Plowing Festival (Vietnamese: Lễ Tịch Điền) was a festival held in a field in the same-culture countries (China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam) in the past, which was hosted by the king himself in order to thank Than Nong, who taught the people how to do farming and to pray the sky and the earth for favorable rain and wind to help farmers have bumper crops. The festival showed the king’s interest in agriculture. It had the effect of encouraging farmers to do farming, promoting agricultural development. The festival showed a close relationship between the king and the people.
In primitive times, tribal chiefs took people to fields to plow in the early spring. Since the Zhou Dynasty (1122 BC – 249 BC), emperors held the Plowing Festival. After praying the sky, the earth and Than Nong, the emperor, vassal kings, officers, and farmers went down the rice field to plow in turn. The emperor plowed 3 furrows, the vassal kings plowed 5 furrows, the officers plowed 7 beds, at last, the farmers plowed until the field finished. This field would then be taken care of and the product would be used for next year’s festival.
In the early spring of 987, King Le Dai Hanh performed the Plowing Festival to encourage people to produce. It was the first Flowing Festival that history books recorded. Later in the Ly Dynasty, these festivals were carried out more solemnly and were one of the country’s main festivals in the spring. During the Tran Dynasty, because of being busy with fighting against foreign countries, the plowing Festival did not flourish as before. However, when possible, the kings also conducted this ceremony. Until the Ho Dynasty, this custom was no longer kept.
Under the Nguyen Dynasty, King Gia Long restored this custom and considered it to be very necessary. Minh Mang reviewed the rituals of this festival under the previous dynasties and thought that they were too simple, so in February of the lunar calendar in 1828, the king assigned the Ministry of Ceremony to make detailed rules. The festival lasts 5 days in May of the lunar calendar in the field in An Trach and Hau Sinh wards, Hue City. By the time of King Tu Duc, the ritual was modified to be less cumbersome and more appropriate to the situation.
From the etiquette to the organization, plowed people are all very specific, clear and serious. Accordingly, after the ritual praying the sky and the earth, Than Nong, the king was the first to go down the rice field to plow. The king plowed 3 rounds, then the relatives of the king plowed 5 rounds, then the officers, each plowed 9 rounds, eventually the local officials, the old farmers plowed until the end.
In modern times, sometimes Vietnamese heads of state also go to rice fields. There was a time when President Ho Chi Minh went down a rice field to plow a few furrows, which pleased Vietnamese in North Vietnam. The President of the Republic of Vietnam Nguyen Van Thieu in South Vietnam sometimes went down a rice field to implant rice on the anniversary day of the promulgation of the law “The farmers have rice fields”.
In 2009, after nearly 100 years of stopping the organization, the Plowing Festival was officially restored in Doi Son in Ha Nam Province (According to historical records, the spring of Dinh Hoi year (987), King Le Dai Hanh, who which had appreciated for agriculture, went to Doi mountain to open the Plowing Festival and he himself went to rice field to plow on January 5 of the lunar calendar. Since then, the Plowing Festival (Vietnamese: Lễ Tịch Điền) has been considered as a national holiday and has been held so solemnly). At this festival, there is the attendance of the president or the vice president and of the country and some other senior government officials. After the ceremony, there are very exciting folk games happening.