Five major cultural festivals in Northern Vietnam that attract countless visitors in the early spring

Five major cultural festivals in Northern Vietnam that attract countless visitors in the early spring

Hanoi Quang Ninh - Hai Phong Ninh Binh Bac Ninh Nam Dinh 15.08.2021

In Spring, Vietnamese people often eagerly travel and participate in festivals to pray for a new year of peace and luck. Here are the major festivals during this season in Northern Vietnam that attract a lot of people.

Translated by nguyendo

Written by hoant

Huong Pagoda Festival

“Participating in Huong Pagoda Festival in Spring 

High mountains, craggy roads

When going up slopes, when climbing up passes

Green apricot forest with countless white flowers"

(Go to Huong Pagoda Festival - Doan Thi Xuan Quy)

One of the most famous spiritual and cultural tourist destinations in Northern Vietnam is Huong Pagoda, also known as Huong Son Pagoda, which is a cultural-religious complex of Vietnam, including dozens of Buddhist pagodas, several temples worshiping gods, and a series of communal houses worshiping agricultural deities. The center of this complex is Huong Pagoda, which is also known as Trong pagoda and is situated in Huong Tich cave. The pagoda is about 60km from Hanoi, in Huong Son commune, My Duc district (Hanoi) and is on the right bank of the Day River.

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Huong Pagoda is located by the Day River. Photo: Zing.vn

The pagoda was built on a large scale around the end of the 17th century, but then was destroyed during wartime. In 1988, Venerable Thich Vien Thanh restored the pagoda as it is today, including many works scattered in Yen stream valley, in which the outstanding ones are Ngoai and Trong Pagodas.

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Visitors taking a boat to the Huong Pagoda. Photo: Nemtv

You have to take a boat to enter the pagoda and the Day river leading to the destination is always crowded with hundreds of boats, creating a bustling scene. After enjoying the beauty of the river, you will start your climbing journey to reach the Huong Pagoda and participate in the festival here. Notably, the mountain road from the Ngoai and Trong pagodas is always busy.

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The nature at Huong Pagoda. Photo: @daniel.3dm

The Huong Pagoda Festival takes place from the 6th of January to the end of March (lunar calendar) in Huong Son commune, My Duc district, Hanoi, with two parts, namely the ceremony and the festival. The incense offering ceremony has offerings such as incense, flowers, lanterns, candles, fruits and vegetarian dishes. During this time, monks often perform rituals and chant for half an hour at shrines and temples while incense is burned continuously. Meanwhile, the festival often has a procession of gods from the temple to the communal house, whose palanquin is followed by boys, girls and the elderly, with the participation of an orchestra performing traditional music among flags and drums. In addition, there are a number of activities imbued with national cultural identity in the festival, such as Cheo singing, Van singing, and boat racing.

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Opening ceremony of Huong Pagoda Festival 2020. Photo: vyctravel

Ticket price to visit Huong Pagoda: the main route of Trinh Temple - Thien Tru - Huong Tich: VND 130,000/person, of which: sightseeing ticket: VND 80,000/person and boat ticket: VND 50,000/person (in 2020).

Lim Festival

“Three years with two pagoda festivals

Without any announcements, everyone knows the date

The elderly, the young, boys and girls

Dress up and participate in the festival

Because the Lim Festival is attractive to everyone...”

(Folk poem)

The Lim festival takes place annually on the 13th of the first lunar month (around February of the solar calendar) in Tien Du district, Bac Ninh province. This is a unique activity of the long-standing traditional culture in Northern Vietnam, which is expressed through Quan Ho singing - a typical folk music style of the Red River Delta in the North of Vietnam. Quan Ho singing originated in the ancient Kinh Bac area, which is between Bac Giang and Bac Ninh provinces today with the famous Cau river regarded as "Quan Ho river". Quan Ho singing was recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity in 2009.

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The procession in the Lim festival. Photo: vntrip

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Those participating in the procession wear colourful costumes. Photo: thanhnien

The Lim festival is usually held over three days, from 12-14 January of the lunar calendar, and its main day is on the 13th (as mentioned before) on the Lim hill, where there is a Lim pagoda worshiping the founder of the Quan Ho singing. The festival takes place in three localities, namely Lien Bao commune, Noi Due commune and Lim town. The Lim festival begins with a procession with the participants all dressed in colourful ancient costumes, followed by rituals for village lords and female gods at Co Lung temple, Hong Van mausoleum and Duke Do Nguyen Thuy's mausoleum. At the same time, there are incense offering ceremonies to Buddha and Ả midwife at Hong An pagoda, coupled with a lot of exciting folk games such as wrestling, human chess, weaving contest, cooking rice contest, and especially Quan Ho singing. At a small lake right next to the field of Lim village, a dragon boat painted with gold will leave the dock with groups of male and female singers - wearing traditional pants, shirts, turbans, sandals - singing lyrical songs.

