Crowds of people packed the An Vinh communal house in the central island district of Ly Son on April 20 for the Feast and Commemoration Festival for Hoang Sa Soldiers.
The annual ceremony pays respects to soldiers and sailors of the Hoang Sa Flotilla under the Nguyễn Dynasty, who traveled to Hoang Sa (Paracel) islands every year to exercise national sovereignty over sea and islands.
“The ceremony, which follows our tradition of remembering the source of the water we drink, pays tribute to our predecessors who safeguarded our Hoang Sa and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos. They set a shining example for later generations in protecting national sovereignty,” Nguyễn Thanh Phương, the festival’s chief organizer, said.
(Photo: Hien Cu/thanhnien.vn)
Centuries ago, the nguyễn Lords sent 70 villagers from Ly Son island to Hoang Sa to exploit marine resources. At the end of the 16th century, the Hoang Sa Flotilla was set up.
Tens of thousands of sailors overcame storms and roaring waves to measure sea routes and erect steles on islands to affirm territorial sovereignty as well as to harvest seafood and other maritime resources.
Paper boats symbolizing the Hoang Sa Flotilla are released into the sea. (Photo: Nguyen Trang/SGGP)
During the festival, paper boats with effigies of Hoang Sa soldiers and offerings such as chicken, steamed rice, and salt were released into the sea.
Ly Son island has nearly 100 relics, most of which are related to the Hoang Sa Flotilla, such as the empty graves built for the soldiers who never returned to land and the temples dedicated to the captains of the Hoang Sa Flotilla.
The Feast and Commemoration Festival for Hoang Sa Soldiers, which is held every April on the island, has been recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage.