In Hai Duong city, there are traditional festivals that couldn’t have been celebrated for two years due to the Covid-19 epidemic.
Tiger chasing is one of the rare practices kept at Suot Temple and Shrine festival
However, village festivals are always in the minds of every citizen and they still remind each other of keeping the village festivals.
Turning over each documentary photo recording the vibrant atmosphere of Bao Sai Temple, Shrine, Pagoda festival (Pham Ngu Lao ward), Mr. Nguyen Huu Nhat, member of the Management Board of the monument said that though located in the area of narrow streets, Bao Sai Temple, Shrine, Pagoda festival is held every year. In particular, the procession is still held every 5 years. Performing the procession ceremony requires the participation of hundreds of people, especially the procession team must be healthy young men. Every festival, even though working far away, young men call each other to come back. In 2020, Bao Sai Temple, Shrine, Pagoda festival would have had a procession, but due to the impact of the epidemic, the festival couldn’t be held.
"Up to now, it has been 6 years that we could not hold the procession, we find it lacking and miss it. Festivals with procession are of great fun. In the space of urban streets, the palanquin passes through the streets of Binh Minh, Truong My, Le Chan, Le Thanh Nghi... Everywhere the procession passes, people are excited to watch it”, said Mr. Nhat.
Bao Sai Shrine worships Truong My, a General who had the merit of defeating foreign invaders during Hai Ba Trung dynasty. Bao Sai Temple, also known as Thanh Hu Cavern, worships Tien Dung Princess, 18th Hung Vuong's daughter. Previously, Bao Sai Temple, Shrine, Pagoda festival was held on the 10th day of lunar March, along with Hung Vuong's death commemoration day, later it was transferred to the 10th day of lunar February which is said to be the birthday of General Truong My. The traditional festival is held in two days, 10th and 11th of lunar February every year.
During each festival season, people in the street neighborhood excitedly prepare rituals, consecration to present to the Saints and burn incense to commemorate Princess Tien Dung. Besides the ceremony, the festival also has folk games such as boat racing, chess, human chess, wrestling ...
As for Suot Temple and Shrine festival, 2020 marks a memorable milestone when the festival is recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Mr. Tran Xuan Thinh, standing member of the relic management board said with pride that every festive season attracts thousands of people. Situated in a location with a fast urbanization rate, typically with many inhabitants, the festival was thought to gradually fade away, but in contrast, many festival activities are expanded than before. Suot Temple and Shrine worship Dai Vuong Vu Huu, who had merit in helping King Le Chieu Tong expel the invading Ai Lao and Chiem Thanh armies. He was born and raised in Thanh Cuong village (now is called Quarter 2, 3 and 4 of Thanh Binh ward). Upon his death, he was crowned Dai Vuong by King Le and conferred the title of Superior God. Suot Temple and Shrine festival have many unique rituals, and the process of preserving the rituals has had ups and downs subject to the changes of society. As of present, most of the customs have been restored. It’s precious that in urban space, the customs such as storing Hoang Tuu wine, slaughtering pigs ... to present to the Saint are still done by the local residents themselves.
Suot Temple and Shrine festival has the custom of tiger chasing (catching tiger), one of the rare practices. According to the legend, when King Le Chieu Tong was ruling the country, Chiem Thanh invaded the border of our country. At this time, King Le invited Vu Huu to the court to lead troops fighting the enemy. He obeyed the King's orders, recruited soldiers in the area and when he was about to go, a big tiger came to harass Thanh Cuong villagers. He organized the army to fight the tiger to save the villagers. When the tiger was killed, he asked the army generals and soldiers to slaughter the tiger and offer its meat to Heaven. Based on this legend, the tiger chasing custom was re-enacted by the people during the village festival (every 5 years) as a form of commemoration of Dai Vuong Vu Huu's merit.
According to Mr. Thinh, the festival is held every year, but some customs are held every 5 years, in the grand village festival only, because the regulations are very strict. For example, to organize the tiger chasing, it is necessary to mobilize 90-100 people, meeting all the following criteria: Males aged from 18 to 54, virtuous, healthy, of good reputation, no slaughter, no evil work within 45 days before the festival, and their families have had no funerals that year... So strict as such, it is necessary to have long intervals to maintain the traditional rituals, to pass on to the next generations.
In Hai Duong city, there are also a number of festivals such as Dinh Van Ta Temple festival (Quang Trung ward), Dong Nien Temple festival (Viet Hoa ward) ... which still retain many traditional cultural features. Each festival has its own identity, but it aims to preserve the good values of the ancestors. It is a valuable thing that in the space of an urban city, people still keep their folk beliefs and customs, especially festivals under old customs.