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Hung King Temple – Vietnam history and culture off the beaten track
November 14th, 2011

To gain deeper insight into vietnamese history and culture it´s worth to visit Den Hung Temple Remains. There are a few local tour operators in Hanoi offering trips to the temples during the annual festival. The next will take place in the last week of March 2015. Heed advice to book your tour in time for the festival, otherwise there is no way for your travel company to organize the trip to your full satisfaction. In consideration of the crowds of pilgrims and the security protection of the political leaders on the festival´s main day (31st of March 2015), your trip might become an unpleasant experience. The video you find at the bottom of the post was shot three days after the festival in 2010.

The Hung King Temple ensemble is located on Nhgia Linh mountain in Phong Chau district, Phu To province, 90 km northwest from Hanoi. If you prefer to do the trip by yourself, take the bus to Viet Tri or the train from Hanoi to Lao Cai and get off at Viet Tri train station. From there take a taxi and start your time journey far over 4000 years back into vietnamese history and culture. Making use of a travel agency or a personal guide will make your trip much more informative and will enlarge your experience.

Since 2009 the temples are officially designated as a special National Historical relief and in 2000 the 10th day of the lunar march  was found as a national holiday to commemorate the anniversary of the death of the first Hung King Hung Vuong. According to the myth he was the eldest son of the immortal fairy Au Co and declared himself the first political and religious leader of united ancient Viet Nam in 2897 BC. The ruled and covered area Van Lang is nowadays North Vietnam and a part of southern China. The people of the 50 tribes of his country were called Viet Lac. The whole Hong Bang period of all 18 Hung Kings lasted over two and a half thousand years upon 258 BC and established Viet Nam as a sovereign nation.

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The legend says that Huong Vuong´s father was the Dragon Lord Lac Long Quan, son of a mountain god and a water godess. His mother inherited him the magical power to transform himself into a sea dragon. One day he rescued the life of a crane, that was attacked by a Demon bird. When he got on his knees to take care for the crane, it fluttered his white feathers and transformed to a beautiful fairy named Au Co. He immediately felt in love and proposed marriage to her. Au Co happily agreed and after one year she bear a golden pouch, which looked like a giant flower and contained one hundred eggs. Each egg hatched to reveal a perfekt baby boy. The exceptional beautiful babies grew much faster than normal children and within some years they had grown into brave and gentle young men.

Quan preferred to live underwater and Au Co had spent most of her immortal lifetime in the mountains. Missing the mountains of her birth she became more and more homesick. Lac Long Quan felt sad about the situation of his wife and decided to live apart from each other. So it was that fifty sons followed Au Co to the mountains, where they grew corn and rice. The other group stayed at the fathers home and lived by fishing. This legend is taught each vietnamese children in school and that´s why all vietnamese people are known as “dragon and fairy descendants”. “Dong bao” means brothers from the same sack of eggs and is still used as a sentimental term to address vietnamese people to each other. Needless to say there are a few different versions of the legend, which are discussed up to today.

The first of the three main sites of the Hung King temple complex is the lower temple Den Ha,which is the memorial temple for the primal mother Au Co, who is represented on the main altar. The temple was built on the site where Au Co is supposed to have given birth. It was originally constructed many centuries ago by local villagers and repaired during the Le era (18th century).

The main temple Den Trung (middle temple) is dedicated to the founders of the dynasty and all other Hung emperors. It was originally constructed as a place for the kings to rest and to discuss affairs of the state during the late Tran era (14th century). Den Trung was destroyed during the 15th century and has been rebuilt over the last 200 years. According to the legend prince Lang Lieu offered square sticky rice cakes and glutinous rice dumplings to his father King Hung VI, which became the traditional cakes of the nation.

On the summit of the hill is the Den Thuong (upper temple), which is dedicated to the gods of heaven and earth. It is a 15th century reconstruction of the original temple where the Hung Kings prayed to the Sun, Earth and Rice Gods for the peace and prosperity of the nation. Furtheron the temple is dedicated to Than Giong, a legendary hero who defeated the ancient chinese dynasty. The most sacred shrine is an inner chamber at the back of the temple and is only opened during the death anniversary of the Hung Kings for sacrificial rituals. So the pilgrims stick money into the carvings of the thick wooden doors to commemorate their ancestors.

The stone tomb of the sixth Hung King is next to the temple. According to the legend he wanted to be buried there, so that he could overlook and take care of the territory for posterity.

At the foot of the hill is Gieng (well) Temple, where people pray for their loved ones. The temple is dedicated to Princesses Tien Dung and Ngoc Hoa, the daughters of the 18th Hung King, who were said to have taught the people how to transplant rice and deal with floods. According to the myth they used their reflections in the well to comb their hair. Don´t miss the Hung Vuong museum, where over 700 original objects from the Stone Age to the Iron age are displayed.

Since 1460 the Vietnamese people held a annually nationwide festival on the 10th day of the third lunar month to commemorate the anniversary of their ancestor´s death. So the Hung King Festival is a sacred pilgrimage back to the origins of the Vietnamese nation. Nationwide the festival is celebrated in more than 1400 places and in 2011 roundabout three millions pilgrims travelled during the festival to the legendary mountain, which is regarded as the holiest place in the country.

Enjoy the video and the beautiful song “Powrot do korzeni” composed by Mike Verstu.

His album “Asia in the mix” is published on jamendo.com under the creative commons licence.

Feel free to leave a comment.

9 comments zu “Hung King Temple – Vietnam history and culture off the beaten track”

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