Hanoi Celebrates its Status as a Creative City with Vietnamese-Korean Tug-of-War Competition

The Hanoi Creative Design Festival hosted the Festival of Tug-of-War Rituals and Games, featuring eight teams from Vietnam and South Korea.

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The Festival of Tug-of-War Rituals and Games took place on November 17-18 at the Hanoi Museum and Tran Vu Temple in Long Bien District, Hanoi. The event attracted nearly 500 artisans from Bac Ninh, Lao Cai, Vinh Phuc, Hanoi, and Dangjin City (Chungcheongnam-do, South Korea).

Entitled “One Rope, One Community,” the festival was the first of its kind in Vietnam and aimed to foster connections and exchanges among communities practicing tug-of-war, which is recognized as a UNESCO heritage.

On November 17, a discussion on tug-of-war heritage education was organized at the Hanoi Museum, with 50 delegates from the Gijisi Tug-of-War Association (Dangjin City, Korea) and Vietnamese experts.

Demonstration of the South Korean tug-of-war team at the Hanoi Museum. Photo: Lai Tan/The Hanoi Times

The discussion aimed to share experiences in organizing tug-of-war rituals and games, as well as safeguarding cultural heritage.

During the event, the Gijisi Tug-of-War Museum presented the Tug-of-War Education Box to the Hanoi Museum and showcased a demonstration of the Korean Gijisi Tug-of-War Game and Ritual.

According to Jeong Seok Yong, Secretary of the Gijisi Tug-of-War Association, the tug-of-war rope used in the Hanoi performance measures 200 meters in length. One part of the rope represents the upper village (an area with water), while the other part symbolizes the lower village (an area without water). The ropes are made of straw. During festivals in Dangjin City, thousands of people pull ropes weighing up to 40 tons.

 The festival was joined by nearly 500 artisans from the provinces of Bac Ninh, Lao Cai, Vinh Phuc, Hanoi and Dangjin city (Chungcheongnam-do, South Korea). Photo: Hanoimoi.vn

On November 18, an international discussion on “Protecting and Promoting Tug-of-War Rituals and Games in Contemporary Life” was also held at Tran Vu Temple.

Spectators had the opportunity to witness tug-of-war games performed by the Gijisi Tug-of-War Association (Dangjin City, Korea) and seven tug-of-war teams from Vietnam.

Ngo Quang Khai, representative of the sitting tug-of-war team at Tran Vu Temple, Long Bien, Hanoi, stated: “Currently, we are making great efforts in preserving this heritage, particularly in introducing it to the younger generation. Every year, around 12,000 students visit the temple to learn about sitting tug-of-war. The local government demonstrates significant interest in preserving the game and currently supports the construction of traditional houses that showcase images and documentaries introducing the heritage.

Gijisi Tug-of-War Association (Dangjin City, Korea) preparing to perform tug-of-war at Tran Vu Temple.

Legend has it that a long time ago, Ngoc Tri Village experienced a severe drought. Out of the 12 wells in the village, only one in a hamlet called Dia had water.

Men from the neighboring villages, Duong and Cho, went to fetch water from Dia’s well but were obstructed by Dia’s villagers, who forcefully took away the buckets of water and the ropes used to carry them. Concerned about spillage, they clung to the buckets and were pulled away, ultimately sitting down.

After the drought ended, the villagers commemorated the difficult times by engaging in tug-of-war and sitting down during village festivals, praying for good health and abundant harvests. Their aim was to pull a 50-meter rattan pole against one another.

Participants must display physical strength and uphold strong moral values within their community. Throughout the game, they must sit with one leg outstretched and the other bent, firmly securing the pole under their armpits. If a player stands up, their team immediately loses. Prior to the game, people gather at Tran Vu temple to burn incense and pray.

The tug-of-war ritual and game are part of the Tran Vu Temple Festival, held on the third day of the third lunar month each year to demonstrate people’s reverence for the gods and their aspiration for a peaceful life.

Scholars and the public visit an exhibition on tug-of-war. Photo: Hanoimoi.vn

Professor Do Van Tru, Chairman of the Vietnam Cultural Heritage Association, emphasized that tug-of-war is not merely a game or sport but also a ritual performed by various ethnic communities across the country, each with its unique nuances, contributing to cultural diversity.

“When recognized by UNESCO, this heritage does not belong to a specific community or Vietnam alone; it becomes part of the world’s heritage. Therefore, we must preserve, promote, and connect communities within our country, as well as establish connections with other countries possessing this heritage,” Tru affirmed.

In 2015, tug-of-war rituals and games in Cambodia, the Philippines, Korea, and Vietnam were inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Vietnam has registered heritage in four localities: Lao Cai, Vinh Phuc, Bac Ninh, and Hanoi.