In the middle of the beautiful courtyard of Dong Co Temple in Tay Ho District, Hanoi, an incense burner was lit, with people gathering in a solemn atmosphere and reciting the oath: “The unfilial children, the disloyal servants, may God destroy them.” The atmosphere was thick with reverence and respect, as everyone’s gaze was fixed on the incense burner, paying homage to their ancestors.
That’s the main rite of the Loyalty Oath Festival of Dong Co Temple, which has been maintained in the capital for nearly 1,000 years. Thanks to its historical and cultural values, the festival has been officially recognized as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The Mandarin Festival is the only event that provides a place for mandarins of the past and Party members of the present to take an oath of loyalty to the country. It’s an opportunity for the people to express their gratitude to their ancestors and pray for national peace and prosperity. It’s a time to celebrate the country’s rich and vibrant culture, as well as a moment to reflect on the importance of upholding traditional values and honoring the nation’s history.
Dong Co Temple is located on Thuy Khue Street, just 300 meters from the southwestern shore of the majestic West Lake. Here, visitors can marvel at the stunning architecture, take part in meaningful rituals, and learn more about local culture.
Legend has it that in 1020, Crown Prince Phat Ma (later enthroned as King Ly Thai Tong) led a troop south to fight the invaders on his father’s orders, King Ly Thai To. One night, he dreamed that the god of the mountain, Dong Co, where he was camped, appeared and promised to help him defeat the enemy.
Phat Ma’s army achieved a remarkable victory. As a sign of gratitude to the deity, the Crown Prince instructed that the Dong Co Temple be repaired and the tablet of the god’s name be brought to the capital for veneration.
When the Prince arrived in the capital city of Thang Long (now Hanoi), he was visited by the god in his dream once again. The deity commanded him to construct a temple in his honor to the right of the royal citadel. This temple would serve as a reminder of the divine presence and a tribute to his divine power. As the Prince took action on this command, the god bestowed upon him a great sense of peace and contentment.
In 1028, Dong Co Temple was erected at the convergence of the Thien Phu and To Lich Rivers in Dong Xa Village, now 353 Thuy Khue Street, Tay Ho District, Hanoi. It is a testament to the area’s long and vibrant history. The temple has been a place of worship for locals for centuries, and its serene atmosphere makes it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Visitors can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, explore the temple’s unique architecture and learn more about the area’s culture and heritage.
|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|
Upon the death of King Ly Thai To, the heir prince was faced with a revolt from his three brothers, who sought to oust him. Fortunately, the god of Dong Co reappeared to warn Phat Ma of the revolt, granting him the upper hand and enabling him to defeat the three princes. Consequently, he was enthroned as King Ly Thai Tong.
Since then, he ordered the Festival of Loyalty Oath to be held annually at Dong Co Temple, where all court dignitaries, without exception, had to swear allegiance to the king and the country. The festival is held on the fourth day of the fourth lunar month, which falls on May 22nd this year.
Although 995 years have passed, along with numerous changes and upheavals, the cultural identity of the Dong Co Temple festival has remained intact. This remarkable feat is a testament to the timelessness of the festival’s traditions and customs.
The Loyalty Oath Festival has been recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of South Korea. This festival dates back to the late Joseon Dynasty, when people gathered to show their loyalty to the king by taking an oath of fealty. It is celebrated primarily in the provinces of Gyeonggi and Chungcheong, and is a symbol of the Korean people’s strong sense of loyalty and reverence to their rulers. The festival is also an important cultural practice for the preservation of traditional Korean values and customs.
|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 was the court’s festival. It was one of the most important festivals in the royal court and was celebrated with grandiose rituals and offerings. The festival was celebrated for the first time in 1264 and was held annually until 1945. During the festival, offerings were made to the gods, and traditional games and activities were held. The festival was also an opportunity for people to come together and share their culture and beliefs. To this day, the Dong Co Temple Festival remains a symbol of the city’s culture and heritage.
The national oath-taking festival holds a special significance to the King and court of Thang Long Citadel. Most of the court dignitaries and the people of Thang Long Citadel attended the festival with an air of loyalty and filial piety, praying for the nation’s peace and prosperity. In the Tran Dynasty, the festival was an important symbol of the integrity of court officials. According to Hong, it was a highly regarded event.
This festival is truly unique, as it is one of only two swearing festivals in the North. Taking place in Thuan Thien Commune, Kien Thuy District, Haiphong City, and Dong Co Temple, Hanoi, this festival is characterised by the harmony between royal and popular rituals. Scholars believe that this is one of the few festivals that still celebrates the traditional culture and ceremonies of Vietnam. It is a great opportunity to experience the culture of the North in all its glory.