Time: From the 6th to the 12th day of the
fourth lunar month. Main festival day is on the 9th day of the fourth lunar
Place: Phu Dong Commune, Gia Lam District, Hanoi.
Objects of worship: Saint Dong (Phu Dong Thien Vuong).
Characteristics:ï¿½Theatrical team Ai Lao sings and dances for god worshipping;
ba vï¿½n thuï¿½n, ba vï¿½n nghich dance imitatingï¿½old battle of Saint Dï¿½ng.
Dong Festival annually takes place on the 9th of the fourth lunar month to
celebrate the hero who defeated the enemy to defend the country. He was later
honored Saint Dong. The festival re-stages the battle against the Yin invaders.
Preparations are usually undertaken one month in advance. On the first day of
the third lunar month, an organizing board is established, which in charge of
choosing flag holders, gong and drum players and a group of dancers. Young men
and women are selected to take part in the battle between Dongï¿½s troops and
Yin invaders. A general rehearsal is organized on the fifth of the fourth lunar
month. And the festival begins on the sixth day and lasts for 7 days.
On the 6th day: At 3 p.m, the water procession begins in which take part all the
commanders, the troops, the group of singers and dancers from Hoi Xa Village (Ai
Lao Guild), as well as a large group of villagers. The procession draw
water-termed ï¿½sacred waterï¿½- from the well at Mau Temple, dedicated to
Dongï¿½s mother, and carry water contained in two big jars to Thuong Temple,
dedicated to Dong. The villagers take water in order to wash and clean the
weapons of Dongï¿½s troops, and pray for good weather and a bumper crop.
On the 7th day: At 11 a.m, trays of steamed rice and salted eggplant, the food
that Dong ate before he left his village for the front, are brought in a
procession from Mau Temple to Thuong Temple.
On the 8th day: The head of the giap (a
village of organization gathering its male members according to their ages) and
the notables from the four villages hold an review of troops representing
On the 9th day: The main festival day is marked in the morning by a procession
carrying the flag from Mau Temple to Thuong Temple. Its rites are similar to
those of the water procession. When the procession arrives at the temple, it is
greeted with a ritual while the ï¿½troopsï¿½ perform a ceremony and military
display in honor of Saint Dong. In the end, they stand in rows before the altar
of the Saint and pay their respects to him.
At 10 a.m, it comes the ï¿½catching tigerï¿½ game played by the group of
dancers. At the same time, at the ï¿½enemy campï¿½ near a lotus pond in Dong
Vien Village, 28 female fighters of the Yin army sitting on their palanquins,
surrounded by spectators, are ready for the battle.
At 1 p.m, reconnaissance groups report that the enemy troops have occupied the
areas of Dong Dam and Dong Vien. The news is greeted by three salvos of
drumbeats which signal the decisive hour comes. While the troops line up in rows
waiting for the battle order, the group of singers and dancers perform a song
praising Dong as the general sent by God to help the people repel the
aggressors. As the song ends, the commanders prostrate themselves before the
altar, receiving the order from their commander-in-chief and vow to fight to the
end. The soldiers shout in chorus: ï¿½Yes, we obey the ordersï¿½ and then start
moving. While marching and pulling horses vigorously, the soldiers shout in
unison at the command of an officer standing behind the house. The troops stop
at Mau Temple where they bow in respect to the mother of Saint Dong.
As the troops arrive at Dong Dam, they put white wooden horse on the dyke. The
commanders come and stand at assigned places around the three mats, which are
supposed to be the battlefield.
At 2 p.m, after the troops have been arranged (It means that they have been
arrayed in battle position), three salvos of drumbeats resound, followed by deep
silence. Then the commander gives the attack signal. The advance guards also
beat their drums, signalling that they are ready for battle.
The process of the fight against the Yin enemy is symbolized by a number of
rituals performed on the three mats by the flag commander. His movements
describe the strength of Dong who can displace mountains and clouds. The last
rite ends on the third mat, meaning that the battle has been won. The victory is
greeted with drum and gong beats.
The troops, in full order, return to Thuong Temple. They stop for a few minutes
at Mau Temple to report the news of victory to the heroï¿½s mother. Then they
enjoy a feast.
The Yin army counter-attacks again. Three new rolls of drum and gong resound.
All the commanders and soldiers leave their tables, seize their arms and set out
for the front, that is the Soi Bia area lying between Thuong Temple and Mau
Temple which is occupied by the invaders.
The flag commander performs the three rituals again, with a slight difference.
The end of the third ritual is greeted by three resounding rolls of drum and
gong beats which signal complete victory over the aggressors. Enemy commanders
are taken to Thuong Temple and are made to kow-tow four times before the altar
of Saint Dong. Then an ï¿½officerï¿½ uses a trophy sword to push away the hat
and tear open the dress of enemy prisoner. These gestures symbolize the
beheading and skinning enemy troops. He also assembles all the trophies for the
purpose of reporting the feat of arms to Saint Dong in the back chamber of the
Thereafter, the feast continues with added zest till the evening and is followed
by music and traditional games until midnight.
On the 10th day: A ceremony is held to review the troops, to check up the
weapons, and to offer thanks to Saint Dong.
On the 11th day: Water is brought in a procession to Thuong Temple to clean the
cult implements, weapons. Games are played together with song and dance
On the 12th day: A flag planting procession in which our ï¿½troopsï¿½ search the
Dong Dam and Soi Bia to find whether there are any remnant ï¿½enemyï¿½ troops.
After checking, flags are planted to show that enemy troops have been driven out
and peace has been restored.
In the evening, a victory ceremony is held in which the news of victory is
reported to the heavens. The ceremony also marks the end of the festival.