Tran Temple's Royal Seal Opening Ceremony
Royal Seal Opening Ceremony is an important ritual held annually at the Tran Temple Complex in Nam Dinh Province. This is one of the biggest traditional festivals in the country and attracts thousands of pilgrims and visitors nationwide. In this article, Vietnam Travel reveals the meaning and importance of this unique festival in Vietnamese cultural and religious life for your information.
1. Origin of the Royal Seal Opening – Tran Temple Festival.
Tran Dynasty (1225 – 1400) was the most prosperous dynasty in the feudal history of Vietnam, with three epic victories against Mongol invaders in 1258, 1285 and 1288.
During Tran Dynasty, Thien Truong Palace (now in My Loc District, Nam Dinh City) played its role as a special administrative and political centre in the south of Thang Long Capital (modern Hanoi). In the 15th century, the original complex of Thien Truong Palace was destroyed by the Ming Troops. And the Tran Temple Complex seen nowadays was rebuilt in the late 17th century on the base of Thien Truong Palace.
In 1239, the Tran King held a big party at Thien Truong Palace to praise the military officials and mandarins with meritorious performances. At midnight on the 14th day of the 1st lunar month, the King opened and stamped the royal seal and handed the stamped ones to his mandarins as the way to rewarding and conferring titles.
From that time, other Tran Kings maintained the Royal Seal Opening Ceremony as a cultural custom to express the gratitude to Heaven, Earth, and ancestors. Through the ups and downs of wars and history, the original Royal Seal was lost and its opening ceremony was not be kept.
In 1822, Minh Mang King (1820 – 1841) had new Royal Seal made and restored this religious ceremony on 14 – 15th of the first lunar month.
In recent years, local authority and residents have been trying to maintain this solemn ritual and organize it in larger scale, which attracts thousands of visitors every year.
2. Procedures of Tran Temple Festival.
Before the official event of the festival, on the 2nd of lunar January, Tran Temple Complex’s Management Board proceeds the opening ceremony of the Royal Seal and stamps it on yellow papers.
The official part of the ceremony starts at 10:50 pm on the 14th day of the first lunar month, with an incense offering at Thien Truong Temple, which is dedicated to worship 14 Kings of the Tran Dynasty and their ancestors, with the participation of 120 delegates from Tuc Mac Village – the birthplace of King Tran Thai Tong. A procession then carrying the Royal Seal from Co Trach Temple – dedicated to General Tran Hung Dao, to Thien Truong Temple is taken place with traditional rites in a solemn atmosphere.
After that, replicas of the Royal Seal stamped papers will be distributed to pagodas, temples in the region, as well as to pilgrims and visitors. The distribution of the seal stamped papers is continued until the end of lunar January, which helps to ease the crowd of pilgrims on main event period (14th and 15th day).
A festival will be held right after the ritual part with many interesting traditional games and activities, such as: weightlifting, wrestling, dragon and tiger dances, and chess competition.
During the festival, people from neighboring regions and nationwide are warmly welcome to the Tran Temple by the warm-hearted local residents.
3. Meanings of the Festival.
Rituals at the Tran Temple Complex presents a triumphant period in Vietnam’s feudal history and encourage a spirit of patriotism. Almost people are willing to wait in long queues for hours with the purpose to receive the Royal Seal stamped papers. Because they believe that with this yellow papers in hand, they will receive more luck and more success in their career in the upcoming year. However, a few people could deeply understand the real meaning of the Royal Seal.
– The 4 large words printed in the central of the Royal Seal are: “Tran Trieu Dien Co” – refers that this Royal Seal is an antique treasure of Tran Dynasty, which needs to be preserved carefully.
– There are 4 smaller words carved in the lower edge of Royal Seal: “Tich Phuc Vo Cuong”. With this statement, Tran Kings wanted to educate their people to have right attitudes and good manners in every aspect of their lives. That way of living is such a good way to bestow blessings for their next generations.
People have many different reasons to attend the Royal Seal Opening Ceremony at Tran Temple, and Vietnam Travel highly recommends you visiting the festival to witness the unique cultural activities, especially the splendid and radiant spirit of people in this sacred land. If not on time of the Royal Seal Opening Ceremony, visitors still can come to visit Tran Temple and the nearby imposing Keo Pagoda in Thai Binh Province as a day trip from Hanoi.