Dong Bang Temple Fesival and folk singing “hát văn” custom
The Vietnamese traditional mindset of festivals is “Dad’s death anniversary is in August and Mother's death anniversary is in March”. Phu Giay Temple (Nam Dinh) is for the worship of Mother Lieu Hanh in March and Dong Bang (Thai Binh) is dedicated to the worship of King Bat Hai Dong Dinh in August.
The Vietnamese traditional hatbit of festivals is “Dad’s death anniversary is in August and mother's death anniversary is in March”. Phu Giay Temple (Nam Dinh) is for the worship of Mother Lieu Hanh in March and Dong Bang (Thai Binh) is dedicated to the worship of King Bat Hai Dong Dinh in August. For numerous generations, Phu Giay and Dong Bang Temple have become the two famous centers of folk singing and dancing in the Northern Delta region, attracting a great number of tourists from all over the country.
Dong Bang village is located adjacent to Highway 10, about 20km from Thai Binh city, 60km from Hai Phong city. In the past, this village was also called Dao Dong, now it belongs to An Le commune, Quynh Phu district. Dong Bang Temple is also known as King Father Bat Hai Temple or King Father Bat Hai Dong Dinh Temple. Compared with the existing ancient architectural monuments in Thai Binh, Dong Bang Temple has the largest architectural artistic scale. From the Ly dynasty, it was classified as the "four ancient beauty spots" of Phu Phuong district, later renamed Phu Duc, now in Quynh Phu district: "Dao Dong, Long Khe, To De, A Sao, Phu Phuong four ancient scenes" or " Dao Dong, Long Khe, To De, A Sao, Ly Dynasty’s four beauty spots”.
Regarding the legend of the god worshiped at Dong Bang temple, according to the divine version still saved at the temple, it is the water god named Bat Hai Dai Vuong whose name is Vinh. Legend has it that in the time of Hung Due Vuong, there was Quy Nuong, who was beautiful like jade, so people called her Ngoc, her hometown was An Co, Thuy Anh district, now in the territory of Thai Thuy district. She was adopted by the head of Doan Thuy District. One day, she returned to her adoptive motherland at Hoa Diem gate (Diem Dien) and bathed. A dragon met her, fell in love with her. After that she was pregnant and gave birth to a box as read as blood. Ngoc was afraid to drop the box into the sea. This box flowed to Dao Dong; a fisherman picked up it, brought home and found that there were three large snakes in the bag. One snake stayed at the section of Dao Dong river (Vinh Cong); one was swimming toward the section of Trang Thanh Do river, the other one swam on the section of Trang Hoa Diem river (now in Thai Thuy district, Thai Binh province). Since the day when the magic serpent appeared, the crops were all well harvested. Later, when the country was in danger, Tan Vien Mountain Holy was warned and he sent people to Dao Dong site to meet three water gods who had turned into human beings. Then they discussed the division of troops to fight the enemy. After the defeat of the enemy, Vinh Cong refused the title that was given by the king, returned to Dao Dong to hold a party to celebrate the army and teach the people to do business. On a rainly and windy day, he disappeared. Tthen, Dao Dong people built a temple. Thanh Do and Hoa Tai also built the temples to worship the remaining two gods.
Dong Bang Temple is also dedicated to the worships of Tran Holy (Tran Hung Dao) and the event takes place on August 20th every year, so the festival habit "Dad's death anniversary in in August" of the people in the area is often understood under both ways. It is the death anniversary of King Father Bat Hai Dong and also the death anniversary of the Holy Tran Hung Dao.
In the past and now, Dong Bang Temple Festival is a great association that attracts tourists from many regions. Every year, following the mindset of “Dad’s death anniversary is in August and Mother's death anniversary is in March”, tourists usually come to the Con Son, Kiep Bac temple festival in Hai Duong on August 20 and then to Dong Bang temple in Thai Binh from the 20th to the 26th of the 8th lunar month with the promises:
No matter which job we have
In August, we must go to Dao village.
Because it is a big festival in the region, Dong Bang Temple Festival often has numerous forms of competitions: skill competitions and folk performances such as: singing, “cheo” singing, swimming, wrestling, cockfighting and chess. These competitions attract a lot of people from many regions to participate. Nowadays, in the mind of many people who have skills in festival participation, when referring to Dong Bang temple, they see it as the best place with full of singing and singing rituals.
The temples at Dong Bang temple are arranged to meet the types of festival goers mentioned above and the so not only on festivals, on weekdays, Tet days, but all year round, the temple often attracts a lot of people from all over the country.
“Hát văn” is a popular way of calling the folk singing, while the villagers of Đồng Bằng often call it “Chầu văn”. This is a type of traditional Vietnamese singing art that is deeply spiritual in both lyrics and melodies. The combination of the lyrics and music illustrates the actions of the servants playing the role of the king and queen while rowing, sword training, archery ... In the past, “hát văn” usually took place in sacred spaces under three basic forms, namely, singing contest, singing to worship and singing to serve. The singing custom of Dong Bang village usually takes place under all three above forms, but the most popular is still singing to serve.
In recent years, the custom of singing to serve in many temple festivals across the country tends to be more and more prosperous. According to the law of supply and demand, the profession of “hat văn” in Dong Bang village has been more exciting. The old artisans in the Delta have been more appreciated when transferring the profession to the younger generations.
If the custom of “hát văn” is one of the typical intangible cultural heritages of Vietnam, Dong Bang Temple in Thai Binh is an important site and the Temple fesytival of Dong Bang has been honored as the nation's intangible cultural heritage.