Many hues of a festival
The colorful closing ceremony of the last Festival Hue in 2006 was a big hit with tourists

The biennial Festival Hue to be held next month will focus on reviving royal and folk festivals that evoke the glorious past of the former imperial capital.

Themed “Cultural Heritage in the course of  Integration and Development” this year, and scheduled for June 3-11, it will open with a fireworks display by French pyrotechnic artist Pierre Alain Hubert.

Performances by foreign art troupes and folk games too will be part of the opening ceremony.

The Dem Hoang Cung (Imperial Nights) program, on June 3, 6 and 9, will showcase the charm of the royal palace at night through performances of nha nhac – the Hue court music that was proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO – royal dance, Hue folk music and Hue classical drama.

Visitors will also have the chance to discover royal culinary delights and enjoy activities like the tea ceremony and poetry contest which were held especially for the Nguyen Kings and their court.

The Nguyen Dynasty was Vietnam’s last feudal regime, ruling from 1802 to 1945.

This year’s festival will also feature the Nam Giao prayer rituals that honor Heaven and the Earth, pray for national solidarity and auspicious weather, and symbolize the harmony between humans and nature.

The rituals, which comprise two parts, Le Xuat Cung and Le Te Nam Giao, will be a vivid and faithful reenactment of the ceremony conducted by Nguyen Kings for over a century.

People from eight traditionally rich villages and communes in Hue will, on behalf of people the country over, perform the rituals at eight altars in Phuong Dan, one of the floors in the Nam Giao relic site, making the event different from past years.

Ao dai fashion show

A show featuring a collection of ao dai, the traditional tunic, will be another highlight of this year’s festival.

The theme of this year’s collection, titled Dau xua (Vestiges of old times), is Hue’s an and trien (official seals).

The ornately decorated, resplendent ao dai on the rich Toan Thinh silk reflect the beauty of Hue’s tangible and intangible heritages and remind beholders of opulent royal ladies of the past.

A large number of colorful kites made by artisans around the country for the Hanoi-Hue-Saigon kite competition earlier this year will be on display.

The festival will close with a dazzling fireworks display and performances in different venues around the city including Ky Dai, Ngo Mon (Noon Gate) Square – the main gate to the forbidden citadel in Hue – and Ngu Phung, another of the relic site’s stories.

For the first time

The reenactment of court exams in martial arts is one of several events featured for the first time in the festival.

Besides Van Mieu – Hanoi’s Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university – King Minh Mang, who ruled from 1820 to 1840, also established Vo Mieu (the Temple of Martial Arts) to honor people making remarkable contributions to the country.

The court held three martial arts exams, each of which lasted a month and comprised various sections.

The exams conferred doctorates on 12 persons, and the successful candidates also had their names inscribed on steles at the temple.

The event will be held at Nghenh Luong Dinh, where the Nguyen Kings used to relax along the Huong (Perfume) river.

The reenactment of the final round that will feature martial arts performances by artists from traditional sects around the country is likely to be an awesome spectacle for beholders.

The local government will hold a ceremony June 3 to announce the recognition of Hue as a “festival city.”

Hue, which was also the seat of the Thuan Hoa-Phu Xuan-Hue kingdom many centuries ago and was recognized by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage site in 1993, has become a major tourist attraction in the central region.

Since the Festival Hue was organized for the first time in 2000, the Thua Thien-Hue Province government has made great efforts to develop the former feudal capital into a festival city.

Reported by Bui Ngoc Long

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Hue festival gets bigger and better

Living history: More and more visitors are flocking to Hue for the festival, which is expected to lure 200,000 visitors this year.

Full regalia: Nam Giao Ritual, one of the two biggest worshipping events in Festival Hue 2008, being performed last Thursday. — VNA/VNS Photos Nhat Anh

Making an entrance: Actors perform the Enthronement Ceremony of Emperor Quang Trung last Friday. — VNA/VNSPhoto Anh Tuan

(08-06-2008)

by Cam Giang

Fifteen years since Hue city won global recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city’s internationally-renowned annual festival has been getting bigger and better. This year’s celebration, already in full swing, is no exception.

Over 60 arts troupes from Viet Nam and abroad have flocked to the event, held under the theme “Cultural Heritage with Integration and Development”. The action kicked off last Tuesday with a sparkling opening ceremony titled “Royal Palace Festival Night” at Ngo Mon (Noon Gate) Square inside the ancient Royal Citadel and will run over nine successive days and nights until the following Wednesday.

Along with the usual programme, including the Nam Giao Ritual, Ao Dai (traditional long dress) Festival and Royal Night, visitors will be treated to four new additions to the celebrations this year, says Ngo Hoa, deputy chairman of Thua Thien – Hue Province People’s Committee. “One of them is the Huong River Legends, which will bring history to life on the Huong (Perfume) River.”

Candle-lit river

On the nights of June 5 and 7, the river running through the centre of Hue City was transformed into a watery Milky Way with thousands of glittering candles arranged along its banks.

From nothing more than an old sketch and romantic imaginations, organisers gave 12km of the Huong River a colourful makeover. The newly built 100-seat Royal Boat, which holds the record as being the biggest wooden boat in Viet Nam, and 20 Dragon boats, carried 500 visitors along the river, installation pieces and lighting performances illuminating their path.

