07/09/2021 08:01 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Tu Linh boat racing festival in Ly Son

As part of the national intangible cultural heritage, the Tu Linh boat racing festival on the island district of Ly Son, in the central province of Quang Ngai is organized annually to pay tribute to the native’s ancestors. They  created the island village and the tribute is also for the soldiers who fought for the country’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes. 
Visiting Ly Son in the days ahead of the festival, every corner of the island district is teeming with excitement. In the yards of the temples in An Vinh and An Hai communes, islanders gather to finalize the preparations for the beginning of the boat race. The boats are more sparkling and brilliant under the sun in the area. 

The Tu Linh boat racing festival in the island district of Ly Son has been recognized as part of the national intangible cultural heritage.


Offering incenses at the An Hai communal house where the Hoang Sa
Flotilla is worshipped before the race. Photo: Cong Dat/VNP
 

Each team has its own uniform with red scarves on the participants’ heads. Photo: Cong Dat/VNP


Preparing uniforms before the boat racing festival. Photo: Thong Thien/VNP



Fishermen and teams flock to the boat racing area. Photo: Thong Thien/VNP


 
Ly Son islanders cheer the racing teams. Photo: Trinh Thong Thien/VNP


The boats are decorated using the images of Tu Linh (four mythological creatures)
which includes long (dragon), ly (unicorn), quy (turtle) and phung (phoenix). Photo: Trinh Thong Thien/VNP
For Ly Son islanders, the Tu Linh boat racing festival is not only a traditional community activity but also part of their unique culture and belief. It is meant to pay tribute to the ancestors who explored this land, as well as the then Hoang Sa flotilla that planted sovereignty markers on Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes. The festival also takes place to pray for a year of favorable weather, bumper crops and peace.

The Hoang Sa Flotilla is the name of a fleet of ships which was set up by the Nguyen Lords in South Vietnam in the early 17th century with the task of mining and measuring sea routes and planting the sovereignty landmarks in Hoang Sa and Truong Sa Archipelagoes. According to historical records, the Hoang Sa Flotilla was established before the Year of The Goat (1631) under the reign of Lord Nguyen Phuc Nguyen, the second lord of the Nguyen Dynasty who ruled from 1613 to 1635.
Traditionally, there are eight boats participating in the event. The boats are decorated using the images of Tu Linh (four mythological creatures) which includes long (dragon), ly (unicorn), quy (turtle) and phung (phoenix). Before the festival opens, the teams have to worship the gods in separate rituals.

The participants should be healthy and skillful men. Boats must be firm and slim so that they can move very fast through the water.  In the past, the boats were designed for only 14 people; however, in recent years, the boats have been built for 24 people. Each team has its own uniform with red scarves on the participants’ heads. The shouts of encouragement, along with the determination of racers, always makes the festival very exciting.


The rowers work smoothly to make the boat go faster. Photo: Thong Thien/VNP


Scooping water out of the boat. Photo: Cong Dat/VNP


All fishing boats of Ly Son islanders dock near the racing area to encourage the teams. Photo: Cong Dat/VNP


The racing area stretches on over four nautical miles. Photo: Cong Dat/VNP


Ly Son islanders cheer the racing teams on a basket boat. Photo: Cong Dat/VNP 
 
The Ly Son boat racing festival invites numerous visitors for not only a dramatic competition but also for the delicate decorations of the boats, especially the heads and tails of the four holy beasts. The locals believe that the more beautiful the boats are, the luckier the racing team will be. Therefore, only skillful artisans are selected to decorate the boats. 
The festival expresses the ambition to  win the race and pay tribute to the ancestors. 


Story: Cong Dat        Photos: Cong Dat & Thong Thien       Translated by Nguyen Tuoi