Hanoi (VNA) – Ba Chua Xu festival on Nui Sam (Sam Mountain) in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang is a special spiritual belief of locals in the southern river region.

Ba Chua Xu festival - a spiritual belief of the southern region hinh anh 1

A corner of Ba Chua Xu temple in Chau Doc town, An Giang province (Photo: Vietnam News Agency)

The event is held annually from April 22 to 27 of the lunar calendar. Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has assigned the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to work with relevant agencies to complete a dossier for submission to the government to seek UNESCO recognition of the festival as part of the world cultural heritage.

Unique festival

Each year, when it comes to the fourth lunar month, a large crowd of visitors, both foreign and local, will flock to An Giang province to attend the Ba Chua Xu festival in Chau Doc city.

Legend has it that more than 200 years ago, when Sam Mountain was still deserted, villagers found a statue of a lady sitting on a sandstone pedestal. When the Siamese troops invaded the nation, they had attempted to bring the statue down the mountain, but no matter how hard they tried, they could not move it even an inch. Recognising this, villagers wanted to bring the statue down the mountain to preserve and worship it. However, despite their efforts, they still failed to lift the statue.

While the village elders were praying, the face of a little girl playing around the temple suddenly turned red, and her head began to shake. “Choose nine virgin girls to take me down the mountain,” she said.

To villagers’ surprise, the nine girls could carry the statue gently. Going down to the foot of the mountain, the statue suddenly became heavy and the girls were unable to lift again. Villagers understood that the goddess wanted to stay here, so they set up a temple to worship her.

Initially, the temple was only a simple bamboo structure. Undergoing many restorations, it was completed and spacious, according to villagers.

The temple was built following the Chinese character “quoc”. Seen from the outside, the temple is like a blooming lotus with three-layer roofs stacked on top of one another. The roofs are also covered with sapphire-blue tiles. Inside the temple is the statue of Ba Chua Xua (the Holy Mother of the Realm) in a luxurious long dress and gold crown, with a gentle and kind face.

According to archaeologists who base themselves on the material and shape of the statue, this is a sculpture dating back to the medieval times.

In 2008, the Vietnam Record Book Centre recognised it as the largest and oldest sandstone statue in Vietnam.

Annually, the temple draws millions of tourists at home and abroad, especially during the Ba Chua Xu festival.

The festival consists of five ceremonies: ‘bathing’ Ba Chua Xu’s statue in which it is cleaned with scented water and receives a costume change; inviting the spirit of Thoai Ngoc Hau — a general under the Nguyen Dynasty (1802 – 1945) — to the temple as a commemoration of his merit in reclaiming the land; sacrificing offerings (called Tuc Yet); establishing altar; and giving oblations one more time (called Chanh Te).

In 2014, the festival was included in the list of national cultural heritage by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

In 2017, the Prime Minister signed a decision approving the general development plan of the Nui Sam tourist site until 2025 with a vision to 2030.

In 2018, the Sam Mountain tourist site was recognised as a national relic site and is expected to become a special spiritual and cultural tourism centre in the Mekong Delta and nationwide./.