Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan offers incense at the festival (Photo: nhandan.com.vn)
Hai Duong (VNA) – The Con Son-Kiep Bac 2016 Spring Festival commenced in the northern province of Hai Duong on February 23, or the 16th day of the first lunar month.

The annual festival commemorates the death anniversary of monk Huyen Quang, who died in 1334 and was the founder of the Truc Lam Zen sect.

Also on the occasion, Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan handed over the Prime Minister’s Decision to recognise Thanh Hu Dong stele (a commemorative standing stone) at Con Son Pagoda as a national treasure.

The Thanh Hu Dong stele dates back to Long Khanh era (1372 – 1377) under the reign of King Tran Due Tong. When Tran Nguyen Dan, a high-ranking mandarin of the Tran dynasty, converted Thanh Hu cave in Con Son Mountain to live in after his retirement, King Tran Due Tong wrote three words: Thanh Hu Dong (Thanh Hu Cave) on a stele erected at the cave’s entrance. The King’s father Nghe Tong also composed a poem which was inscribed on the back of the stele.

Prior to the opening ceremony of the festival, there was a ceremonial water-carrying parade staged by hundreds of people from Con Son Pagoda to Con Son Lake, where monks and nuns offered incense and released birds.

The festival, to run until March 1, will also feature a string of cultural and sporting activities such as incense offerings, worshipping rituals at Ngu Nhac Mountain, a mud banger festival (an ancient game involving tossing a large, shaped peice of clay, approx. 30kg and trying to make the loudest bag from it smashing apart) and a wrestling contest.

Covering a total area of eight hectares in Chi Linh district, the Con Son-Kiep Bac historical site is entwined with the life and cause of general Tran Hung Dao, the Supreme Commander of Vietnam during the Tran Dynasty, and it was where UNESCO’s Great Man of Culture of the World, Nguyen Trai (1380-1442), one of Vietnam’s most famous poets and writers, lived.

The site was a defence line built at the end of the 14 th century to protect the Thang Long Imperial Citadel. It witnessed important battles between the Tran Dynasty army and the Yuan-Mongol invaders in the 14 th and 15 th centuries.

Con Son-Kiep Bac was recognised as a national heritage site in 1962 and a special national heritage site in 2012. The next year, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism named the Spring Festival a national intangible cultural heritage.-VNA