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Commemorating the Hung kings (April 10, 2003)

A folk procession at Hung Kings anniversary
Held on the tenth day of the third moon, the official anniversary of the demise of the Hung kings is now a nationwide event to commemorate a group of rulers who were instrumental in the founding of Van Lang-Au Lac, present-day Vietnam.

The main festival is at the Hung Kings Temple on Nghia Linh Mountain, 85 kilometres northwest of Hanoi in Hy Lang commune, Phong Chau district, Phu Tho province.

Actually held in many parts of the country, the festival not only attracts people from everywhere and offers them a chance to participate in traditional cultural activities, but is also a sacred pilgrimage back to the origins of Vietnamese culture.

In Ho Chi Minh City's on April 11 at the Hung Kings Temple and the adjacent Museum of Vietnamese History and will last for 15 hours. Most of the 11,000-plus participants will be higher and further education students, according to Tuan Viet, deputy director of the Service of Information and Culture. Flags, banners and panels will be draped along Le Duan Boulevard and Nguyen Binh Khiem Street which lead to the temple and museum in the grounds of the botanical gardens.

The ceremony is due to start at 7am with the museum-to-temple procession of a palanquin containing such offerings as banh chung (square-shaped sticky rice cake), banh day (round-shaped cake made from sticky powder), betel and areca.

The road and the staircase leading to the temple will be flanked by kylin, lion and dragon dancers, while beside the palanquin will be young women bearing trays of watermelons, rice, sticky rice, flowers and incense sticks.

Upon reaching the temple, the procession will be welcomed with ritualistic music played on several types of traditional instruments. A representative of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Committee will deliver the opening speech, followed by another speech to commemorate the Hung kings. Then the official guests will enter the temple in stages to place flowers and incense sticks, after which the place will be open to everyone until 10pm.

The entertainment programme includes concerts and other activities. The temple forecourt will be full of kylin, dragon and lion dancers while the main stage will be used for performances of hat boi (traditional central opera) and cai luong (reformed southern opera) recounting legends, historical events and the lives of national heroes.

The subjects include the Hung kings, King An Duong Vuong, who lost the land of Au Lac to China's Trieu Dynasty in 179 BC due to lack of vigilance, and General Tran Quoc Tuan, better known as Tran Hung Dao, a brilliant military strategist who repelled invasions from the north in 1257, 1285 and 1288.

Other entertainment will be Vietnamese folk music, songs of the Champa and Khmer peoples, martial arts performances, and popular folkgames like di ca kheo (walking on stilts), bit mat dap nieu (breaking earthen ware pots while blindfolded), and choi o an quan.

Needless to say there'll be plenty of food. Pick of the bunch should be goi cuon, hu tieu, bun rieu, banh da lon and che troi nuoc as representative of the country's south, banh chung, banh day and banh cuon from the north, and banh nam, banh beo and bun bo Hue from central Vietnam.

Admission to the festival is free. If you don't know where Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens are, you'll find the Hung Kings Temple and the Museum of Vietnamese History at 2 Nguyen Binh Khiem Street in District 1.

Reprinted with permission from Nhan Dan Newspaper


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