Celebrated on the 12th to the 13th day of the first lunar month, the Lim Festival is a national cultural activity. It honors beloved folk songs unique to the Bac Ninh Province of Vietnam as well as the Red River Delta region.
Expect to be impressed if not moved by the event’s most distinguishing feature: the Quan Ho singing.
Songs and Events
Quan Ho is a celebration of folk songs performed by male “lien anh” singers and female “lien chi” singers. These singers are actually conventional village farmers who transform to highly skilled Quan Ho artists exclusively for this event.
Listen to them sing various songs on different stages. Watch them on hills, on boats rowing gently on the river, the yard in the communal house, as well as in the pagoda’s yard.
The females wear the traditional four panel dress referred to as “au tu than” as well as large flat hats called “non quai thao”. The men wear a long dress and hold umbrellas.
Crowds circle the singers to listen to the Quan Ho’s heartfelt lyrics while chewing popular festival foods such as An Trau-areca, rose-petal, lime, and betel. The singers belt out alternate verses in groups or pairs.
The festival also features games that involve bamboo swings, rice cooking, wrestling, and human chess. A procession and worship ceremony are also performed. Colorful clothes, brassieres, handkerchiefs and conical hats are worn to reflect the spring season’s inherent vitality.
The event serves as an opportunity for young women and men to search for their life partners. Men and women go up the hill to sing and express their passionate grace and love.
History and Origin
The festival’s original goal was to worship Ba Mu, a female child in the Noi Due hamlet who lived religiously as a nun in the Buddhist Lim Pagoda. When she acquired enlightenment, Ba Mu took it upon herself to protect the Lim Village residents from a deathly drought.
Her selflessness compelled the villagers to declare Ba Mu as their guardian. The date of her enlightenment is the same day Lim Festival is held.
When did Quan Ho originate?
Quan Ho dates back from 500 years ago. The UNESCO recognized this special folk song as an indelible part of humanity’s, not just Vietnam’s, unique heritage. Quan Ho is a dynamic historical record of the day to day life of the country’s people.
The earliest songs are said to date back to the 15th century. Scholars believe that Quan Ho started in 1009-1225 under the Lu Dynasty.
Quan Ho’s lyrics involve analogies and are multifaceted. It offers questions, responses, and quizzes on a slew of subjects. A main feature of Quan Ho is its verbal and poetic introduction for every song. Messages made into Quan Ho songs are usually accompanied by explanations. Singers are also required to give their partners good company, food, and songs.
Visiting Quan Ho singers continue the song exchange until the afternoon and up to midnight. Song exchanges even last until dawn. At this time, the singers say their farewells and declare the hope they will once again meet in the future.