One of the couple’s children became King Hùng and founded Van Lang, the first nation in Vietnamese history. Having ruled Vietnam for 18 generations, the Hùng Kings are worshiped at a complex of temples.
The Hùng Kings Temple, 80 kilometers west of Hanoi, is a Special National Historical Relic in Viet Tri city. The former capital of Van Lang lies between two rivers that served to protect the capital.
The temple complex was built on Nghia Linh Mountain during King Đinh Tiên Hoàng’s rule in the 10th century and upgraded to its present form in the 15th century. The 850-hectare complex consists of four temples, one pagoda, a tomb, and a museum featuring the formation and development of Van Lang.
Nguyễn Thị Mai Hương, a manager at the Hùng Kings Temple historical site, said: “The upper, central, and lower temples commemorate the 18 Hùng Kings. The fourth worships two daughters of the 18th Hung King: princesses Tiên Dung and Ngọc Hoa.”
The 8.5-meter entrance arch has 8 tiled roofs engraved with dragons and lion cubs. In the front are embossments of two soldiers wearing amour, one carrying a spear and one carrying an axe.
Up the mountain from the entrance arch is Lower Temple, where there are three thrones and tablets to worship all 18 Hùng Kings. According to the legend of Vietnam’s origin, Lạc Long Quân married Âu Cơ, who laid a sac of 100 eggs at Lower temple from which 100 children hatched. The temple is where President Hồ Chí Minh spoke with soldiers on their way to take over Hanoi in 1954. He said, famously, that “the Hùng Kings founded the nation; you and I must together protect it”.
Further up the mountain is Middle Temple. This is where the 6th Hùng King held a competition to select as his successor, who ever had the best offering for ancestral worship, instead of following the usual custom of ceding the throne to his oldest son.
His youngest son, Lang Liêu, who used sticky rice to make a white round cake (Giay) and green square cake (Chung) to symbolize the sky and the earth, won the competition and became the 7th Hùng King.
At the top of the mountain is Upper Temple. The top of Nghia Linh mountain is where ancient Vietnamese people worshipped the Gods of Heaven and Rice. During their reign, the Hùng Kings brought bronze drums here for rituals to pray for good weather, bumper crops, happiness, and prosperity. Their descendants built Upper Temple on the mountain peak to honor the Hùng Kings by conducting the most important Hùng Kings commemoration rituals on the 10th day of the 3rd lunar month.”
Other sites in the Hùng Kings Temple complex are Thien Quang pagoda, a tomb believed to be the grave of the 6th Hùng King, a temple to worship Âu Cơ, and a temple built in 2007 to worship Lạc Long Quân.
The complex welcomes millions of Vietnamese and foreign visitors each year, 8 million in the first three months of this year. Trần Liệt Oanh, a 94-year-old war veteran, said “I’m happy today to offer incense to our ancestors as the Hùng Kings death anniversary approaches. This may be the last time in my life I’m able to do so. I see many children here, evidence that younger generations will follow President Hồ Chí Minh’s advice to defend our nation. The Vietnamese people have devoted thousands of years to national construction and defense and we should stay the course.”
The worship of the Hùng Kings has been recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. A festival is held on their death anniversary, the 10th day of the 3rd lunar month, to commemorate the enormous contributions of the Hùng Kings.