Hung Kings Temple Festival is one of the biggest and most significant festivals of the country. Despite the strict rule of the Chinese and the French colonialism, the Vietnamese has been holding their traditional festival for thousands of years. The custom of celebrating Hung Kings Festival has become a long-lasting cultural tradition of the native.
Annually, all the citizens pour into the temple to commemorate the Hung Kings – their ancestors. Even those who work and live abroad also fly to the country in order to take part in the festival. Commonly, the festival occurs from the 8th to 11th day on the third month in lunar calendar. However, the accurate day when the king died is the 10th day. Like other holidays in Vietnam, including the traditional Lunar New Year, Labor Day, and National Day, the Hung Kings Festival is the day when all the people are officially allowed not to go to work so as to participate in the cultural activities of memorizing the Hung Kings.
The same as other festivals in the North of Vietnam, the Hung Kings Temple Festival covers two major sections: the ceremony and recreational activity.
Since it is a national festival, the ceremony is formally celebrated. The offerings include food: three animals (a pig, a goat, and a cow), banh chung (sticky rice cake), banh giay (round crushed sticky rice), multi-colored sticky rice and an ancient bronze drum. After drumming for a while, the main holder carries out rituals under the control of a master, then celebrating other remarkable parts. The last portion is that visitors and pilgrims come inside the temple and do traditional customs.
The second part of the festival is the recreational activities. The atmosphere becomes more exciting due to the competition of palanquin processions. To have spectacular and luxurious palanquins, the local need to spend much time meticulously preparing. All the palanquins must be collected for a few days before the competition. The winner will have the opportunity to take the procession to the Upper Temple and do the rituals in the next festival as the local people believe that the Hung Kings and other Gods bless them for luck, prosperity, and peace. The sacred and noble things towards their ancestor motivate them to get over the hardship. The spiritual life of the Vietnamese is clearly revealed through cultural activities and traditional beliefs.
Each procession consists of three palanquins painted in red and gilded and subtly sculpted. The decoration is also beautiful and skillful. The first palanquin contains the offerings including fresh flowers, incenses, betel, areca, water, and wine. The second one comprises of an ancestral altar, parasols and fans in various formal colors. On the last one, banh chung, banh giay, and the head of a pig is put on. The officials and elder male villagers go after the palanquins.
If you come to Hung Kings Temple at the time when there is no festival, you can still visit plenty of attractions, such as:
Hung King Tomb
It is said to be the tomb of the 6th Hung King during the time Saint Giong defeat the An invaders.
Located on the left side of Hung Mountain, the temple was built in the 15th century, associated with the legend of Mother Au Co giving birth to 100 children. Tourists have to climb 225 stone steps to reach the temple and Thien Quang Tu pagoda. In 1954, when President Ho Chi Minh visited the temple, he planted a cycad tree and it has grown up until now.
It takes 168 stone steps to head to the temple. Based on the legend, many Hung Kings selected the Middle Temple as the place to hold meetings with their courtiers and take rest as well. This is also the place where Prince Lang Lieu presented his banh chung and banh giay to his father.
Travelers have to spend time finishing 102 stone steps to go to the highest temple. This temple used to delicate the Gods, Mother Nature, Saint Mountain and so on.
There is a well called Ngoc in the temple. The water is clean and clear as if a mirror. Thousands years ago, the princess Tien Dung – a daughter of the 18th King Hung often combed her long smooth hair next to this well.
Hung Kings Temple festival has become a beautifully symbolic praxis of Vietnam. For a long time, every individual throughout the nation has considered the land as their sacred sanctuary. Despite many changes, the festival has still been taken place once a year. There is no religious discrimination among the pilgrims, they all are proud of being the descendants of Hung Kings. The death anniversary of the kings is a day of gathering, praising the glory of the country, also an icon of Vietnamese community’s spirit.