Co Loa Citadel Festival

Co Loa Citadel Festival

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In Vietnam culture, among the very old days of the country, under the government of King An Duong Vuong (Thuc Phan), Vietnam was called Au Lac. The King decided to build Co Loa (located at Dong Anh District, Hanoi at present time) as the country’s royal palace.

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Co Loa Citadel Festival

To commemorate the event when An Duong Vuong started moving into the citadel, residents of 12 hamlets belonging to Co Loa as well as 7 other communes around the region held Co Loa Citadel Festival within a 10 day period—from the 6th to 16th day of the first Lunar month. In spite of the fact that the palace witnessed the loss when the country was fallen at enemy’s hand, it is always the pride of Vietnamese people about a formidable history of the struggle against foreign invasion.

On the 5th day, at the afternoon, all of the eight communes hold a ceremony with incense offering at the communal house. Meanwhile, at An Duong Vuong Temple (also known as Thuong Temple or Upper Temple), the same ritual is held by the most respected elder among 8 communes, with revision of An Duong Vuong’s accomplishments and merits. On the next day—the official festive day—a procession in which the funeral oration, incense burner and stone tablet are taken from the elder’s house to Upper Temple is carried out. This settlement will be positioned in front of the two altars later on.

The yard of Upper Temple is decorated beautifully with colorful flags. Outside, two wooden horses in red and white color quietly stand.  Palanquins of the eight communes are orderly placed in two rows.  All of them are waiting for a solemn ceremony with incense stick offerings to take place, in the harmonious music of octet.

Co Loa Citadel Festival

On the afternoon of the 5th day of the first lunar month, all of the eight communes (including Co Loa Commune and the establishing relations between seven communes) hold the incense offering ceremony at the communal house. At Thuong Temple, village officials and mandarins hold the similar ceremony and revise the King’s contributions and achievements. The official festival day, which is on the 6th of the first lunar month, commences with processions of notables from surrounding villages to the King An Duong Temple where a miniature royal court containing an incense burner, a stone tablet and a funeral oration is placed in front of the two altars. The literature procession is preceded by a flag that symbolizes the five elements (metal, wood, water, fire and earth), a musical company, and a sacrifice. This procession featuring two sedan chairs proceeds through the 12 hamlets of  Co Loa Commune. One carries a small statue of the King, the other a beheaded statue of his daughter which symbolizes for her punishment. The procession then continues to the Trong Thuy Well and back to the various hamlets, accompanied by firecrackers.

Preceded by the literature procession is a sacrificial ceremony that lasts until 12 p.m. The ceremony takes place in the King’s honour, accompanied by traditional music. Next to the ceremony is the procession of 12 villages to take the god from the temple to the communal house so that he can watch the festivities. This is the biggest procession with the participation of all the palanquins. When reaching the main entrance, the palanquins return to their villages. Co Loa’s procession and palanquin do the same rituals once more at the communal house. The festival continues until the 16th day of the first lunar month, with evening fireworks displays, traditional games such as cock fighting, human chess, tug of war, card playing, wrestling, swing, rope climbing, martial arts, flag dancing and archery and performances of ca tru, cheo and tuong.

On the final day of the festival, a grand farewell ceremony will be held at the temple. After the rituals which are the same as in the main festival day, the cult table of god will be returned to the sanctuary. Local people enjoy the god’s favour and expect a year of prosperity and protection from the god. The meaningful festival is always closed with a thanksgiving ceremony.

Some important information

Co Loa Citadel Festival

Apart from this rite, there are various traditional games and competitions included—for example: wrestling, crossbow shooting, bamboo swings, “con” (sacred ball) throwing, rice cooking. Also, you can immerse yourself among the performances of “ca tru” singing, “quan ho” singing, and “cheo” singing.

  • Time: 6th-16th day of 1st lunar month
  • Purpose: commemorate An Duong Vuong
  • Ceremonial rituals: incense offerings, processions
  • Entertaining activities: wrestling, bamboo swings, “ca tru” singing, etc.

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