When the fleet arrived at Hon Chen Temple, a dramatisation of the King burning incense sticks at the Temple took place while in Nghinh Luong Dinh Pavilion, a three-level stage was set up for traditional singing, poem-reading, dancing and musical performances set against a background of projected images of Hue.

Ending on a high note, the cruise paused to watch a fireworks display at Nghinh Luong Dinh Pavilion.

Festive spirit

Another highlight during the nine-day event is a lavish re-enactment of the Xa Tac Devotion Ritual, appearing on the event list for the first time in 15 years.

Xa Tac Altar was built in 1806 during the Gia Long dynasty for the King to worship the two most fundamental ingredients to wet rice cultivation; rice and soil (Xa means soil and Tac means rice). The ritual was to become the one of the most important during the Nguyen dynasty, equal to those made to honour the dead Kings. It will be brought to life on June 10, with over 350 actors, decked out in authentic costumes and instruments.

The festival also includes another important scene from history – the Enthronement Ceremony of Emperor Quang Trung, a new addition to the festival. Hundreds of performers and martial artists took part in the event last Friday, accompanied by military bands from Tay Son – Binh Dinh Districts.

The performance re-visited the moment in 1788, when legendary hero Nguyen Hue told his people to level the pointed peak of Ban Mountain in Phu Xuan, Hue so he could build an altar to heaven and declare himself Emperor Quang Trung. The altar became a podium for the Emperor to rally support which later helped him to defeat an army of 290,000 Chinese invaders in Northern Viet Nam.

But not all the events at the festival have a regal flavour. Also eagerly anticipated is the Metropolitan Military Doctor Contest, held on Saturday for the first time in 139 years.

Originally, the contest included a series of events stretching over 50 consecutive days, including military strategy and tactic written tests as well as martial art skills. Since it was not possible to realise the whole process, this year’s contest only included events like reading the imperial edict and the performances from final-round competitors.

Already an established tourist hotspot, Hoa says this year’s larger-scale event is slated to attract 200,000 visitors, 34 per cent more than the festival in 2006. “But even without the extra activities, the city and the surrounding area have lots to offer tourists; pagodas, palaces, nearby royal tombs and traditional trade villages, not mention Truong Son Mountain and Tam Giang lagoon, and of course the charm of the Hue people themselves.” — VNS

Hue Festival 2008 opens

Nhan Dan/VNA- The Hue Festival with the theme “Cultural Heritage with Integration and Development” was opened with a series of art performances at Ngo Mon (Noon Gate) Square last night.

On the evening of June 3 the lights of the citadel shone as Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan and a number of Party, State and National Assembly leaders joined dozens of thousands of local people and tourists at the opening ceremony.

Dragon dance.

Walk on stilts by Belgium artists.

Fan dance by Korean artists.

Performances by Japanese artists.

Titled Dem Hoi Hoang Cung (Royal Palate Festival Night), the opening ceremony featured 60 Vietnamese art troupes and international ones.

The main part of the show was titled Hoi Ngo Hoang Cung (Meeting at Royal Palace) and the concluding part Hue Ta (Our Hue).

The organisers attemped to make the ceremony a blend of the culture of Hue, Vietnam and other countries.

The biannual festival will also feature reenactments of the enthronement of King Quang Trung on Ban Mountain , the Nam Giao “peace and prosperity” ceremony, Xa Tac ritual offerings to the God of Earth and the God of Cereals to wish for favourable weather and bumper crops.

There will also be a “Legend of Huong River” programme, a contest to select martial arts masters and an “ao dai” (long dress) festival.

The Hue Festival is organised coincide with the Prime Minister’s decicion to build Hue to become a festival city of Vietnam.

Ao dai under the spotlight in ancient imperial city

The traditional Vietnamese long dress (ao dai) was in the spotlight at an ao dai fashion show entitled ‘Dau Xua’ (Vestiges of Old Times) at the Hien Nhon gate in the ancient imperial city of Hue on June 8 as part of the ongoing 2008 Hue Festival.

Around 200 Vietnamese long dresses were displayed on an ancient and glistening stage in front of the glamorous Hien Nhon gate, one of the four gates that lead to the Imperial Enclosure (Hoang Thanh), with candle light, coloured smoke, fireworks and also music by renowned Vietnamese musician Van Cao and Trinh Cong Son playing in the background.

Vestiges of ancient Hue were imbued in the designs by 12 famous Vietnamese designers such as Minh Hanh, Thu Giang, Hong Dung and Quoc Bao.

According to designer Minh Hanh, the dresses highlighted the beauty and the classical character of the ao dai with the aim of encouraging the nation’s young people to inherit and develop traditional values.

Different from previous Hue Festival which chose Trang Tien bridge or the Huong river as a venue for the fashion show, this year’s ao dai show was organised in Hien Nhon Gate with the aim to highlight the beauty of ao dai in an ancient space.

The ao dai show is one of the most looked forward to events in every Hue festival and also one of the last main events of the 2008 Hue Festival, which will finish on June 11.