Traditional Vietnamese ceremony honours ancient Hoang Sa flotilla


A ritual master places rice inside the paper effigies of the flotilla soldiers, which will then be floated into the sea. — VNA/VNS

QUANG NGAI: An annual ceremony commemorating sailors of the historic Hoang Sa (Paracel) flotilla took place in the communal house of An Vinh village, Ly Son district, the central province of Quang Ngai, on Wednesday (April 24).

The traditional event, namely “Le khao le the linh Hoang Sa” (Feast and Commemoration Festival for Hoang Sa Soldiers), pays tribute to the men enlisted in the flotilla to patrol the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa (Spratly), tap natural resources, and defend national island sovereignty.

In 2013, it was accredited as a national intangible cultural heritage.

According to history, the fleet was established in the early 17th century under the reign of Nguyen Lords in the south.

Each year, 70 fishermen were enlisted, commissioned to survey sea routes and erect sovereignty landmarks and steles declaring national territory in Hoang Sa and Truong Sa. 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. Paper effigies representing the men 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 them.

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

Following local tradition, after the ceremony, a boat race was held. In the past, such races were organised to select skillful and strong seafarers to join the flotilla. — Vietnam News/ANN

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