Mountain God festival becomes national heritage
Update: Feb 26, 2018
A festival honouring the worship of Tan Vien (the God of the Mountain), one of the Four Immortals in the Vietnamese legend, has been officially listed as one of Viet Nam’s national intangible cultural heritage.  

Ba Vi district on the outskirts of Ha Noi, received a certificate for the local Tan Vien festival’s new status from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism at a ceremony on February 25 or the 10th day of the lunar year’s first month, which is part of the festival.

The festival was organised at a complex of Ha (Low), Trung (Middle) and Thuong (Upper) temples in Ba Vi from February 23-25.

The annual event featured traditional rituals, an incense offering ceremony, folk games, sports and musical performances, attracting thousands of visitors. It also kicked off the year for Ba Vi Tourism under the theme of "Cultural Rendezvous".

According to the legend in the northern delta, Tan Vien, also called Son Tinh, was the God of the Mountain and governed all creatures on land. He taught people to grow crops, hunt animals, catch fish, practise martial arts and hold festivals. Opposite Son Tinh was Thuy Tinh, the God of the Sea, responsible for the rising water levels that damaged crops, destroyed animals and drowned people. Son Tinh beat Thuy Tinh in a competition to win the heart of Princess My Nuong who was the daughter of the King Hung XVIII.

Nguyen Duc Nghia, head of the Culture and Information Bureau (under the Ba Vi District People’s Committee) said Tan Vien is the god of the Vietnamese people that embodies the aspiration to triumph over natural disasters, especially floods.

“The God of the Mountain is worshipped in many localities in the northern region in general and in Ba Vi district in particular,” he said.

In Vietnamese folklore, Tan Vien is one of the four immortals, along with Chu Dong Tu, who taught the people to catch fish and grow crops; Saint Gion, who beat foreign invaders to protect his homeland; and Goddess Lieu Hanh, the deity of the Mother Goddess worship.

The same day, a similar national culture intangible heritage certificate was bestowed upon the Tro Chieng festival in the central province of Thanh Hoa.

The event is considered the most anticipated festival in Thanh Hoa, which is being held since the rule of the Ly Dynasty. The founder of the festival is General Trinh Quoc Bao, who served during the reign of King Ly Thanh Tong (1054-1072) and defeated the Chiem Thanh (Champa) invaders.

To prepare for the fight against the invaders, who used elephant troops, the general ordered his soldiers to build bamboo elephants to practice with. During the battle, bamboo elephants which were glued with fireworks attached to them were burned, helping to defeat the invaders’ troops.

A martial arts game with bamboo elephants was reproduced at the festival to welcome the coming of spring in 1068 and was held by villagers of Trinh Xa village, Yen Dinh district. 

Currently, the villagers hold the festival on the 10th-12th of the Lunar New Year. The festival is organised on a large scale with folk games and cultural activities, including a paper elephant fighting competition, in which groups of men hoisting paper elephants attempt to topple each other.