Phu Ninh Buffalo Fighting Festival (Phu Tho) is not only the oldest festival but also imbued with the folk culture of the Hung King era, demonstrating the martial spirit of the nation and also being a folk ritual of praying for good fortune, good weather, and crops.

Legend of the Buffalo Fighting Festival in Phu Ninh

The origins of the Buffalo Fighting Festival in Phu Ninh, Phu Tho, stem from the ancient legend of King Hung's hunting expedition. According to the tale, as King Hung's generals journeyed through the Ham Rong market, they witnessed two tigers engaged in combat. Responding swiftly, the hunters dispatched both tigers and subsequently feasted on their remains. Each year, in homage to this legend from the era of the Hung Kings, the village engages in buffalo fights and elaborate feasts, symbolically reenacting the primal clash of the two tigers by pitting two buffaloes against each other.

The origins of the festival stem from the ancient legend of King Hung's hunting expedition

Time of the Phu Ninh Buffalo Fighting Festival

The event coincides with the harvest season, occurring on the 5th of May and the 10th of October according to the lunar calendar, perfectly aligning with the rice growth cycle and wet rice farming practices. Following the culmination of harvest activities, marked by a period of intense labor, the festivities serve as a joyous celebration of prosperity and successful cultivation efforts.

The event is held on the 5th of May and the 10th of October according to the lunar calendar

Prepare and organize for the festival

Preparations for the Phu Ninh Buffalo Fighting Festival in Phu Tho include ceremonial arrangements and ensuring safety for all.

Selecting the ideal buffalo for the festival

Phu Ninh commune comprises four villages: Cao, Phu Man, Ngoc Tru, and Ngoc Khoi. Each village is tasked with acquiring a male buffalo meeting specific criteria: pure black fur, tightly positioned horns, broad forehead, and wide front and back groins.

After the village selects a qualified fighting buffalo, if they intend to purchase it, they must ask for yin and yang. If the Saint approves, proceed with the purchase; otherwise, another animal must be chosen. Following the purchase, the village must designate someone to oversee the buffalo's care. The buffalo enclosure should be new, meticulously cleaned, and securely sealed to prevent contact with other buffaloes. This ensures the buffaloes' aggression during combat.

Four villages have to prepare 4 male buffaloes for the Phu Ninh Buffalo Fighting Festival

The individual must be chosen with the following specific criteria: being married and having a son and a daughter. The family has no funerals and lives in harmony and kindness with the villagers. Upon receiving a buffalo to raise, the person must celebrate bringing it home and wait for the day when they will fight each other and slaughter the meat as a sacrifice to the Gods.

Organize buffalo fighting

The villagers will select a spacious land parcel in the Ham Rong market vicinity, encircling it securely with bamboo to contain the buffaloes and ensure the safety of spectators. Adornments such as flags, parasols, drums, and gongs will surround the area for festivity. On May 4th afternoon, a ceremonial event will take place at the communal house. On the morning of May 5th, villagers will cleanse the fighting buffaloes before escorting them to the arena at Ham Rong market.

A ceremonial event will take place at the communal house on May 4th afternoon

In four villages, there are four buffaloes which will be divided into two pairs. To incite buffalo fighting, farmers typically administer half a liter of alcohol to the buffaloes and sprinkle it on their bodies to enhance their enthusiasm for the fight. Despite having four buffaloes fighting, only two will emerge victorious while the other two will lose. On May 5th of the lunar calendar, only the two losing buffaloes are slaughtered, while the two winners are left for the event on October 10th, where they will compete in the final match before both being sacrificed as offerings to the Gods.

Highlight of the Phu Ninh Buffalo Fighting Festival

The event comprises two primary components: the ceremony segment and the festival segment. The pre-buffalo fighting festival ceremony involves sacrificial rituals and reporting to the Gods and the Tutelary God, starting from the request for permission to purchase buffaloes.

The village conducts a sacrifice featuring traditional offerings like banh day and, following the conclusion of the buffalo fighting festival, the defeated buffalo is also sacrificed to honor God. Consequently, the ceremony takes place twice: before and after the festival. After performing religious rituals, the celebration features traditional folk performances like Xoan singing and various activities including tug of war, wrestling, and marketplaces for buying and selling products.

The celebration features traditional folk performances and various activities

The Phu Ninh Buffalo Fighting Festival holds profound spiritual importance in the cultural fabric of midland countryside farmers. It serves as a moment to show gratitude to heaven and earth for providing good rain and wind. Let's take a trip to Vietnam and join in this amazing festival.

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