Chem Temple Festival is held to honor and remember Duc Thanh Ly Ong Trong. More profoundly is the ceremonial to pray for good weather and good weather, for plentiful harvests of agricultural communities in the Red River Delta.

About Chem Temple

Chem Temple is located on the Red River's south bank, near the mouth of the Nhue River, in Thuy Phuong Ward, Hanoi, about 12 kilometers northwest of Sword Lake. Visitors may reach Dinh Chem by canal from Phuc Tan dock (near Chuong Duong Bridge), and along the way, they can see many more monuments along the Red River's banks.

Chem is the Nom name of the settlement Thuy Diem, which was afterward altered to Thuy Huong and eventually to Thuy Phuong. Son Tay town, in the jurisdiction of the Quoc Oai administration, has one of our country's oldest community homes. The architecture is not large but has a distinctive carving style. This is also the location of a well-known traditional celebration held for generations by the inhabitants of three villages: Hoang, Mac, and Chem.

Chem Temple is located on the Red River's south bank

Chem Temple is dedicated to the following characters:

  • Ly Ong Trong - Duc Thanh Chem (who defended Lam Thao territory against the Xiongnu)
  • Duc Ba (wife of Duc Thanh Chem)
  • Ong Su (the guy who is claimed to have followed Duc Thanh Chem to protect the region of Lam Thao)
  • Luc Vi Vuong (son of Duc Thanh Chem)
  • The elephant steward and two maids

Chem Temple Festival - National intangible cultural heritage

The primary Chem Temple Festival is held over three days, from May 14 to 16 (lunar calendar). Previously, the 12th and 13th days of the fifth lunar month were the preparation.

Festival's preparations

People from three villages organize the association: Chem Village (now Thuy Phuong Ward), Hoang Xa Village, and Hoang Lien Village (now Lien Mac Ward). Preparation for the festival is critical. Following the cavalry day of Duc Ba on February 2, the elderly people in the common house began to organize meetings to discuss the organization of the celebration, as well as to inspect the worshiping artifacts, processions, and procession costumes in the communal home.

The elderly people organize meetings to discuss the organization of the celebration

The Chem Temple Festival is prepared for the 12th and 13th of the fifth lunar month:

  • 12th day of the fifth lunar month: the elderly people in the communal house perform the dressing ceremony, which involves changing the attire of the adored gods.
  • 13th of the fifth lunar month: a cooking contest for che kho (Vietnamese mung bean pudding) is held in the communal house. Che is packaged into five cakes to present to Duc Ong and commemorate the contest. Che kho will be closed after baking 5 cakes to deliver back to the community. 

Main festivals

The following rites are performed on the 14th day of the fifth lunar month:

  • The opening ceremony begin at 7 a.m., with a huge number of old men and women dressed in traditional festival attire, as well as locals and guests from all over the world. The water procession (Ngenh Thuy) occurs immediately after the opening ceremony.
  • In the afternoon, an offering performance by old men dressed in traditional clothes. Following the offering, there is a Van procession from Chem Pagoda to Chem Temple (this is the procession of books from the location where the will is created to return to the communal house to serve the ritual sacrifice). When the literature is returned to the common home, the sacrifice team of the three communities conduct naturalization sacrifices jointly.
  • People organize cultural interactions in the evening. Previously, locals invited ca tru troupes to play in the village community house during the celebration.

Several activities on the opening day of Chem Temple Festival

The primary celebration day is the 15th of the fifth lunar month

  • The water procession follows the same pattern as the 14th.
  • At around 11 a.m., the bai ban ritual (please clean the altar) is held in preparation for the ceremony to worship the two.
  • At exactly 12 p.m., the moc duc ritual is placed at two small royal palaces.
  • At around 3 p.m., people transport Ong Su from Dai Bai to the square home (the temporary house is created by wooden pillars that are placed together to form a frame, then covered with fabric when done) outside the community house gate to conduct the Moc Duc rite.

Like the previous days, the morning of the 16th begins with a water procession, followed by the village's incense offering to make sacrifices to Thanh.  In the afternoon, there is a literary procession from Chem pagoda to Chem temple. The event was conducted in the late afternoon by the old men in the sacrifices of the three communities.

Chem Temple Festival features several rites over three days

In addition to the ceremony, there is a large-scale festival with contests and traditional sports taking place on all three days, such as swimming competitions, wrestling competitions, playing human chess, etc. nests of prostitutes, cockfighting, wrestling,... Aside from the entertainment activities, there are cultural exchanges and quan ho singing throughout the communities.

Chem Temple Festival is a one-of-a-kind and traditional celebration in the culture of the Red River Delta's wet rice farmers. If you travel to Vietnam on this occasion, you should attend the festival to learn more about this local culture.

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