In the coldness of the drizzling rain, visitors from other regions rush to Dong Bang Temple in the northern province of Thai Binh to present offerings. The temple is located amid a vast paddy field by the Mai Diem River.
Dong Bang Temple was named one of the four ancient landscapes of the country in the Pre-Le Dynasty (980-1009 AD). From the end of 13th century, the temple has been a place to worship King Tran Hung Dao, royal members and famous generals of the Tran Dynasty, who three times defeated Mongol invaders.
The entire relic is a complex of temples, shrines and towers, which comprises the main temple for the king and five other temples for the mandarins. The whole relic covers an area of 11,000 square meters in An Le and Dong Hai communes. The temple to worship King Tran Hung Dao, who is regarded as a saint by the public, is not far from this complex.
These temples have many worshiping objects from the Ly to the Nguyen dynasties. Votive tablets and original wooden construction works such as horizontal lacquered boards, parallel sentences, scrolls and others are almost intact.
Dong Bang Temple starts the annual ceremony on the 20th day of the eighth lunar month, but it welcomes many groups of pilgrims and visitors almost all year round. After the opening day, villagers hold a solemn ritual, believing that all the saints would witness the boat race of local people. On the 22nd day, they organize swimming contests until the 25th day, and the winning teams will receive prizes. Apart from such competitions, there are also kylin dances, hát chèo (northern Vietnamese folk songs), wrestling and chess playing contests.
In addition to such rituals as offering to deities, burning incense and recreating old legends, the festivity also has folk games that attract the participation of quite a few pilgrims and visitors.
After six exciting days, the festivity ends with a solemn parade to carry the votive tablets of the King and saints back to Dong Bang Temple, and the locals pray for prosperity for the whole year.