The first-ever recreation of the traditional custom of distributing food to local residents as initiated by royal general Tran Hung Dao (1228-1300) will take place at the Tran Thuong Temple located in Ha Nam Province.
The event, held at the building which is constructed on a site of one of the royal granaries under the Tran Dynasty, commemorates the general's 710th death anniversary on February 27 and 28.
The granaries, which were believed to have been located in Tran Thuong Hamlet, Nhan Dao Commune, Ly Nhan District in northern province of Ha Nam (50km to the south of Hanoi), were located on a site with a scarce population but good transportation links to various parts of the country.
From the place, boats could reach the Hong (Red) River and access Thang Long Citadel or the sea. Because of the location, Tran Hung Dao ordered the construction of six granaries to serve the nation in repulsing the second Mongol invasion in 1285.
After the victory, the general gathered nearby local residents to serve in royal temples where national festivals were organised. These people were exempted from national taxes and labour duties and formed a dense population in Tran Thuong, Doi Xuyen, Hoang Xa, Khu Mat hamlets.
Although no records of the Tran Dynasty's granary exist, folk legend and archaeological remains near Tran Thuong Temple including black, brown and dark yellow glazed porcelain pieces with decorative patterns in the Tran Dynasty style and other jar pieces have given credence to the theory.
Legend also said that local residents used to organise food distribution ceremonies at the beginning of the Lunar New Year to commemorate the general's achievements and to educate following generations in the necessity of saving and building food stocks for emergencies.
Local residents and visitors from other localities used to flock to the temple to ask for symbolic portions as lucky charm for the New Year.
This year, local authorities will organise a large scale ceremony to highlight the tradition and attract tourists.
According to Nguyen Thanh Trong, Chairman of Ly Nhan District's People's Committee, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has approved a plan to develop the whole Tran Thuong Temple site during the 2009-2015 period.
The site, which is located over 100ha, includes the Tran Thuong Temple, Troc Communal House, Ru Pagoda, Khu Hoang Temple, a commercial trading area, an ecological tourism site, a ceremonial area and space for folk games.
Last year, Tran Thuong Temple was renovated at a total cost of VND16 billion (US$866,500). A 800m-long new road leading to the temple has been built.
The food distribution ceremony will start at 11.30pm on February 27 until the following morning. Local leaders and honoured guests will participate in the ceremony and receive the first portions. Then, from midnight, they will distribute the symbolic portions to ordinary people.
Bui Quoc Toan, a local culture official said that around 5,000 portions would be distributed. Each portion includes some corn, rice and a paper with the Tran Dynasty stamp.
The temple which has been built at the site of the main royal granary is one among three largest temples in the country dedicated to Tran Hung Dao, his family and other generals, who made great contributions in the fight against the invading Mongols.
Tran Hung Dao was a military Grand Commander based at Thang Long (former name of Hanoi) during the Tran Dynasty. Born as Tran Quoc Tuan, he commanded the Dai Viet armies that repelled two major Mongol invasions in the 13th century.
His multiple victories over the mighty Mongol Yuan Dynasty under Kublai Khan are considered among the greatest military feats in Vietnamese history.
General Tran Hung Dao's military prowess is reflected in his many treatises on warfare and he is still considered to be one of the most accomplished generals in world history.