Cổ Loa Festival in Hanoi, Vietnam

Introduction

Every year, on January 6th of the lunar calendar, the people of Cổ Loa village and 7 nearby villages hold Cổ Loa Festival at Thượng temple to honor the merit of King An Dương Vương, who founded Âu Lạc state and build Cổ Loa citadel. Cổ Loa people have the sentence, “Dying has to leave children and grandchildren, living do not miss January 6” (Vietnamese: “Chết thì bỏ con bỏ cháu, sống không bỏ ngày mùng 6 tháng giêng”).

An Dương Vương

An Dương Vương, whose real name is Thục Phán, is a king who founded Âu Lạc state and is the only king who ruled this state. Âu Lạc is the second state in Vietnamese history after the first Văn Lang state of the Hùng kings. The reigning time of An Dương Vương was recorded differently. Old history books like Đại Việt Sử Ký Toàn Thư, Khâm Định Việt Sử informed that his reigning time lasted 50 years, from 257 BC to 208 BC. Modern historians basing on the history book of Tư Mã Thiên (Chinese character: 司馬遷; 145 BC – 86 B.C.), the document closest to the era of Âu Lạc, suggested that the reigning time of An Dương Vương and Âu Lạc state existed between 208 BC and 179 BC, or nearly 30 years.

Cổ Loa Citadel

“Who comes back past Đông Anh district,

See the scenery of Loa Citadel of King Thục.

Cổ Loa is an unusual Citadel

Through years months, but the mark of citadel is still here”

(Vietnamese,

“Ai về qua huyện Đông Anh,

Ghé Thăm Phong Cảnh Loa Thành Thục Vương.

Cổ Loa thành óc khác thường,

Trãi bao năm tháng dấu thành còn đây.”)

Cổ Loa is the most ancient citadel in Vietnam built by King An Dương Vương from the 3rd century BC to make the headquarter of Âu Lạc  (the name of Vietnam at that time), now in Cổ Loa village (Vietnamese: làng), Cổ Loa Commune (Vietnamese: xã), Đông Anh District, suburban Hanoi.

The citadel is built in the style of a spiral. According to legend, It has 9 wall rings. Today Cổ Loa has 3 wall rings of land: outer ring (circumference of 8km), middle ring (polygon, the perimeter of 6.5km) and the inner ring (rectangular, the circumference of 1.6km). The feet of the wall rings have an average height of 4-5m, some places are as high as 12m, and the width of them is up to 20-30m.

The gates of the three rings are also very cleverly arranged, not lying on a straight axis but deviating greatly. Therefore, the road connecting the two gates in the same direction is a winding road, and there are defending mounds on both sides, causing many obstacles for the enemy troops to attack.

From the center of Hanoi city, 18km to Cổ Loa village (notice, Cổ Loa village is only part of Cổ Loa commune, Đông Anh district) you will find traces of the three remaining ancient land wall rings and where archaeologists found thousands of copper arrows, plowshares, iron axes, animal bones.

Through the village gate also being the inner citadel gate is to Cổ Loa village communal house. According to legend, it is the old background of the place where the king and the mandarins of the court used to meet to discuss national things.

Next to the village communal house is Bà Chúa shrine, which means the one to worship Mỵ Châu princess, nestling under the old old tree. The shrine is as small as the short life of the poor princess “the wrong heart leaves on the head” (Vietnamese: “Trái Tim lầm chỗ để trên đầu”). In the shrine, there is a headless humanoid stone rock. Everyone said it was a statue of Princess Mỵ Châu.

Through Mỵ Châu shrine is to Thượng temple also known as An Dương Vương temple, which is said to be built on a place that the king and family lived. This temple was rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century. There is a pair of stone dragons at the steps of the temple gate, which are relics of the Trấn dynasty. In the temple, there is a new bronze statue of An Dương Vương cast on the same occasion to remake the temple. In front of the temple is Ngọc well, legend said Trọng Thủy suicided here because of regret and pearls were washed with the water of well would be much brighter.

Cổ Loa Festival

January 6th of the lunar calendar is the main festival but the villagers have been preparing since December 14th. The dignitaries of the temple have chosen a good writer to write Chúc Văn to offer gods (Chúc Văn is a kind of essay with parallel sentences). That person must also be a high-achieving person, trusted by villagers. Early on the 6th day, a delegation wearing ceremonial clothing with flags, fans led by the leader of the ceremony wearing a red tunic come to the writer’s house to bring Chúc Văn to the temple. The procession is very solemn and magnificent.

While the Cổ Loa villagers take Chúc Văn to An Dương Vương temple, the villagers of 7 nearly villages carried out their procession to the An Dương Vương temple. From the ways, people always meet the procession with fans, flags, ceremonial clothing, a big drum, a gong, a palanquin, a music band between the spring weather.

After processions arrive at the temple, the incense offering ceremony begins to take place. The offerings include flowers, fruits, boiled eggs, meat, square glutinous rice cakes (Vietnamese: bánh chưng), which the king liked. Seven other villages and Cổ Loa village take turns performing the ceremony. Villages pray King An Dương Vương to bless to their villages.

Next is the procession ceremony bringing the gods of the village to Cổ Loa village communal temple. This is the most solemn and largest procession. All palanquins of the villages are in the procession. From Thượng temple it goes around Ngọc well, to the top of the village, then returns to Co Loa communal house. Although the road is short, the procession goes very slowly and takes time. Arriving at the temple, the palanquins attend the blessing ceremony before leaving the temple for coming back to their villages.

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