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Old July 21st, 2009, 11:27 PM
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A traditional ceremony at the Lanh Giang Temple Festival in the northern province of Ha Nam will highlight interactive, modern styles of contemporary art from this Thursday to Sunday.

Organisers promise a unique festival at Lanh Giang Temple in Duy Tien District with both modern and traditional features. Bui Quang Thang, writer of the festival script, says this will be the first traditional festival to feature contemporary art.

Young artists and modern art techniques will not adversely affect the identity of the traditional festival, says Thang. Other festival elements will maintain their original form.

Contemporary arts such as body art, video art and dejay performances will be featured.

Thang hopes inclusion of contemporary performing arts and effects will attract audiences to the festival.

One modern example will see three performers with their bodies covered in painted symbols representing the four seasons and four supernatural creatures (dragon, unicorn, tortoise and phoenix). They will role play the three gods traditionally worshipped at the temple. Twenty contemporary painters including Phuong Vu Manh, Vu Nhat Tan and Pham Van Truong will do the body painting.

During Thursday’s ceremony, local residents will carry a palanquin and hang a flag in front of the temple. Over the course of the four-day festival, a representation of a sacrifice ceremony and a procession of ritual palanquin carrying around the temple will be held along with other activities.

A performance portraying the legend of Lanh Giang Temple saints will feature a combination of imaginative music and performance effects, particularly during the hau dong ceremony.

The performance will be broadcast live on Thursday at 8pm on VTC1.

Hau dong is the ritual of a spiritual medium connecting with Dao Mau (the Vietnamese Mother Goddess of religion). Vietnamese people utilise hau dong to create a connection between practitioners and deities, with whom they attempt to communicate. Scholars have shown hau dong to be a spectacular showcase of typical Vietnamese culture.

In the past, hau dong was considered a superstitious activity but it has recently been a topic of discussion at seminars on folk belief studies.

The institute has gathered sufficient materials, including documents, photos and video clips, about hau dong in preparation of asking relevant agencies to nominate it as a UNESCO world intangible cultural heritage. More materials are expected to be collected at the Lanh Giang Temple Festival.

Apart from the sacrifice ceremony and procession rites, visitors will enjoy other activities including dragon dancing, unicorn dancing, lion dancing, traditional opera singing, and chau van singing. Other festivities will include wrestling, human chess, traditional card games, making rice in bamboo tubes, cockfighting, duck catching in the water and walking on rope bridges.

The Institute for Culture and Art of Viet Nam is collaborating with the Duy Tien District People’s Committee and the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism to hold the festival. The use of contemporary art is a bold attempt by organisers to restore the folk festival.

The organising board expects that by including modern features with traditional aspects will attract both Vietnamese and foreign guests.

Getting to the festival is easy. The temple is about 60km south of Ha Noi. Once arriving in Dong Van (48km from the centre of Ha Noi), visitors will turn onto National Road 60A to Hoa Mac Town, then turn left for 5km until arriving at Yen Lenh Wharf. Follow the Hong (Red) River dyke for 3km to get to the temple. — VNS
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