At the heart of Dong Co Temple’s courtyard, located in Hanoi’s Tay Ho District, an incense burner emanated a sacred flame. Visitors assembled amidst an atmosphere of reverence, uniting their voices to solemnly recite the following oath: “May all those who betray their filial duties and show disloyalty be brought to divine justice.”
The Loyalty Oath Festival of Dong Co Temple is a significant event that has been celebrated in the capital for nearly 1,000 years. This festival holds great historical and cultural significance, and as a result, it has been acknowledged as a national intangible cultural heritage.
The festival serves as a unique platform for former mandarins and current Party members to publicly pledge their allegiance to the nation. Additionally, it offers an occasion for individuals to express their gratitude towards their ancestors and pray for the well-being and prosperity of the nation.
The Dong Co Temple is situated on Thuy Khue Street, approximately 300 meters away from the southwestern bank of the West Lake.
According to legend, it is said that in 1020, Crown Prince Phat Ma (who would later become King Ly Thai Tong) led a force to the south to confront the invaders under the command of his father, King Ly Thai To. During his campaign, one night he experienced a dream in which the god of the mountain Dong Co, where his camp was stationed, appeared and pledged assistance in overcoming the enemy forces.
After an impressive triumph by Phat Ma’s army, the Crown Prince has decreed the restoration of Dong Co Temple as a gesture of gratitude to the deity. Additionally, he has commanded the tablet bearing the god’s name to be transported to the capital for worship.
When the prince arrived in the capital city of Thang Long, now known as Hanoi, the deity appeared once again in his dream. It instructed him to construct a temple in its honor, positioning it to the right of the royal citadel.
In 1028, the revered Dong Co Temple was constructed at the convergence of the Thien Phu and To Lich Rivers, located in Dong Xa Village, which is presently situated at 353 Thuy Khue Street in Hanoi’s Tay Ho District.
|Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Hoang Dao Cuong handed over the Decision to recognize the Dong Co Temple Loyalty Oath Festival as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage. Photo: Thanh Tung/The Hanoi Times|
After the passing of King Ly Thai To, his successor prince found himself in a battle against his three rebellious brothers who sought to remove him from the throne. Fortunately, the divine intervention of the god of Dong Co, who reappeared to forewarn Phat Ma of the uprising, enabled the heir prince to triumph over his brothers, leading to his enthronement as King Ly Thai Tong.
The Festival of Loyalty Oath is now an established tradition celebrated annually at Dong Co Temple. This event holds great significance, as it requires all court dignitaries, without any exceptions, to swear their allegiance to the king and the country. This year, the festival will take place on May 22nd, aligning with the fourth day of the fourth lunar month.
Despite the passage of 995 years and numerous upheavals, the cultural identity of the Dong Co Temple festival has endured.
The Loyalty Oath Festival has garnered national recognition as an intangible cultural heritage, as officially designated by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.
|A traditional ritual at Dong Co Temple. Photo: VNA|
According to Do Dinh Hong, Director of Hanoi’s Department of Culture and Sports, the Dong Co Temple Festival holds significant historical and cultural importance as it was once the court’s festival.
The national oath-taking festival holds great significance, with the King and the court ensuring meticulous preparations for its observance. It attracted the participation of esteemed court dignitaries and the citizens of Thang Long Citadel, all exhibiting a strong sense of loyalty and devotion. Their collective prayers aimed at securing peace and prosperity for the nation. During the Tran Dynasty, the festival served as a platform for upholding the moral integrity of court officials, as noted by Hong.
The festival is distinguished by the harmonious combination of royal and popular rituals. It stands out as one of the rare swearing festivals in the Northern region, alongside the one held in Thuan Thien Commune, Kien Thuy District, Haiphong City, and the Dong Co Temple festival in Hanoi.