Hai Ba Trung Temple Festival in Hanoi

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A parade with a fighting elephant statue carrying offerings from Ha Loi Communal House to Hai Ba Trung Temple.
A parade with a fighting elephant statue carrying offerings from Ha Loi Communal House to Hai Ba Trung Temple.

The Hai Ba Trung (Trung Sisters) Temple Festival is held annually on lunar January 6 in Me Linh Commune, Me Linh District, Hanoi. It is the birthplace of the two sisters Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, two famous Vietnamese heroines who rode elephants to lead their troops to defeat the foreign invaders. Here they proclaimed themselves the new empresses after gaining independence for the country in the early years of Vietnam (40-43AD).

Two kilometres south of Hoan Kiem Lake, this temple was founded in 1142. A statue shows the two Trung sisters (from the 1st century AD) kneeling with their arms raised in the air. Some say the statue shows the sisters, who had been proclaimed the queens of the Vietnamese, about to dive into a river. They are said to have drowned themselves rather than surrender in the wake of their defeat at the hands of the Chinese.

The Hai Bà Trưng Temple is a Buddhist temple in Hanoi near Hoan Kiem lake . It is one of several temples to the two Trưng sisters, (or Trưng Queens), in Vietnam.

According to tradition it was founded by Ly Anh Tong around 1160 after he visited a shrine to the Trung Sisters who then appeared to him as rain spirits. Culturally the development of the cult of the sisters at that time is in the context of assertion of independence after the end of 1000 years of Chinese colonization. The altar display at the Trưng Sisters temple shows their violent death rather than suicide

The Festival opens with the procession of the king’s palanquins, fighting-elephants and offerings from the Ha Loi Communal House to the ancient complex of Hai Ba Trung Temple. The procession is held with jubilance and excitement with colourful flags, drumbeats, gongs and musical sounds performed by an octet. The respected elders in the village are selected to beat drums and strong men and beautiful girls carry the two palanquins during the procession. On both sides of the village road, the villagers display their offerings to welcome the procession.

Origin

The revolt of Hai Ba Trung against the Chinese East  arm in the 40s is short but very meaningful in the rising the independent soul of the Vietnamese people and Vietnamese women in general.

According to the Vietnamese account, the two Trung Sisters, riding elephants leading the troops in battle, defeated the Han invaders, gaining independence for the country after more than two centuries of domination by the foreign feudal invaders. For the first time in Vietnamese history, the country of Viet had a king, more significantly a woman king. In many historical references and books, since their great achievement, the Vietnamese people consider them as the national heroines, even sacred spirits, and they built temples in many parts of the country to honour and worship them.

Celebration

The Festival starts with a procession of carrying the king’s palanquin and the fighting elephants, together with other offerings from Ha Loi communal house to the Hai Ba Trung Temple, with the participation of hundreds of Me Linh villagers and members of traditional ritual performing groups. During the Festival, folk games and artistic performances are held, such as dragon and lion dancing, cheo (operetta) singing, wrestling competition, swinging, etc.

Many domestic pilgrims and foreign tourists attend the Festival in honour of the national heroines’ merits or to learn about an important event in the country’s history. This is also one of the cultural and festive events to be held in 2010 in celebration of the 1,000th anniversary of Thang Long – Hanoi.

In the Hat Mon festival, there is an interesting custom which is giving the floating cake on the river. People take 49 cakes (in the symbol of 49 sons of Lac Long Quan (father of Vietnamese people) to place in the lotus and drift into the river to let it come to the sea.

Respected elders in the village are selected to beat drums.
Respected elders in the village are selected to beat drums.
Girls play the role of soldiers of the Trung Sisters.
Girls play the role of soldiers of the Trung Sisters.

 

The Festival also includes many cultural activities, such as traditional dances, wrestling and folk games of swinging and earthen pot-beating.

Villagers display their offerings on both sides of the village road to welcome the procession
Villagers display their offerings on both sides of the village road to welcome the procession
The procession of imperial accouterments.
The procession of imperial accouterments.

Offerings to the Trung Sisters.
Offerings to the Trung Sisters.
Village elders participate in the procession to pray for luck and happiness.
Village elders participate in the procession to pray for luck and happiness.
Besides the ceremonies, the festival consists of many cultural activities, such as wrestling, human chess, lion and dragon dances involving the participation of a large number of villagers.
Besides the ceremonies, the festival consists of many cultural activities, such as wrestling, human chess, lion and dragon dances involving the participation of a large number of villagers.

The Festival is of great spiritual and religious significance. It is a cultural event to educate young people about the patriotic tradition and to salute the country and its heroic women.