Residents on Ly Son island in central Quang Ngai province commemorated sailors of the Hoang Sa (Paracel) flotilla with a traditional ceremony at An Vinh village temple on May 4.

The “Le khao le the linh Hoang Sa” (Feast and Commemoration Festival for Hoang Sa Soldiers), held on the 15th and 16th days of the third lunar month annually, pays tribute to the men enlisted in the flotilla to patrol the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos to tap natural resources and defend national island sovereignty.

According to Vietnam’s feudal state history, under the Nguyen Lords’ reign in the south of Vietnam from the 16th – 18th century, 70 fishermen from An Vinh and An Hai villages around the Sa Ky estuary and the An Vinh and An Hai villages on Ly Son island were enlisted in the flotilla each year.

They sailed to Hoang Sa and Truong Sa to tap marine resources, survey sea routes, plant milestones, and erect steles declaring national territory in the two archipelagos at the Nguyen Lords’ orders. They began their trip in the second lunar month and returned six months later.

Since their mission was fraught with danger, a ceremony was held before the trip to pray for their safety. Puppets representing the soldiers and basics like rice, salt, fuel wood, and drinking water were put on replica boats which were then released into the sea to symbolically substitute for the soldiers.

The ceremony has been observed over centuries by families in Ly Son and many coastal areas in Quang Ngai, attracting increasing participation from across Vietnam in recent years.

The Feast and Commemoration Festival is a precious intangible cultural heritage that evidences Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos, said Director of the Quang Ngai Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism Nguyen Dang Vu.-VNA