Time: From the 6th to the 12th day of the fourth lunar month. Main festival day is on the 9th day of the fourth lunar month.
Place: Phu Dong Commune, Gia Lam District, Hanoi.
Objects of worship: Saint Dong (Phu Dong Thien Vuong).
Characteristics: Theatrical team Ai Lao sings and dances for god worshipping; ba van thuan, ba van nghich dance imitating old battle of Saint Dong.
Dong Festival annually takes place on the 9th
of the fourth lunar month to celebrate the hero who defeated the enemy
to defend the country. He was later honored Saint Dong. The festival
re-stages the battle against the Yin invaders.
usually undertaken one month in advance. On the first day of the third
lunar month, an organizing board is established, which in charge of
choosing flag holders, gong and drum players and a group of dancers.
Young men and women are selected to take part in the battle between
Dong's troops and Yin invaders. A general rehearsal is organized on the
fifth of the fourth lunar month. And the festival begins on the sixth
day and lasts for 7 days.
On the 6th
day: At 3 p.m, the water procession begins in which take part all the
commanders, the troops, the group of singers and dancers from Hoi Xa
Village (Ai Lao Guild), as well as a large group of villagers. The
procession draw water-termed "sacred water"- from the well at Mau
Temple, dedicated to Dong's mother, and carry water contained in two big
jars to Thuong Temple, dedicated to Dong. The villagers take water in
order to wash and clean the weapons of Dong's troops, and pray for good
weather and a bumper crop.
On the 7th
day: At 11 a.m, trays of steamed rice and salted eggplant, the food
that Dong ate before he left his village for the front, are brought in a
procession from Mau Temple to Thuong Temple.
On the 8th day: The head of the giap
(a village of organization gathering its male members according to
their ages) and the notables from the four villages hold an review of
troops representing Dong's army
On the 9th day: The
main festival day is marked in the morning by a procession carrying the
flag from Mau Temple to Thuong Temple. Its rites are similar to those of
the water procession. When the procession arrives at the temple, it is
greeted with a ritual while the "troops" perform a ceremony and military
display in honor of Saint Dong. In the end, they stand in rows before
the altar of the Saint and pay their respects to him.
At 10 a.m,
it comes the "catching tiger" game played by the group of dancers. At
the same time, at the "enemy camp" near a lotus pond in Dong Vien
Village, 28 female fighters of the Yin army sitting on their palanquins,
surrounded by spectators, are ready for the battle.
1 p.m, reconnaissance groups report that the enemy troops have occupied
the areas of Dong Dam and Dong Vien. The news is greeted by three
salvos of drumbeats which signal the decisive hour comes. While the
troops line up in rows waiting for the battle order, the group of
singers and dancers perform a song praising Dong as the general sent by
God to help the people repel the aggressors. As the song ends, the
commanders prostrate themselves before the altar, receiving the order
from their commander-in-chief and vow to fight to the end. The soldiers
shout in chorus: "Yes, we obey the orders" and then start moving.
marching and pulling horses vigorously, the soldiers shout in unison at
the command of an officer standing behind the house. The troops stop at
Mau Temple where they bow in respect to the mother of Saint Dong.
the troops arrive at Dong Dam, they put white wooden horse on the dyke.
The commanders come and stand at assigned places around the three mats,
which are supposed to be the battlefield.
At 2 p.m, after the
troops have been arranged (It means that they have been arrayed in
battle position), three salvos of drumbeats resound, followed by deep
silence. Then the commander gives the attack signal. The advance guards
also beat their drums, signalling that they are ready for battle.
process of the fight against the Yin enemy is symbolized by a number of
rituals performed on the three mats by the flag commander. His
movements describe the strength of Dong who can displace mountains and
clouds. The last rite ends on the third mat, meaning that the battle has
been won. The victory is greeted with drum and gong beats.
troops, in full order, return to Thuong Temple. They stop for a few
minutes at Mau Temple to report the news of victory to the hero's
mother. Then they enjoy a feast.
The Yin army counter-attacks
again. Three new rolls of drum and gong resound. All the commanders and
soldiers leave their tables, seize their arms and set out for the front,
that is the Soi Bia area lying between Thuong Temple and Mau Temple
which is occupied by the invaders.
flag commander performs the three rituals again, with a slight
difference. The end of the third ritual is greeted by three resounding
rolls of drum and gong beats which signal complete victory over the
aggressors. Enemy commanders are taken to Thuong Temple and are made to
kow-tow four times before the altar of Saint Dong. Then an "officer"
uses a trophy sword to push away the hat and tear open the dress of
enemy prisoner. These gestures symbolize the beheading and skinning
enemy troops. He also assembles all the trophies for the purpose of
reporting the feat of arms to Saint Dong in the back chamber of the
Thereafter, the feast continues with added zest till the evening and is followed by music and traditional games until midnight.
On the 10th day: A ceremony is held to review the troops, to check up the weapons, and to offer thanks to Saint Dong.
On the 11th
day: Water is brought in a procession to Thuong Temple to clean the
cult implements, weapons. Games are played together with song and dance
On the 12th day: A flag planting
procession in which our "troops" search the Dong Dam and Soi Bia to find
whether there are any remnant "enemy" troops. After checking, flags are
planted to show that enemy troops have been driven out and peace has
In the evening, a victory ceremony is held in
which the news of victory is reported to the heavens. The ceremony also
marks the end of the festival.