“Drink water, remember its source” – the beauty in Vietnamese cultural heritage

The worship of Hung Kings has been recognised as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Photo: Collected

The first word a human being learns to speak is Mum. Mum and Dad are the ones who teach us the first lessons in our life. Vietnamese people have a saying: "A father’s efforts are as huge as a mountain, a mother’s love is as tremendous as water from the source."

Vietnamese people also show respect and gratitude to their ancestors – Hung Kings, who founded the nation, through the popular saying: "Each people must have their own ancestors. They are like the root of the tree and the source of the river."

For centuries, one popular tradition of the Vietnamese generations is to celebrate the Hung Kings worshiping festival on the March 10th of the lunar calendar. Every year, many Vietnamese people, regardless of ethnic groups and religions, in and outside Vietnam, make a pilgrimage to Hung Kings Temple Complex in Phu Tho province - the old ancient city of Van Lang nation to pay tribute to the contribution of Hung Kings, who were the traditional founders of the nation.

Legend has it that Ha Temple (The Lower Temple in the Hung Kings Temple Complex) is the place Great Mother Au Co gave birth to an egg sac that hatched 100 princes, the first ancestors of the Vietnamese people. That is why the Vietnamese often use the word "compatriots" (dong bao) which explains the Vietnamese ancestors were all born from the same embryo.

Beside Ha Temple, Thien Quang pagoda was built in the post Le dynasty. A 700-year-old cycad still stands in front of the pagoda.

After visiting the pagoda, tourists can go to Trung Temple (The Middle Temple). On the stone, there is a legend that Hung Kings and their generals used to play chess and discuss significant national issues. The Middle Temple is also the place where prince Lang Lieu offered square sticky rice cakes and crushed sticky rice round cakes to the 6th Hung King. Lang Lieu then ascended the throne. Since then, square cakes and round cakes have become an indispensable part of the offerings at Hung King Festival.

Passing Trung Temple and heading to the Hung mountain top, we will see Thuong Temple (The Upper Temple). Legend has it that Hung Kings used to hold ritual ceremonies to pray for good weather, peace and prosperity for the people.

There is an oath inscribed on a stone pillar in the Upper Temple. The stone pillar was said to have been erected by King An Duong Vuong who swore to worship Hung Kings and to protect the country against any enemies. Half a century ago, the oath of protecting the country was repeated in the area. At Gieng Temple (The Well Temple) which worships princesses Tien Dung and Ngoc Hoa, on September 19th, 1954, President Ho Chi Minh spoke an immortal sentence to the soldiers "Hung Kings built up the country. We have to jointly protect the country."  The heartland has witnessed the most splendid eras of Vietnam’s history: the Hung Kings national construction era and Ho Chi Minh national protection era.

Hung Kings Festival or Hung Kings death anniversary is a Vietnamese festival held annually from the 8th to the 11th of the third lunar month, in which the 10th is the main festival day. The ceremony is celebrated solemnly with national rites. The offerings are "three living beings" (one pig, one goat and one ox), square sticky rice cakes, crushed sticky rice round cakes and multicolored sticky rice while the musical instrument is the old bronze drum. The notables in the host village, followed by local people and visitors, enter Hung Temple and practice traditional customs.

The festival includes such activities as the contest of sedan-chair, Xoan singing, Ca Tru singing and other folk games. On 6 December 2012, UNESCO officially recognized Hung Kings worship ritual as a World's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Hung Kings worshiping ritual reflects the solidarity of the Vietnamese people and honors the Vietnamese moral tradition of "remembering the source of the water we drink". Visiting Hung King Temple to burn incense, the Vietnamese people would like to express their honour and respect to the ancestors who helped shape the country of Viet Nam today.

Embassy of Viet Nam in Dhaka

  • “Drink water, remember its source”
  • “Drink water, remember its source” – the beauty in Vietnamese cultural heritage
  • Vol 36
  • Issue 40
  • DhakaCourier

Leave a Comment