Con Son – Kiep Bac before spring festival opening

On the first days of the Year of the Snake spring 2013, the people are streaming to Con Son pagoda (Chi Linh township), Nguyen Trai temple for spring journey and pilgrimage.

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Although the festival sites are crowded with people, the environment inside and outside of the relic site is relatively clean; no more cases of soliciting and “guillotining” tourists or activities of fortune-tellers and beggars are seen. Mr. Do Van Thiem, aged 67, from Le Ninh commune (Kinh Mon) who made a pilgrimage to pagoda, said: “This is the third time I have been to Con Son. Con Son has experienced lots of changes in comparison with the past years; the structures have been spaciously restored, especially Nguyen Trai temple site. Incense burning is guided to be done at the right places. The cases of disturbing visitors have not been seen. The attendants at the relic sites are enthusiastic and considerate”.

“From 10 (the first day of the Lunar New Year) to 21 February (12 Lunar January), Con Son-Kiep Bac relic site received more than 120,000 times of the tourists for sightseeing, incense offering, up 20% from last year, of which, on the 5th, 6th days of the Lunar New Year, the figure was 25,000 times of people/day” said, Mr. Nguyen Khac Minh, Head of Con Son-Kiep Bac relic Management Board.

It is not the time of right festival, yet various activities of performances like quan ho (love duet) singing, folk games have been held. At the porch are the two tables for word offering at the beginning of the spring, which have been arranged since the second day of Tet to serve tourists by the provincial Han Nom (Sino-Demotic) club. Mr. Do Gia Tru, the club member, said: asking for words at the beginning of the spring has become a cultural beauty of the Vietnamese. Every day, on an average, more than 100 tourists came to ask for words. The words asked for by many are Success, Prosperity, Happiness, Wisdom. We are at the tourists’ disposal to the end of the festival”.

This year’s Con Son-Kiep Bac spring traditional festival takes place from 23 to 26 February (i.e. 14 – 17 Lunar January) to commemorate 679 years of death of the Venerable Tertiary Ancestor Huyen Quang (1334-2013), to honor the great merit of Truc Lam Buddhist Zen in the cause of religious unity, the national defense; to respond to the National Tourism Year of the Red River Delta – Hai Phong religion 2013; to carry on with propaganda, diffusion of values of Con Son-Kiep Bac relic site, which was ranked a special national relic in 2012; to heighten the people’s consciousness, responsibility for protection, enhancement of traditional values and in service of spiritual, religious needs of various people throughout the country. Particularly, the Decision on recognizing Con Son – Kiep Bac festival as a national intangible cultural heritage in phase 1 will be announced at this year festival by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

For this reason, at Con Son, the traditional rituals have been maintained, restored, held with large scales and higher quality like the incense offering at Tran Nguyen Dan temple, Nguyen Trai temple, the opening ceremony of Con Son-Kiep Bac spring festival, the incense offering ceremony in commemoration of 679 years of death of the Venerable Tertiary Ancestor Huyen Quang, the sacrifice ceremony on Ngu Nhac Linh Tu mountain, the celebration of requiem and praying for peace of the forsaken spirits’ souls. The folk games, artistic performances like cock fighting, quan ho (love duet) singing, calligraphy … are more diverse than the previous years. In response to the National Tourism Year of the Red River Delta – Hai Phong religion 2013, besides the traditional national wrestle contest, there will be at Con Son two provincial large cultural events: the contest of making banh chung (glutinous rice square cake), pestling banh day (sticky rice dumpling) and competition of earthen crackers. At Kiep Bac relic site, there are also incense offering ceremony, spring festival opening, folk games, artistic performances.

Streams of people going on a pilgrimage to Con Son-Kiep Bac on the early days of spring show how important this site is in the cultural and spiritual life of the Vietnamese community.

NGOC HUNG

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