbol of the nation. The dragon, in this case, is 10 metres long. The dance leader marches in front of the dragon, holding a big ball and a symbolic emerald. Another person carries the head of a dragon – with his head and a part of his body hidden in the big head of the dragon – while 8 to 10 others carry the rest of the dragon’s body. All are clad as ancient royal warriors: short tunics, long pants, puttees, red belts, and red turbans.
The dragon procession is usually followed by the simpler Lion Procession: one person carried the head of a lion, while another person holds the tail of the animal, symbolized by a long and wide piece of cloth. The Lion Dance is performed by the carriers in coordination with a martial arts club wielder, a masked dancer, a dancer playing the role of Ba Thanh (a character in Buddhist mythology) and another dancer playing the role of Ong Bia (The Genius of Earth).
The flag dance is performed on the concluding day of the Festival, immediately following a ceremony for escorting village tutelary gods into the temple. The flag dance originates from an ancient race – in which runner carry flags. Young and healthy people are selected for enlistment in the national army (to fight against foreign invaders). As the ceremony held in the communal house comes to an end, drums, horns and gongs strike up a vigorous martial tune, as if exhorting troops to advance. A big flag is hoisted in the yard. Young men line up in two rows with flag carriers standing at the ends of each row. Those wielding wooden spears, lances, scimitars, halberds, and clubs in the middle. The two rows, run into the fields, confront each other in a mock battle, then run again with their lines intertwined. Then, they run back to the communal yard where they perform martial arts. The end of the flag dance, as signaled by a long round of drum beats, also marks the end of the Trieu Khuc Village Festival.

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