Yên Thế Festival commemorates National Hero Hoàng Hoa Thám

March 15, 2024 - 19:35
The 140th anniversary of the Yên Thế insurrection is taking place from March 15-17 to remember and pay tribute to national hero Đề Thám, who led the fight against the French rule in 1884.
The incense offering at Yên Thế Movement celebration reminds us to treasure peace in our country. Photo courtesy of Bắc Giang Newspaper

BẮC GIANG — The 140th anniversary of the Yên Thế insurrection is taking place from March 15-17 to remember and pay tribute to national hero Đề Thám, who led the fight against French rule in 1884, long before the arrival of the Communist Party of Việt Nam in 1930.

A grand celebration will open the event at Hoàng Hoa Thám Memorial Ground in Phồn Xương Town, Yên Thế District in Bắc Giang tomorrow (March 16, 2024).

Deputy Chairman of Yên Thế's People's Committee Thân Minh Sâm said: "Locations of the Yên Thế Movement, 23 of them, are scattered in four districts including Yên Thế, Tân Yên, Việt Yên and Yên Dũng of Bắc Giang Province, have all been categorised as Special National Relics by the Prime Minister."

Born Trương Văn Nghĩa in 1858 in Tiên Lữ, Hưng Yên Province of Đại Nam, or the Great Southern Kingdom, to parents who were known for their righteous activities, Hoàng Hoa Thám joined several movements and became a talented warrior. Hoàng Hoa Thám, or Đề Thám, as he was known for, became leader of the movement after the founder was assassinated. During his 30-year career leading anti-French and anti-royal court activities, he was dubbed The Sacred Tiger of Yên Thế (jungle) confronting French generals including Godin and Voyron.

Đề Thám used his wisdom to escape many blockades and ambushes. Yên Thế fighters had to face thousands of French recruits and the French announced a reward of 30,000 francs for his arrest.

He not only built his base in Yên Thế, but also connected with other patriotic movements to enlarge the network. In 1909, the French mobilised 15,000 French troops and blue loincloth local recruits, and 400 irregulars to launch an attack at the headquarters. The movement gradually reduced and weakened after his eldest son was killed and his third wife and youngest daughter Hoàng Thị Thế were arrested.

Hoàng Hoa Thám was killed in 1913. His daughter Hoàng Thị Thế became the adopted daughter of Albert Sarraut, Indochina Governor and Paul Doumer, who used to be Indochina Governor and later became President of France. Hoàng Thị Thế was raised to become an entertainer and she was the first Indochinese to become a film actress in France in the 1930s. She later abandoned acting and returned to Việt Nam.

The Yên Thế festival has been celebrated annually except during COVID. The first festival was celebrated in unified Việt Nam back in 1984, with the presence of Hoàng Hoa Thám's daughter Hoàng Thị Thế.

The commemoration this year coincides with a grand celebration of the 70th anniversary of the world-changing Điện Biên Phủ Campaign. The victory of Điện Biên Phủ had taken roots from many insurrections like Đề Thám's 30-year-long career.

In 2012, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism issued a decision to recognise the Yên Thế Festival as one of the National Intangible Cultural Assets.

Today, the brutal part of history may be deeply buried in history books and archives. The solemn ritual was participated by Bắc Giang leaders and representatives of people of all walks of life. But many entertainment, sport and tourism activities will be open to people to enjoy. An exhibition showing the remnants of the Yên Thế Movement will take place in Phồn Xương Town of Yên Thế. Bonsai and flower and pet shows will take place as well as a goat fighting battle and other sporting activities including football, badminton, handball, archery and tug-of-war. The highlight is the national wrestling of 2024. VNS