Gióng festival of Phù Ðông and Sóc temples

Inscribed in 2010 (5.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© 2009 Vietnam Institute of Culture and Arts Studies
The Gióng festival of Phù Đổng and Sóc temples is celebrated annually in outlying districts of Hanoi, the capital of Viet Nam. Each spring, before the rice harvest, the Việt people honour the mythical hero, god and saint, Thánh Gióng, who is credited with defending the country from foreign enemies, and is worshipped as the patron god of the harvest, national peace and family prosperity. The festival at Phù Đổng temple, which takes place in the fourth lunar month in the village of his birth, symbolically re-enacts his feats through the riding of a white horse into battle and the orchestration of an elaborate flag dance to symbolize the battle itself. Young men receive extensive training to play the roles of Flag Master, Drum Master, Gong Master, Army Master and Children’s Master, while 28 girls aged 9 to 13 are selected to play the enemy generals. The Flag Master’s dancing movements and drum and gong sounds convey the development of the battle, and paper butterflies released from the flag symbolically disperse the invaders. The arrival of rains after the festival is seen as a blessing from the saint for an abundant harvest. The celebrations at Sóc temple, where saint Gióng ascended to heaven, take place in the first lunar month and include the ritual of bathing his statue and a procession of bamboo flowers to the temple as offerings to the saint.