Start of UNESCO-Recognized Saint Giong Festival

The historic and captivating Saint Giong Festival in Hanoi is a celebration of one of Vietnam's four immortals, Saint Giong.

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The 2023 Giong Festival kicked off last week at Phu Dong Temple in Hanoi’s suburban Gia Lam district with an impressive opening ceremony. The ceremony marked the recognition of Phu Dong Commune as a new rural area, celebrating its successful transition from a traditional agricultural area to a modernized one. Thousands of people from all around the country gathered to witness the event, enjoying the colorful traditional costumes, dance performances, and delicious local cuisine. The festival is a great opportunity to honor the cultural heritage and resilience of Vietnam’s rural communities.

The opening ceremony of the Giong Festival at Phu Dong Temple in Phu Dong Commune of Gia Lam District. Photo: Hoang Quyet/The Hanoi Times

Speaking at the ceremony, Nguyen Duc Hong, Vice Chairman of Gia Lam District People’s Committee, said that the district is an ancient land of cultural convergence, where the original name of Hanoi, Thang Long, meets the old name designating the northern provinces of Bac Ninh and Bac Giang, Kinh Bac. It is also the holy place where Saint Giong was born.

“The Giong Festival at Phu Dong Temple is an annual event held in commemoration of Saint Giong, the Heavenly King of Phu Dong, who famously defended the country against foreign invaders during the Sixth Hung King’s reign. This year, the festival will take place from May 25 to 27, drawing thousands of visitors to the temple to celebrate the legend of Saint Giong.”, he said.

He is believed to have been a real person but there are many different legends about his miraculous birth, heroic deeds, and ultimate ascension to the gods.

Saint Giong symbolizes the patriotic spirit of the Vietnamese people, and is deeply rooted in their spiritual life. He is believed to have been a real person, and there are numerous legends surrounding his miraculous birth, heroic deeds, and ultimate ascension to the gods. This legendary figure is one of the four immortals of Vietnam, and his legacy lives on in the hearts of the Vietnamese people.

Legend has it that Saint Giong was born after his mother followed in the footsteps of a giant. At the age of three, Giong suddenly transformed into a giant and valiantly fought against foreign invaders.

The Saint Giong Festival is a celebration of Vietnamese culture, with many symbolic activities taking place throughout the event. These include bathing the Saint statue, a procession, and offering incense. It is an important part of Vietnamese tradition and is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm.

 UNESCO-recognized Giong Festival lures thousands of visitors yearly. Photo: Hoang Quyet/The Hanoi Times

The procession is the main activity of the celebration. According to tradition, people offer bamboo flowers, paper elephants and horses, as well as other items related to Saint Giong, as part of the festivities.

Traditional games such as Chinese chess, human chess, and cock fighting are held during the event, providing participants with a unique and entertaining experience.

The festival is held annually on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

The Saint Giong Festival is celebrated in several places across Hanoi, most notably at Soc Temple, where the Saint is said to have ascended to heaven, and Phu Dong Temple, where he was born. This unique festival is highly regarded by both domestic and foreign researchers alike, as it has important cultural and religious values amongst the 7,000 traditional folk festivals held in Vietnam. The event is held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month each year.

The festival was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2010.

The celebration of receiving the decision to recognize Phu Dong commune as a model new rural area took place on the evening of May 25. Photo: Hoang Quyet/The Hanoi Times

Since 2022, Phu Dong Commune in Gia Lam District has been recognized as a “new-style rural area” and meets the criteria to become an urban district linked to tourism development. This recognition has enabled the commune to access the resources and opportunities needed for the development of tourism and related industries. The local government is now working to create an environment that will attract tourism investments and support sustainable development in the area. Through improved infrastructure, better access to services and facilities, and attractive policies, the commune is well-positioned to become a hub for tourism activities and investments. The commune also has potential for eco-tourism and cultural tourism, which would further enrich the local economy. With the support of the local government and other stakeholders, Phu Dong Commune is sure to become a thriving urban district in the near future.

The new-style rural movement has raised the per capita income to VND73.9 million (US$3,200) per person per year, significantly enhancing the living standards of local people. This remarkable achievement has enabled them to access a higher quality of life and enjoy greater economic security.

According to the 2025 plan, Phu Dong Commune will be acknowledged as a Phu Dong tourism site in 2021 and will fulfill the criteria of a new-style rural area in tourism by 2022. This will be a major milestone in the commune’s development, allowing it to attract more visitors and become a more attractive destination.

By the end of 2023, the commune’s cropping structure will be completely transformed, from inefficient rice cultivation to the cultivation of flowers, ornamental plants, and fruit trees. This will ensure the commune meets the basic standards required to become an urban ward of Gia Lam District, Hanoi.