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The singers are singing love songs on the dragon boat. Photo: Baomoi.vn

Seal-opening ceremony at Tran Temple

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Seal-opening ceremony at Tran Temple. Photo: vietnam-tourism

Tran is a complex of temple relics at Tran Thua Street, Loc Vuong Ward, Nam Dinh province, which was built in 1695 on the foundation of the old Thai temple of the Tran dynasty that was destroyed by the Ming army in the 15th century. The temple worships the Tran kings and the mandarins with merits in that dynasty.

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Seal-opening ceremony at Tran Temple. Photo: laodongthudo

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The seal of Tran temple. Photo: baodautu

The first Tran Temple seal-opening ceremony was held in 1239. On the seal, the four words “Tich Phuc Vo Cuong” were carved, which means “bringing luck to children and hoping people to act morally”. The ceremony was cancelled until 1262, then it was re-organised. Currently, the Tran Temple seal-opening ceremony is usually held at dawn on January 15th of the lunar calendar.

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Catching fish at the pond to perform the "water procession and fish sacrifice". Photo: dantri

In addition to the seal-opening ceremony, the festival will include a number of activities such as: Ngoc Lo palanquin procession (to bring the incense pot worshiping Buddha Emperor Tran Nhan Tong from Pho Minh pagoda to Thien Truong temple), Water Procession, and Fish Sacrifice (to commemorate ancestors of the Tran family whose profession was catching fish). During the festival days, many people flock to Tran Temple to offer incense, worship Buddha, and pray for luck in the new year.

Ba Chua Kho Temple Festival

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Ba Chua Kho Temple in Bac Ninh - Photo: Baomoi.vn

Vietnamese people have a long-standing belief in Mother Goddess worship, and one of the typical temples representing this belief is Ba Chua Kho Temple, which is located in Co Me Village, Vu Ninh Ward, Bac Ninh province. The temple is related to the event when Ly Thuong Kiet led the resistance war against the Song army in 1076, when Co Me village, Kho mountain and Gao Bridge were the Ly army's food warehouses on the southern bank of the Nhu Nguyet front line (Cau River). The temple of Ba Chua Kho is the place to commemorate a Vietnamese woman who led the production and storage of food, as well as protected the national treasure in the period before and after the Nhu Nguyet victory.

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The bustling scene at Ba Chua Kho temple. Photo: luhanhvietnam

Right from the first days of the new year, many people flock to Ba Chua Kho temple, but the main day of the festival is on January 14th. Notably, most of the people who come here are businessmen and they often pray for a prosperous new year. There is a "borrowing capital" ritual which is very interesting: they often prepare offerings with a paper clearly stating how much money they want to borrow, what they want to do with it and how long they will take to pay it back. With spiritual beliefs of “paying back under the circumstances” - whether they do business well or not - they have to keep their promise to give thanks at the end of the year to Ba Chua Kho temple in the hope of a luckier following year.

Bai Dinh Pagoda Festival

Bai Dinh pagoda is located in Gia Sinh commune, Gia Vien district, Ninh Binh province with a unique and diverse architecture. The pagoda complex is believed to have been built more than 1,000 years ago, which consists of an ancient pagoda and a new one built in 2003, located on the mountainside between the vast valleys with lakes and mountains while the western side faces the ancient capital of Hoa Lu.

Bai Dinh pagoda complex currently covers an area of ​​539 hectares, including 27 hectares covered by the ancient pagoda and 80 hectares covered by the new one, together with areas such as a cultural park and Buddhist academy, reception area and park landscape, roads and parking lots, Dam Thi and Phong Sinh lake. Bai Dinh has had nine architectural records such as: Asia's largest gold-plated bronze Buddha statue, the largest bronze Maitreya Buddha statue in Southeast Asia and the largest bronze bell in Vietnam.

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Bai Dinh pagoda complex seen from above. Photo: Cattour

You can participate in the Bai Dinh Pagoda Festival from the afternoon of the first day of the Lunar New Year, but it is officially held on the 6th of the Lunar New Year and lasts until the end of March (lunar calendar). The festival consists of two main parts, namely the ceremony and the festival. The ceremony includes religious activities such as incense offering, palanquin procession and carrying the altars of Cao Son, Saint Nguyen and Lady Thuong Ngan from the old to the new pagoda. The festival has traditional cultural activities for you to participate in, such as folk games, visiting caves, sightseeing, and enjoying ancient art activities (Xam singing, Cheo singing and Ca Tru singing).

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The ceremony of Bai Dinh pagoda festival. Photo: VNA

Ticket price for visiting Bai Dinh pagoda (in 2020)

- Tram: VND 300,000/person

- Visiting the Stupa: VND 50,000/person

- Tour guide: VND 300,000/tour

At the beginning of the year, participating in spring festivals is a tradition of the Vietnamese people, so you should try to visit these above-mentioned festivals to understand the unique folklore of the S-shaped country.