Incense at the Hung Temple Relic, Phu Tho.

The Hung Kings are The Fathers of the Viet people. They werethe wise leaders and the founders of the country. Worshipping the Hung Kings isthe most unique feature of the Viet people, where faith and culture blend intoa single spiritual entity.

Thousands of years since, and ever after, the Viet peoplealways see themselves as descendants of the Hung Kings, Hung forefathers, sonsof the Dragon King and Mountain Lady. To the people, the image is the symbol oftheir selves. The faith is simple: remember that water comes from a source whenrelieving your thirst, that a fruit bears the sweat of the tree planter, andthat we are all akin.


The altar in the Temple, Hung Temple Relics Park, Phu Tho.

The worship of the Hung Kings – a cultural, non-religious faith

This faith in the Ancestors and Nation Founders is a purelycultural feature, which is uniquely Vietnamese. Forefathers’ Day is not only anoccasion for the descendants to come back together and commemorate ancestrallegacy, but also a time for cultural exchange between different parts of thecountry.

Bearing the idea that ‘the ancestors are where theirdescendants live’, the Viet people worship the Hung Kings as the personifiedspirits of a strong, independent nation. According to ‘Vietnam WorshippingPractices’, (1763), our country had only 73 villages worshipping the HungKings. In 2005, according to ‘Hung Kings Worshipping in Vietnam’ by the Bureauof Local Culture and Information, Ministry of Culture and Information, the HungKings and related figures of their times are currently worshipped in 1,417 localities.

In Vietnamese minds, the Dragon King and the Lady ofMountains gave birth to a bundle, which contained 100 eggs that hatched 100Kings of brotherly tribes. The first Hung King was the eldest, the leader andthe nation’s founder. That’s the origin of the notion of dong bao, whichliterally means ‘same bundle’.


Trees have roots

Water comes from a spring

Birds look for their nest

Humans find their ancestors


Hung Kings’ death anniversary ceremony at the Hung Temple inPhu Tho

On the 10th of the third lunar month every year, people fromall over the country turn their minds to the Forefathers’ Land. The Hung TempleFestival at Hy Cuong Commune, Lam Thao, Phu Tho is the culminating point ofVietnamese spirituality.

Vietnamese people share the same mentality and common sense,social order and structure, history and future, and we share the sameancestors. That’s our community culture. Everybody understands that we arebrothers and sisters, because we came from the ‘same bundle’. The whole nationis a single family.

The history of Vietnam has proven that in times of peace orwar, prosperity or difficulties, the Hung Kings have always been aninexhaustible source of inspiration for every person, every family, whereverthey live, at home or abroad. They motivate the nation to go forward, developand make big strides toward progress, and to be one with the global communityof nations.

The Hung Forefather Day celebration is organized by theGovernment every tieth year, by the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourismevery fifth year, and by the local province in all other years. The ritual partincludes a ceremony of incense offering from delegations of guests at the UpperTemple. The festive part is jubilant around the foot of the mountain. It’s amixture of traditional and modern cultural elements, most notably, the bronzedrum beat and rice-braying dance.

The festival today still carries the common characteristicsof village festive activities of the northern midland and lowland areas.  It also bears the particular ancient featuresof the Phong Chau region. The Forefather land festival is also classified intopre-agricultural types (hunting and fishing, etc.), agricultural types (prayingfor rain, for good harvest, and related customs such as rice bud train, statuecasting, rice soul prayer, rice calling, etc.), and a hero-commemorating type(with tutelary gods, historical and cultural figures, etc.)

The Hung Temple festival is a beautiful custom in Vietancient traditions. For thousands of years, in the minds of Vietnamese people,the Forefather land has been the birth place of the nation. Through a longhistory with dramatic ups and downs, the festival has always been held. Thisfact alone expressly demonstrates the extraordinary maturity of nationalcharacter in bright colors of cultural mosaic.

Photos by Nguyen Viet Thanh; Text by Hong Hai