Photo talk

Long Tong, unique farming ritual of the Tay

Long Tong (going to the field) is the most typical agricultural festival of the Tay, a big ethnic minority group living in the northern mountain region with a population of over 1.6 million.

Celebrated annually between the 1st and 15th days of the lunar new year, the festival is a religious ritual dedicated to the god of agriculture to win his blessing for verdant crops and prosperity for villagers throughout the year.

Held in a large harvested field in the middle of the village, Long Tong requires major preparations before the lunar new year. Families in the village are assigned different duties, the most important of which is preparing the offering tray. The offerings include a boiled capon, a boiled pig head, some grilled fish, two plates of sticky rice dyed red and yellow, and two cons. Con is a small ball made from pieces of colorful cloths sewn together and stuffed with puffed rice and cotton seeds. Con is also decorated with gaudy cloth tassels.

Long Tong consists of three main parts: offering ritual which includes a water procession, ploughing ceremony and folk game playing.

When the offerings are ready, a shaman deferentially recites prayers in Tay dialect, inviting gods and goddesses to the rite and asking for their blessing for the village to have bumper crops and growing herds of cattle and be freed from diseases and misfortune.

The offering ritual is followed by the tich dien (ploughing ceremony) in which the festival host leads a carefully selected male buffalo to make the first furrows of the year. In Tay belief, villagers will get good luck and yield bumper crops throughout the year if this buffalo makes straight furrows.

Then comes the most exciting part of the festival, folk games, central to which is nem con (throwing con through the ring on the top of the con pole). Other games in the festival include tug of war, blind man’s bluff and yen playing (a game similar to badminton, but played between a man and a woman).

By Minh Phuong
The Then master prepares his costume before doing the ritual.
The offering ritual.
The Then master prepares for the ritual.
A Then singing performance.
Offerings for the ritual.
The Then master invites gods and goddesses to the ritual and asks for their blessing.
The Then folk singing group.
Representatives of families walk around the neu tree.
The then melody is indispensable in Long Tong festival.
A Then folk singing performance.