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Island district’s century-old boat racing festival becomes Vietnam’s national heritage

Wednesday, April 28, 2021, 16:01 GMT+7
Island district’s century-old boat racing festival becomes Vietnam’s national heritage
Teams compete at the Tu Linh boat racing festival on Ly Son District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam. Photo: Bui Thanh Trung / Tuoi Tre

A boat racing festival with a history of about 200 years in the island district of Ly Son, administered by the central province of Quang Ngai, has been recognized as Vietnam's national intangible cultural heritage.

The certificate presentation ceremony was held on Tuesday by the People’s Committee of Ly Son District.

According to old documents kept by Duong Huu Nghia’s family -- one of the first seven clans of settlers on Ly Son, the Tu Linh boat racing festival was first held there in 1827.

Tu Linh means four holy creatures -- the dragon, kylin, tortoise, and phoenix -- in Vietnamese.

The festival often takes place from the fourth to seventh days of Tet, or Vietnamese Lunar New Year, to pray for good weather, bumper crops, and peace. 

It is also meant to pay tribute to ancestors who explored this land, as well as the then-Hoang Sa flotilla that planted sovereignty markers on Vietnam's Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes in the East Vietnam Sea.

Teams compete at the Tu Linh boat racing festival in Ly Son District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam, April 27, 2021. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

Teams compete at the Tu Linh boat racing festival on Ly Son District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam, April 27, 2021. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

To preserve and bring into play this festival, Dr. Nguyen Dang Vu, former director of the Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of Quang Ngai from 2009 to 2017, pioneered seeking its inclusion in the list of national intangible cultural heritage.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism granted the recognition in September 2020.

Following the certificate presentation ceremony on Tuesday morning, eight boats from An Vinh and An Hai Villages on Ly Son competed in a race to re-enact the festival, attracting a large number of spectators.

“For nearly 200 years, the Tu Linh boat race has been the largest festival on the island,” said Minh, an old local man. 

“We consider this a chance to show the spirit and will of our people at sea.”

Teams compete at the Tu Linh boat racing festival in Ly Son District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam, April 27, 2021. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

Teams compete at the Tu Linh boat racing festival on Ly Son District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam, April 27, 2021. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

With the recognition of the Tu Linh boat racing, Ly Son District is now home to two festivals named as national intangible cultural heritage, with the first being 'Le Khao Le The Linh Hoang Sa” (Feast and Commemoration Festival for Hoang Sa Soldiers).

The Feast and Commemoration Festival for Hoang Sa Soldiers won the title in 2016 and was held on April 19 this year.

Families on Ly Son Island and in many coastal areas in Quang Ngai have observed the festival through hundreds of years to pay tribute to the men enlisted in the Hoang Sa flotilla.

Ly Son Island is located about 55 kilometers from the mainland, covering an area of less than ten square kilometers.

It is well known for several scenic spots and freshly-served seafood among Vietnamese locals, as well as its production of a special variety of garlic.

Teams compete at the Tu Linh boat racing festival in Ly Son District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam. Photo: Bui Thanh Trung / Tuoi Tre

Teams compete at the Tu Linh boat racing festival on Ly Son District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam. Photo: Bui Thanh Trung / Tuoi Tre

A man beats the drum to cheer on teams competing at the Tu Linh boat racing festival in Ly Son District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam, April 27, 2021. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

A man beats the drum to cheer on teams competing at the Tu Linh boat racing festival on Ly Son District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam, April 27, 2021. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

Spectators cheer on teams competing at the Tu Linh boat racing festival in Ly Son District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam, April 27, 2021. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

Spectators cheer on teams competing at the Tu Linh boat racing festival on Ly Son District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam, April 27, 2021. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

Teams compete at the Tu Linh boat racing festival in Ly Son District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam. Photo: Bui Thanh Trung / Tuoi Tre

Teams compete at the Tu Linh boat racing festival on Ly Son District, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam. Photo: Bui Thanh Trung / Tuoi Tre

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