Giong Festival in Hanoi ( Lễ hội Thánh Gióng) is held annually to commemorate and show Vietnamese’s gratitude to Saint Giong (Thánh Gióng), one of the greatest and fiercest warriors and heroes in Vietnam. Saint Giong, Tan Vien (Tản Viên) (the God of the Mountain), the Mother Goddess Lieu Hanh (Liễu Hạnh) and Chu Dong Tu (Chử Đồng Tử) are Four Immortals, according to the Vietnamese’s beliefs. Giong Festival has two celebrations held per year. The first one is celebrated in Soc Son (Sóc Sơn) District in Northern Vietnam and the second one is held in Phu Dong (Phù Đổng) temple in Hanoi (Hà Nội). During the festival, hundreds of locals, visitors, and tourists gather to participate in many interesting activities of the festival.
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Saint Giong Festival – Thousands Of Years In Existence
According to Vietnamese people, in 1718-1631 BC (the Dynasty of the 6th Hung King(Vua Hùng) ), a boy who was born in Giong Village (Làng Gióng), Phu Dong Commune, Gia Lam (Gia Lâm) District, Hanoi (in the present day) could not smile or speak although he was at the age of three.
However, after hearing the Yin from the North was going to attack his country, he grew up quickly and amazingly, becoming a valiant man. After that, he rode his iron house and defeated the enemy with an iron rod. After winning the battle, he climbed to Soc (Sóc) Mountain and rode this horse flying into the heavens.
With this wonderful and amazing feat, Vietnamese people called their hero “Phu Dong Thien Vuong” (Phù Đổng Thiên Vương) and considered him as one of Four Immortals of Vietnam including Saint Giong, Saint Tan Vien, Saint Lieu Hanh, and Saint Chu Dong Tu. Vietnamese people worshiped these Four Immortals in the Red River delta.
Today, to show the gratitude, belief, and commemoration to his winning and exploits, people from many areas of the Red River delta region celebrate the Saint Giong Festival with some unique rituals and traditional Vietnamese activities. There are more than 10 Giong Festivals held in Hanoi; However, they have not been recognized by UNESCO such as Giong Festival in Thuong Tin (Thường Tín) District; in Dang Xa (Đặng Xá) Village (Gia Lam (Gia Lâm) District); Phu Lo Doai (Phù Lỗ Đoài), Thanh Nhan (Thanh Nhàn), Xuan Lai (Xuân Lai) (Soc Son (Sóc Sơn) District); Son Du (Sơn Du), Can Khe (Cán Khê ) (Dong Anh (Đông Anh) District); Xuan Tao (Xuân Tảo) (Bac Tu Liem (Bắc Từ Liêm) District); Hoi Xa (Hội Xá) (Long Bien (Long Biên) District).
But, the most special and biggest celebrations are Giong festivals in Phu Dong Temple (Phu Dong Commune, Gia Lam District, Hanoi) and in Soc Temple (Phu Linh (Phù Linh) Commune, Soc Son District, Hanoi). Phu Dong Commune is Giong’s birthplace while Phu Linh Commune is where he flew into the heavens on his horse.
The Saint Giong Festival was organized many years ago but only until the 11 century during the King Ly Thai To’s dynasty (Lý Thái Tổ), this festival became the national festival of Vietnam. The King Ly Thai To made the expansion and set several forms and regulations for people to celebrate the Saint Giong Festival.
Besides commemorating the Saint Giong, people coming here to pray for bumper crops, good weather and a year of prosperity. Moreover, in the Saint Giong Festival, thousands of local people participating in the folk stage to perform the play of Saint Giong’s battle. This play not only shows the symbolic meaning but also transfer a great philosophy of life. Particularly, it expresses the intelligence, virtues, bravery, and faith of the Vietnamese people for the nation’s fate, the winning and the hope for a happy and peaceful world.
Over the years in existence, Giong Festival plays an important role in influencing the religious and cultural consciousness of Vietnamese people and people living in the Red River delta. In the two communes celebrating Giong Festival namely Phu Dong and Phu Linh, you can see many imprints and relics related to Saint Giong. Furthermore, it is a great idea to visit some valuable ancient architectural works like shrines, temples and communal houses.
Giong Festival is yearly celebrated on January 6 and April 9 based on the lunar calendar to commemorate Vietnamese national hero. The greatest value of the Giong festival is that it preserves Vietnamese cultural and religious spirits and works, making generations proud of our history. Overcoming through the history and foreign culture’s influences, the Saint Giong Festival has still retained its unique values, features, and meanings. Another special thing about Giong Festival is that it is not commercialized like other Vietnamese festivals.
Giong Festival At Phu Dong Temple
Time: 8th – 12th of the fourth lunar month
Purposes: worship Saint Giong, show the patriotism
Activities: plays reacting Saint Giong’s battle, folk games
The Phu Dong Giong Festival is celebrated annually from the 6th to 12th days of the fourth lunar month. It is held at Phu Dong Temple located in the Giong Village, Phu Dong Commune, Gia Lam District which is known as Giong’s birthplace. This festival commemorates Saint Giong and enhances the patriotism of Vietnamese people.
From the sixth to eighth days, locals carry flags to Mau (Mẫu) (Mother) Temple which worships the Saint Giong’s mother and carries offerings of salted egg-plants and boiled rice to Thuong (Thượng) (Upper) Temple which worships the Saint Giong.
The ninth of the fourth lunar month is the main day of the Giong festival. On this day, participants carry flags to the Thuong Temple from the Mau Temple to sacrifice to the Saint Giong. There is a performance reacting the Saint’s fighting against Yin enemy. Masters such as the Drum Master, Flag Master, the Gong Master, the Children Master, and the Army Master play the important roles in arranging elaborately the battle. In the play, girls and young men play the Giong’s enemy generals.
On the tenth day, locals give offerings to the Saint Giong and inspect battlefield. On the eleventh day, there are ceremonies of using holy water to wash and clean weapons. On the last day, there is a flag procession to announce the victorious news. On this day, cheo performances and ceremony of celebrating the victory take place.
The Giong Festival At Soc Temple
Time: 6th – 8th of the first lunar month
Propose: Sacrifice Saint Giong , pray for an abundant harvest and a life of happiness and prosperity
Activities: ceremonies of cleaning and washing incense offerings, processions and Saint Giong’s statue, watching traditional singing, and playing folk games
Soc Son District, Phu Linh Commune is a place where Giong flew to heaven on his horse. Therefore, locals celebrate the Giong Festival at Soc temple with the hope for an abundant harvest and a life of happiness and prosperity. This festival is held from the 6th to the 8th of the first lunar month. There are ceremonies of incense offering ceremony, procession ceremony, bathing the saint’s statue and giving offerings of bamboo flowers to the Thuong Temple.
On the firth day, locals from eight villages in Soc Son District have to prepare the offerings for the festival. On the sixth day, pilgrims and villagers give offering to the Saint Giong Monument. At midnight of the 6th day, there is a ritual of bathing Saint Giong’s statue “khai quang”.
The 7th day of the first lunar month is the main festival day which is said to be the time the saint ascended to heaven. On this day, a procession of giving the offerings of bamboo flowers to the Thuong Temple. Locals make the bamboo flowers by sharpening bamboo pieces into flowers and dying them with various colors. It expresses the aspiration of Vietnamese people for harmonious wind and rain, a peaceful country and abundant harvests.
During the festival, you can have a chance to take part in many traditional games like human chess, Chinese chess, cockfighting, etc. You can also watch art performances of villages such as love duet (quan ho (quan họ), traditional opera (cheo (chèo)), etc.
The Giong Festival Of Soc And Phu Dong Temples – An Intangible Cultural Heritage Of Humanity
Giong Festival at Phu Dong and Soc Temples is recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of the world. The Giong Festival has transferred its cultural and religious values from generation to generation. It also plays as a community link, delivering many creative ideas and showing the hope for the family’s happiness and national peace.
The Giong Festival has become an intangible cultural heritage of humanity in Hanoi for the following reasons:
- It is rooted in the Red River Delta region, showing its identity, transmitting among generations and providing a sense of continuity.
- It promotes human creativity, exchanges cultural values, and provides visibility to the intangible cultural heritage.
- It has the information provided and consulted for nomination, prior, free and informed consent.
- It has the coherent and diverse measures proposed to document, preserve, recognize, transmit and promote the continuity of the Giong Festival.
- The Giong Festival is in the inscription in the inventory for the intangible cultural heritage of Vietnam.
For those reasons, the Saint Going Festival is a worth national festival in Vietnam which offers ritual activities and various fold games you can enjoy if you have a chance to visit. It is understandable whey the Giong Festival of Phu Dong and Soc Temples has been recognized by the UNESCO since November 2010. I hope that you can find useful information in this article. Any questions can be left in the comment section and we will answer them as soon as we can. To know more interesting Vietnamese ‘s festivals and activities you can enjoy when traveling to Vietnam, you should visit Vina.com.