As an old saying goes:
Don’t miss Giong festival, a chance of your life.
The old saying depicts the uniqueness and magnificence of a festival which origin dates back to time immemorial, the Giong festival.
Every year from the 7th
to the 9th
of Lunar April, people flock to Phu Dong village in Hanoi outskirt to join the bustling atmosphere of Giong festival, a UNESCO recognized world intangible cultural heritage.
Massive auditions for battle reenactment
Giong festival simulates the battles of St. Giong. Thousands of people register for playing different characters in St. Giong army. The characters are Mr. Hiệu (representing St. Giong and his generals), Red Shirt Village (small reconnaissance unit), the Black Shirts Village (civilians), among others.
The festival organizing board has to run a raffle to choose the those who will play the characters.
The Red Shirts Village of Saint Giong festival. Archive photo
According to the Management Board of Phu Dong Monument, the preparation for the festival runs from the end of Lunar February to the beginning of Lunar March, which focuses primarily on the selection of people involved in the performance of the roles of Hiệu Cờ, Hiệu Trống, Hiệu Chiêng, Hiệu Trung quân. Together with assigning the roles to the appropriate persons, the organizers propose the costume requirements for the characters, review the props such as the carriages and worship items.
All the amateur actors and actresses have to bear the costs of training, costumes and supporters’ catering.
The rehearsal of main characters takes months. The family of the main actors has to feed dozens of people during the festival for supporting the main actors. Especially, the main actors are confined for a month in a separate room, abstaining from direct meeting with families and friends. Their outside contacts are made through the instructors and supporters with signals. Total instructor obedience is required.
Giong festival used to last longer in the past, between 1st
Lunar April. Now it is shortened to three days, from the 7th
to the 9th
. During these three days, sacred Heaven and Earth rituals are performed every morning.
Battle reenactment. Archive photo
The 9th of April is the most important day of the festival. After the Saint offering, it is time for pilgrimage prayer. Then come the flag offering, a usual ritual before entering a battle, which is held by the village chieftain. The generals review their soldiers. At about 1 pm, Ai Lao ward performs a tiger hunting game in front of the Upper Temple. The game represents the power of unity which can win beasts. Meanwhile, at the village of Dong Vien, on an open field, symbolizing the enemy battlefield, next to the lotus lake, 28 girls playing enemy generals are ready. Then the reenactment of the battle which St. Giong leading his red shirts and black shirts troops to fight. The fights are epitomized by the three acts of flag dances. The end of the third act means the victory to Saint Giong side. .
Hieu Co performs at St. Giong festival, Phu Dong commune. Documentation photo
After the Battle of Dong Dam, the Battle of Soi Bia is reenacted. It is said that after winning the war, the great army of St. Giong celebrated the victory in the Upper Temple, and then the enemy counter-attacked and surrounded St. Giong’s troops. St. Giong army then left the celebration to enter another battle. The Soi Bia battle is arranged similarly to the one reenacted in Dong Dam, with one difference which is the flags being waved from left to right, as the opposite to the first battle. Here, again, three acts of flag dances are performed. When the third act finishes, the drums resounds in three times to report the victory. 28 enemy generals must leave the palanquins and surrender. At this point, the chieftain approaches the two enemy generals to strip their swords and coats and performs a sowrd dance symbolizing the execution. The remaining enemy generals are acquitted.
This year festival, as usual, is prepared thoroughly. According to Mr. Ly Duy Thanh - Vice Chairman of Gia Lam District People's Committee, the 2017 festival period is held from May 1 to May 4, 2017 (from 6 to 9/4 in lunar calendar) in Phu Dong historical area.
The festival consists of offering and festival, including the Holy Processsion at the Upper Temple, Offering Procession to Mother temple and the traditional battles in Dong Dam and Soi Bia; the festival includes folk singing performances arts such as tuong, cai luong, quan ho.