The annual Tay Thien Festival opened on March 30, the 15th day of the 2nd lunar month, at the Truc Lam (Bamboo Forest) Tay Thien Zen Monastery in the northern province of Vinh Phuc.
Located in Dai Dinh Commune, Tam Dao District on Tay Thien Mountain, 85km west of Hanoi, it is considered one of the most impressive and peaceful monasteries in Vietnam together with the Zen Monastery in Dalat in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong and the Yen Tu Monastery in the northern province of Quang Ninh.
This year the festival was welcomed by a van (spiritual) singing festival featuring troupes from ten Northern provinces that started on March 26.
Various other traditional festivities and rituals were held to honour the Goddess of Tay Thien, observed by 30 researchers.
Legend has it that the Goddess of Tay Thien is Lang Thi Tieu, Hung Chieu Vuong’s Queen (2450 BCE), who helped the king defeat invaders and teach the people how to grow rice and develop handicrafts. Apart from the Tay Thien Monastery, she is also thought to have worshipped at 71 other temples and pagodas in the local area.
Dang Van Bai, Former Director of Heritage Department under Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said that worshipping the Goddess of Tay Thien was part of the Holy Mother Religion of the Vietnamese, a long-standing religion that has a powerful influence over a large area. He also emphasized two intangible features of the religion including van singing and hau dong (mediumship).
During three-day festival, various activities will be held such as displays by the San Diu ethnic group, folk singing contests, cooking rice and folk games.
Built on ruins of an ancient pagoda, Truc Lam Tay Thien Zen Monastery sits majestically on the apex of the mountain, where from below the red tips of its tile-covered roof can be seen peaking through the pine trees. The Zen Monastery was officially inaugurated on November 27, 2005. It is very ornate, from the carved pictures on the doors to the embossed works on the walls, ceilings, and pillars, every detail was considered.
In addition to the monastery, there are support buildings constructed in the ancient architectural style including a library, museum, meditation house for monks, and temples in honour of the three founders of Truc Lam Zen.
Walking around the buildings, visitors can almost taste the tranquility that is in the air of the mountainous landscape and holy temples.