Keo Pagoda Festival: National Intangible Cultural Heritage
While Keo Pagoda is considered one of the most unique ancient pagodas in terms of architecture in Vietnam, being recognized as special national heritage in 2012, Keo Pagoda Festival has many unique features which cannot be found in thousands of festivals held yearly across the country. With distinctive values, at the beginning of 2017, Keo Pagoda Festival is recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage.
Unique ceremony, special folk games
At Keo Pagoda, there are two festivals each year. Spring Festival is open on the 4th of January. The Autumn Festival is open from 13th to 15th of September (lunar month) and is a memorial to commemorate the holy Master of Khong Lo. While the Spring Festival is both an agricultural festival and a festival associated with the livelihood of agricultural residents near rivers, the Autumn festival, besides the purpose of entertainment, is considered as a historic festival. Keo pagoda festival still preserves many traditional rituals such as opening the Holy Temple, worshipping Buddhism in the pagoda, the Holy Rosary procession.
The procession of the Holy Rosary at the Keo Pagoda Festival is the most majestic and laborious festival of the North Delta to reconstruct Khong Lo’s trip to the Citadel to treat the disease for King Ly Thanh Tong and the accounts describing his life. The ceremony was held on September 14th, the anniversary of the birth of Master Khong Lo, also the middle day of the festival.
Preparing from midnight, the procession begins at 6 am the next morning. Although the procession consisting of thousands of people, a hundreds of meters long queue with diverse participants such as old people, boys, women, children in formal dress together using various sophisticated instruments such as palanquin, incense, drum, gong ... all members participating in the procession of the sanctity respectfully follow the strict traditional rules.
The ceremonial procession is a typical religious ceremony but is full of nuances of folk cultural activities of the land and the Thai Binh. Through these rituals, the villagers pray for the gods to bless and protect bumper harvests and prosperous life.
Along with the unique rituals, Keo Pagoda Festival also has competitions, special folk games such as duck catching contest, rice cooking contest, firecrackers contest, blindfolded drum beating, climbing traditional bridge, The traditional folk games and art forms reflect the lifestyle of the agricultural population of the North Delta in general, Thai Binh province in particular.
Preservation and promotion of the values of Keo Pagoda Festival
The festival of Keo Pagoda with the legend of Master Khong Lo reflects a period of Buddhist development in Vietnam. The Festival is not only a religious event to meet the needs of people but also a tool for traditional culture preservation and transmission and a symbol of community cohesion. Keo Pagoda Festival is also the place where residents and the visitors express their dreams, aspirations for a warm and happy life. Keo Pagoda Festival has a great significance for the spiritual life of people, is a form of cultural activities attract the participation of masses of people. People coming to the festival want the best for themselves, their families and the community.
At present, together with monuments of Keo Pagoda, Keo Pagoda festival contributes to attract a great number of tourists to Thai Binh. However, Keo Pagoda Festival no longer holds competitions such as reading teachers, drum competition, trumpet competition, frog dance. To preserve and promote the value of the festival, the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism has decentralized and assigned Vu Thu district to set up the Management Board of the monument to manage, protect and promote monuments and ceremonies. The process of celebrating the festivities and related rituals is organized by the community and most closely follows the traditional ritual. In recent years, the national monument space of Keo Pagoda has been invested for restoration, contributing to attract tourists and preserving the festival in a sustainable way. Many folk games have been restored to maintain and promote traditional cultural values in Keo Pagoda Festival. The construction of the Keo Pagoda and the Keo Pagoda Festival are an attractive destination for domestic and foreign visitors. This is one of the important orientations in tourism development of Vu Thu district in particular, Thai Binh province in general.
Mr. Pham Cong Dien, Vice Chairman of People's Committee of Vu Thu district, Head of Keo Pagoda Festival Organizing Committee
In recent years, the organization of Keo Spring and Autumn Festivals has attracted the attention of local organizations at different levels especially the People's Committee of Vu Thu district. This year, Keo Pagoda Festival is held in association with the Recognition ceremony of Keo Pagoda as a national intangible cultural heritage, so the festival was prepared more carefully by Vu Thu district.. The district has set up a Festival organizing committee, five sub-committees to assist, assign specific tasks to each sub-committee. It is expected that the festival will attract an increase of 50% to 100% of visitors compared to last year. Meanwhile the area of the auxiliary facilities such as yard, parking lot, goods stalls around Keo Pagoda is quite limited, so it will be difficult to ensure security and order or avoid traffic jams. However, with great determination, Vu Thu district is determined to organize a successful, safe and respectful Keo pagoda festival.
Venerable Thich Thanh Quang, abbot of Keo Pagoda
Cultural activities, unique beliefs in Keo pagoda festival have been maintained for hundreds of years. In the past, due to the country's war conditions, the traditional festivals and traditional activities of the Keo Pagoda Festival were affected. Since 1980, with the attention of local governments and organizations at all levels, traditional Keo Pagoda festivals have been restored, maintained and promoted. I hope that Keo Pagoda continues to receive the attention of the Party committees, the authorities at all levels, the material and spiritual support of the monks and nuns, the Buddhists, the children of Keo village and the people of all strata to promote the unique cultural beauty in traditional festivals, especially to restore the traditional boat racing festival on the Cai River (Red River) in ancient Keo pagoda festival.
Ms. Ngo Nhung Anh, Vinh Hung, Hoang Mai district, Hanoi
I am lucky to have many opportunities to visit Keo Pagoda and attend the traditional Keo Pagoda Festival. My first impression is that Keo Pagoda is a cluster of wooden architecture, so impressive that I have not seen in any works. Attending Keo Pagoda Festival, I have the opportunity to understand more about the customs, culture, beliefs, games bearing the traditional cultural characteristics of residents of the North Delta. I hope that these unique customs and culture will be circulated forever so that later generations of our children can understand more about history and national origins.