Quang Ngai ceremony commemorates soldiers safeguarding national sovereignty hinh anh 1Le khao le the linh Hoang Sa’ aims to commemorate soldiers of Hoang Sa Flotilla who sacrificed their lives over the centuries guarding the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes (Photo: VNA)
Quang Ngai (VNA) – The “Le khao le the linh Hoang Sa” (Feast and Commemoration Festival for Hoang Sa Soldiers) took place in Ly Son district, the central province of Quang Ngai, on March 18.

The event, held annually in the second lunar month and on the 15th and 16th days of the third lunar month, is to pay tribute to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives over the centuries guarding the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes.

The event has been observed through hundreds of years by communities in Ly Son Island and many coastal areas in Quang Ngai province. It was recognised as a national intangible cultural heritage by the State in 2016.

During the rituals, paper boats with effigies of sailors are launched into the seas and respects are paid to the lost sailors’ symbolic tombs.

According to Vietnam’s feudal state history, the Hoang Sa Flotilla was set up when the Nguyen Lords began their reign in the south of the country.

Thousands of sailors overcame roaring waves and storms to survey sea routes, plant milestones and erect steles affirming the national sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes. These areas were secured marine resources under the order of the Nguyen Lords. Their missions were full of danger, and many of them never returned to land.

Therefore, before the soldiers left for their missions, a feast was held for them, hence the beginning of the tradition.

The festival reflects Vietnam’s history of protecting the national sovereignty in the East Sea, especially over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos.

Quang Ngai ceremony commemorates soldiers safeguarding national sovereignty hinh anh 2Paper boats with effigies of sailors launched into the sea (Photo: VNA)
After the commemoration on the day, the Tu Linh boat race was held to pray for a year of favourable weather and bumper catches ahead. The festival is called Tu Linh because the racing boats are decorated with symbolic shapes of the quartet of mythological creatures in Vietnam’s traditions and beliefs. These are the dragon, qilin, tortoise, and phoenix. Long (Dragon) symbolising robust crop, fertility and royal power, Lan (Quilin). The Phuong (Phoenix) embodies talented people and Quy (Tortoise) - the emblem of strength and longevity, which must be the most outstanding sacred animals in Vietnam.

The event is the largest-scale cultural and ritual activity on the island, attracting the participation of a huge number of local people.

In the past, the boats were designed for only 14 people; however, in recent years, the boats have been built for 24 people. Each team has its own uniform with red scarves on the participants’ heads. The shouts of encouragement, along with the determination of racers, always throws a charge into the festival proceedings.

To preserve and bring into play this festival, the People’s Committee of Ly Son district conducted surveys and studies over the past years to compile a dossier seeking the inclusion of this activity on the list of national intangible cultural heritages.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism made the recognition in September 2020.

Ly Son island covers an area of less than 10 sq.km but it has nearly 100 relics, most of which are related to the Hoang Sa Flotilla. These are the empty graves built for Hoang Sa soldiers who never returned to land. Then, there are the temples dedicated to Pham Quang Anh and Vo Van Khiet who were captains of the Hoang Sa Flotilla. And finally, a showroom displaying the items of the Hoang Sa Flotilla sailors who also controlled Bac Hai and Ba Ri Lagoon.

Today, a monument and memorial house dedicated to the Hoang Sa Flotilla stands near the main road of the island./.