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Unique custom recognised as world heritage

Update: December, 07/2012 - 10:17

 

A procession to offer flowers and incense to the Hung Kings in Phu Tho Province in March this year. The Hung Kings have been worshipped for centuries as the legendary ancestors of the Vietnamese nation. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Tung
PARIS (VNS)— The unique custom of worshipping the Hung Kings practised nationwide has been officially recognised as an intangible piece of the cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO at the seventh session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Paris yesterday.

"This is a good news and a great honour to Vietnamese people in general and residents in Phu Tho Province in particular," said the head of Viet Nam's mission to UNESCO, Duong Van Quang, to the Vietnam News Agency. "The happiness of local people is doubled, as local folk xoan singing was recognised by the UN cultural organisation in the same category last year."

"The latest approval shows that the world acknowledges and appreciates the spiritual life of Vietnamese people handed down through generations for thousands of years. In the context of globalisation, the approval also proves the strong living power of Vietnamese culture," he said.

According to Hoang Dan Mac, chairman of the province's People's Committee, the worship of Hung Kings in Phu Tho represents the national solidarity which helped the people overcome challenges in the process of the nation's building, development and protection.

Mac said the local authorities had a lot to do to preserve and develop the heritage. Renovating relics in the temple complex of the Hung kings was among the first and foremost, he said.

Le Thi Minh Ly, a member of the National Heritage Council revealed that the scientists faced many difficulties in compiling the dossier to submit to UNESCO.

Ly said that in recent years the State had paid much attention to national intangible heritage and had implemented various effective policies to preserve and develop it, especially the ones belonging to ethnic minority groups.

Cecile Duvelle, chief of the secretariat board of Convention 2003 for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, highly appreciated the dossier preparation by Vietnamese experts.

She said that the dossier met the five basic criteria of UNESCO.

The Worship of Hung Kings is a folk ritual with national features in Viet Nam. According to legend and oral history, the Hung Kings were the first children of Lac Long Quan and Au Co. They are credited with founding Van Lang, the first of Viet Nam's prehistoric royal realms. The annual worship of the Hung Kings is enacted in communal halls and temples. On major Hung King festival days, communities make offerings of rice-based delicacies such as square cakes (banh chung) and glutinous cakes (banh day). People engage in verbal and folk arts and performances including reading of supplication petitions, praying, bronze drum beating and xoan singing.

 

Clarification

The second paragraph of yesterday's front-page story "Tourists' safety is of vital importance" should have read "Every month, I'm informed that six or seven tourists have their belongings stolen on domestic and inbound tours..."

The largest ceremony, the Ancestral Anniversary festival of the Hung Kings, is celebrated for about one week at the beginning of the third lunar month at the main Hung Temple on Nghia Linh mountain in Phu Tho. People from surrounding villages dress in splendid costumes and compete for the honour of providing the best palanquin and most highly valued objects of worship for the key rite in which an ensemble of drums and gongs is conveyed in homage to the main Hung temple site.

From the time of Viet Nam's Le dynasty (1428-1788) and continuing today, Viet Nam's ruling authorities have played a warmly supportive role in the running of the Ancestral Anniversary rites.

These traditions are therefore a powerful expression of the richness of Vietnamese national history and solidarity, powerfully expressive of its people's reverence for their ancestral past and vibrant cultural heritage.

The worshipping space with the highest number of practitioners in Phu Tho is the Hung Temple complex, which includes Lower (Ha), Middle (Trung) and Upper (Thuong) temples on Nghia Linh mountain, Viet Tri city. The province is located in the northeastern region of Viet Nam. The Worship of Hung Kings is also practised, but less famously so, at temples in the Northern, Central and Southern regions of Viet Nam. — VNS

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