Hung Kings Festival by mattsteinglass
April 28, 2007, 11:00 am
Filed under: Vietnam

Vietnam celebrated the Hung Kings Festival on Thursday, for the first time designating it an official national holiday. This would be the celebration of the 18 kings of the mythical Hung dynasty, roughly 1000 BC, the immediate descendants of the dragon Lac Long Quan and the fairy Au Co, who gave birth to 100 eggs which hatched into soldiers and became the Vietnamese people — but I don’t need to tell you that. It’s the first holiday in the Vietnamese calendar based on a non-Communist historical figure. The designation, according to historian Huu Ngoc, is broadly in line with a shift in emphasis away from Communism as a national legitimating ideology, and towards nationalism. Anyway, the range of offerings toted up the mountain at the Hung Kings Temple in Phu Tho province, about 80 km from Hanoi, was impressive: the most striking offering of the morning, an entire roast chicken.

Hung Kings chicken

The crowd numbered certainly in the tens of thousands — the path up the mountainside was completely overwhelmed, and with veterans of the Ho Chi Minh Trail looking on, people started scrambling straight up the hillside through the woods.

Vets and Path

This delegation of the Ho Chi Minh Trail Veterans Association had come from up to 150 km away in Ha Tay Province to celebrate. “I fought against a lot of Americans,” said the guy in the sunglasses. He was in the People’s Army’s 64th Corps in Quang Tri, a “hero battalion”. “Water always flows back to its source. The children of the dragon have a duty to pay their respects to their ancestors.”

Truong Son Vets

There’s a unique tone of voice to this generation of vets — a gravelly rasp, with a tendency to bark sentences out like orders. It reminds me of my grandfather on my mother’s side; I’m not sure Americans have spoken with this kind of definitive gruff certainty since that Depression generation. It’ll be a shame, here, when they’re gone.


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