Keo Pagoda Festival in Thai Binh, North Vietnam

Keo Pagoda is of Duy Nhat Commune, Vu Thu District, Thai Binh Province. Every year the pagoda organizes festivals twice: Spring Festival on the 4th day of the Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival from the 3th day to 15th day of September on the lunar calendar. The September Festival connects to the history of Zen Master Khong Lo (the 13thof September is the 100th day after his death and the 14th day of September is his birthday).

According to historical books, Zen Master Khong Lo (? – 1119) comes from Thai Binh Province. His family lived on the fishery. However, He gave up the fishery, followed Buddhist way and got the peak of it. Legend said that, after having achieved enlightenment of Buddhism, he could fly through the air, walk on water and tame snakes and tigers. He used his magic powers to cure dangerous diseases for many people including King Le Thanh Tong (1066-1127). Every year the residents in Thai Binh Province organize the festival to honor the Zen Master. The festival usually happens as follows:

On the 13th morning, the festival happens with a procession of palanquin to memory the 100th day after death of Zen Master Khong Lo. In the afternoon, there is a boat racing, a literary recital competition. In the evening, there is a  trump and drum competing.

On the 14th morning, the ceremony to memory the date of birth of Zen Master Khong Lo happens. After the incense-offering ritual is the procession of the palanquin. The procession consists of two pairs of white and pink wooden horses, 8 flag bearers, 42 men carrying “bat buu lo bo”(8 ancient weotuniabons).   In the afternoon, at Gia Roi shrine, the “mua ech vo” (frog-catching dance) ritual pays respect to the gods, while incense is offered to Buddha.

On the 15th day, the festival happens with traditional games such as duck catching, rice cooking competition and firecracker hurling competition. However, the most interesting performance that attracts a large number of tourists is the boats rowing dance on land performed by 12 in nice costumes, standing in 2 parallel lines like the way they sit on the boat.

The Festival happens both solemnly and excitingly. It shows the gratitude of people in Thai Binh to Zen Master Khong Lo. This is also an opportunity so that the locals and tourists everywhere relax after hard working days. Keo Pagoda Festival is one of the most famous festivals in North Vietnam. If you have a chance to travel to North Vietnam in mid-Autumn, do not forget to attend this special festival.

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