Lim festival - an attraction of Bac Ninh

Phuong Thao
Chia sẻ

(VOVWORLD) - Spring festivals are now taking place throughout Vietnam. Let's explore the Lim festival in Bac Ninh province, one of the most popular festivals in the north during the early days of the new lunar year.

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Held annually from the 11th to the 14th of the first lunar month in Tien Du district, with the main events taking place on the 13th, the festival, with a variety of ceremonies and recreational activities, attracts thousands of visitors. Head of Tien Du district’s Culture and Information Section Ngo Tinh said that this is one of the most important cultural activities of the villages in the Lim region. It reflects the folk beliefs and traditions of the people living in the wet rice civilization.

As early as 8 in the morning, a crowd of locals gather at the village gate and join the traditional procession heading towards the communal house. According to Mr. The Chien, a member of the festival's organizing committee, the procession is held on the 13th day of the first lunar month.

The procession to the communal house is held by locals to pray for favorable weather, Chien said. This procession is organized by the village and joined by people of all ages who are strong. Only locals, not people from other villages are selected to join the procession, according to Chien. 

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Hundreds of local people join the procession despite a morning drizzle (Photo: Phuong Thao)

The procession is led by a lively performance of lion dancing and a marching band with drummers and cymbalists, followed by two lines of flag carriers, a group of young men carrying the festival’s mascot, 32 human chess figures, and a group of elderly people dressed in the Vietnamese traditional costumes.

Mr. Van Sinh, a local of Lim village, joined the procession. He said: "This is a traditional rite from ancient times passed down by our ancestors. Our forefathers left behind this cultural practice and now their children and grandchildren continue it. the tradition will be continued to be passed down to the next generation". 

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The procession’s mascots are placed in front of the communal house for the whole day.

(Photo: Phuong Thao)

The festival is resumed this year after a three-year hiatus due to COVID-19. The venue of the festival has been expanded to ease overcrowds.

This year, the 3-day festival begins on the 11th day of the new lunar year with an opening ceremony and an incense offering rite at Hong An pagoda. The rainy, humid weather doesn't seem to mind festival-goers because rain during the celebration is considered an omen of good fortune. The festive atmosphere is unquenchable.

The procession is followed by a worshiping ceremony at the communal house, and after the ceremonial activities come the recreational part.

The highlight of the Lim festival is performances of Quan Ho folk singing, which was recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009. Quan Ho consists of love duets sung by a male and female singer with a festive vibe. Lyrically, most Quan Ho songs share the theme of intimate romantic love.

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People's Artist Thuy Cai (right) and Artist Ngoc Luong (left) aspire to bring Quan Họ closer to the younger generation (Photo: Phuong Thao)

People’s Artist Thuy Cai and her daughter, Ngoc Luong, head of the Cultural Section at Bac Ninh Cultural Center share a great passion for Quan Ho. They are among the many artists who have worked to preserve and promote this folk music genre.

"Back in the day when this was still called Ha Bac province, all the members were assigned to visit the villages and help the locals with their work just so they could teach us the Quan Ho tunes. At that time, there were a total of 49 villages singing Quan Ho, with more than 200 different tunes and more than 500 counter songs."

Ngoc Luong, who manages 12 clubs of Quan Ho folk songs holds the Lim festival dear to her heart. She wrote two songs about the festival called "Back to Kinh Bac" and "Spring Festival".

"The inspiration for ‘Spring Festival’ was the Lim Festival and other spring festivals. The lyric “A pink under-bodice and a soft silk band bring the sunshine to the spring festival” refers to the fact that the Lim Festival is held in very rainy weather, but when the rain stops, there will be sunshine," said Luong.

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A Quan Họ performance on the dragon boat. (Photo: Phuong Thao)

At the Lim Festival, Quan Ho songs are performed in various forms, with a dragon boat being the most unique platform. On a big dragon boat is a crew of 8-10 artists dressed in Quan Ho costumes. Unlike other art forms with flamboyant, flashy costumes, those of Quan Ho feature a more low-profile multi-layered dress, an iconic flat hat, and a distinct black scarf for the female singers, while their male counterparts typically wear a traditional long dress and a head turban and carry a black umbrella.

Besides the boat performances, there are also performances on 12 stages organized by the 12 Quan Ho clubs in Tien Du district. While performing, the artists interact with the audience, offering them betel and areca, a distinct tradition of Quan Ho culture. Visitors from elsewhere are frequently invited to perform with the artists. 

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Visitors perform together and interact with the local artists

(Photo: Phuong Thao)

Mr. Quang Nam of Thai Nguyen province has attended the festival for 8 times. He said he's a big fan of Quan Ho. "I’m not from Bac Ninh, but very fond of Quan Ho and very passionate about it, completely attached to it," said Quang. 

Many artists hold private sessions at their home where they gather and sing Quan Ho in the original style, which features no instrumental accompaniment. Instruments are added only for performances before a general audience.

Regardless of the performing style, Quan Ho is an important cultural feature that the younger generation should try to preserve.

As part of that effort, Ngoc Luong and her colleagues at the province’s cultural center want to hold at least one class a year for people of all ages in each district. Luong said: "Young people are now gravitating toward foreign music and paying little attention to Vietnamese folk songs like Quan Ho. I hope the young people of the province and throughout the country will start paying more attention to Quan Ho. I work at the provincial cultural center, which is responsible for organizing Quan Ho classes for people from all walks of life."

Next to the songs of the Quan Ho singers, the most exciting part of the festival is the folk games. Among the most popular folk games at the festival is ‘bamboo swing’, in which two players stand on a swing and pump their legs to swing themselves up as high as possible.

Another folk game popular with festival-goers is "hitting hanging clay pots." A blindfolded player standing 5 meters from the pots tries to locate the pots and break one of them. A player can get help from the audience and whoever breaks a pot wins the reward named on a piece of paper hidden in the pot. The balloon dart game is also another popular game at the festival.

Meanwhile, an intense game of human chess is held next to the communal house. Anyone can give any of the other folk games a try, but the chess game is performed by the locals wearing costumes. There are 32 chess figures (16 boys and 16 girls) who are controlled by two chess players who were chosen by a series of knock-out matches the day before.

Mr. Luan, a local chess aficionado, told VOV: "Modern chess originated in medieval times when kings played the game for entertainment and intellectual competition. The game is subject to the local rules for human chess. For example, a player must make their move within 5 minutes and a drum is sounded after each move. One side consists of males dressed in red and the other is females dressed in green."

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A game of human chess that you may not want to miss out on!

(Photo: Phuong Thao)

In the evening, many local households invite their friends and relatives for a meal to celebrate the festival and welcome the new year. A show of fireworks brings joy to both locals and visitors. 

“My first impression of the Lim Festival is that the fireworks performance is kind of good. There are many people here. We can see that people care about the festival. That’s a good point in spreading the culture of the province to other people,” said a foreign visitor.

“I think this year’s festival is wonderful. The crowd is jubilant, and also a brilliant fireworks display. Visitors from all over the country flock to the festival and join with positive attitudes towards the surroundings. It would be more than wonderful to maintain this tradition,” said a festival-goer.

The festival's activities also attract local people. "After the hiatus, I got the chance to attend the festival on the 12th. The atmosphere was very different from a few years ago. A very festive atmosphere with so many people, especially during the fireworks display,” said a local visitor.

The festival showcases the province’s culture, and brings together people with different cultural backgrounds. The enduring existence of this festival is a testament to the effort of previous generations to preserve Vietnamese culture, and the younger generation should continue that effort.

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Lim Festival – Bac Ninh’s time-tested cultural spotlight

(Photo: Phuong Thao)