A unique exhibition displaying veteran photographer Van Tho's collection of 100 photos of the Giong Festival has opened at the Phu Dong Temple, in Gia Lam district on the outskirts of Hanoi.

The photos document the dances and worshipping ceremonies as well as the domestic and foreign officials that attend the festival and even the festival preparations.

All of the photos are in colour except for the artist's first image taken in 1970.

"I cannot count the number of photographs I've taken of the annual festival," Tho said since 1970, "I have selected the 100 best as my gift to celebrate the recognition of the festival as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO."

The artist was born in 1943 in Phu Dong Village himself. At the age of seven, he played a soldier in Saint Giong's 90-soldier team in the festival. He recalled falling into the pond in front of the temple and racing home to dry his clothes so that he could finish his role in the event.

"Taking part in the festival is a great honour," he said, "That's why the villagers have happily made contributions."

After the exhibition, Tho plans to build a house in which to store his works and memories of the festival.

"If the project is approved [by local authorities], I will select quintessential photos of the festival by many photographers for display," Tho said.

"The exhibits may also include small models of objects used at the festival so that visitors to the temple can learn how the festival is organised, what it symbolises and what activities take place. They can also practise the traditional dances if they want."

A ceremony was held at the temple on Jan.22 by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Hanoi Municipal People's Committee and the Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO to bestow the UNESCO Certification recognising the Saint Giong Festival as a world intangible heritage.

The festival was the third element of Hanoi's heritage recognised by UNESCO in last year, joining the 82 doctoral stone steles in the Temple of Literature and relics of the Thang Long Royal Citadel.

The festival is dedicated to Saint Giong, born in Phu Dong village in the reign of King Hung VI. According to legend, he was a man of great strength who fought the northern invaders. After his victory, he flew back to heaven on his iron horse over Soc Mountain, which locates in today's Soc Son district.

There are many festivals held in the northern region to honour Saint Giong. The most popular are the ones in Phu Dong Village in Gia Lam district and Soc village in Soc Son district.

The event in Phu Dong is annually held on the ninth day of the fourth lunar month and in Soc Son, on the sixth day of the first lunar month./.