A glittering celebration of history, culture awaits visitors at Festival Hue 2006

June 13, 2006

Finishing touches: Colourful lights highlight a royal dance at a final rehearsal for the 2006 Festival Hue. — VNS Photo Cong Hoan


Assembly line: Hue’s women work in groups to showcase the city’s famous conical hat making trade. — VNA/VNS Photo Quoc Viet


Astounding acrobatics: Vietnamese circus performers rehearsing for the big event. — VNS Photo Cong Hoan


Homestay, an option

"Planning hundreds of activities in only nine days was a real challenge for the Organisation Board. However, we have tried our best to overcome these problems," revealed Head of Festival Hue Organisation Committee Ngo Hoa.

There is also good news for visitors without a place to stay: Local Hue residents are now encouraged to use their houses as guest-houses to welcome visitors during the festival season. The solution proved useful two years ago, as 50 per cent of visitors to Festival Hue 2004 stayed in local homes.


Few cultural events will be able to top the extravagance and scope of Festival Hue 2006, running from June 3-11 in the ancient imperial city. Cam Giang reports from Hue.

Hue is in the midst of summer. Although the June sunshine has made the air a little bit heavy, it enhances the splendid sights of the festival city and fills the hearts of visitors with a feeling of excitement.

The opening day of Festival Hue 2006 is rapidly approaching, and the Purple Citadel’s picturesque courtyards and the city’s streets are the scene of countless rehearsals and preparations for the big event. Even the hotels are packed: as of May 9, the 44 standard hotels in the city were already filled to 78 per cent.

Like a phoenix, reborn even more powerful and brilliant in a new life cycle, Hue is breaking out after two years of hiding behind its tranquillity.

Following the success of the previous Festival Hue 2000, 2002, 2004, Festival Hue 2006 aims to transform the city into a festival destination in Viet Nam.

The number of visitors flocking to Hue rapidly increases every two years. Thus, according to Ngo Hoa, the Head of the Festival Hue Organisation Committee, one of the secrets to keeping the tourists coming is to "always keep the festival new".

The detailed festival schedule, featuring hundreds of programmes over nine days, would win the heart of any travel and culture lover. Apart from the common theme of every Festival Hue – celebrating cultural heritage along with integration and development – Festival Hue 2006 highlights the 700th anniversary of Thuan Hoa – Phu Xuan – Thua Thien-Hue. And to commemorate this anniversary, three key events are planned: the Nam Giao Ritual, Truyen Lo festivities and the Hue Royal Palace by Night ceremony.

The full Nam Giao Procession will be revived and will draw the participation of over 500 people with elephants, horses, flags and palanquins, boasting the majestic beauty of the grand event as it winds along city streets. Also, this is the first time the Truyen Lo festivities includes a symbolic procession ceremony of successful royal exam winners to their hometowns reappears as a part of the festival.

Hue by candlelight

Above all, the centrepiece of Festival Hue 2006 is the Hue Royal Palace by Night event, organised at the Royal Palace on three nights: June 3, 6 and 9. An art programme aimed at reviving the glistening beauty of the Royal Night, the programme introduces numerous cultural activities such as Hue royal court music, Hue royal dance, and Hue royal games.

The six most popular activities from the Hue Royal Court will be recreated for visitors, including Hue tea drinking, poem recitals, poetry calligraphy on lanterns, and Hue music.

Against the timeless structure of the ancient Royal Citadel, the beauty of the lantern-lit festivities promises to be something that visitors will never forget. The contrast of the eternal and the ephemeral of these magical nights will leave an indelible mark on those who are lucky enough to witness them.

Way of the water

The preparation for the festival is not only taking place on land but also on the river. The most striking sight awaiting visitors are the two gigantic garish-coloured dragon statues flying majestically above the poetic Huong River. Dubbed Two Dragons Playing With The Lotus, the three-dimensional work of art is a stunning attraction, awakening the traditional soul of the ancient capital.

A floating platform in the shape of a lotus leave will be built beneath the Trang Tien Bridge for a special ao dai performance. The ao dai designs will be inspired by Hue architecture, the curving images of dragon and phoenix, traditional ceramic patterns, and various picturesque landscapes. Ten collections with 300 designs will be featured in a performance set to the glittering light of candles and lanterns floating along the river. At the same time, on the bridge, the sky will be illuminated by a breathtaking fireworks display by French artist Pierre Alain Hubert.

Asked about the interesting combination of the two performances, Nguyen Xuan Hoa, the deputy head of the Festival Hue 2006 Organisation Board confided, "when we first made an ao dai performance on Trang Tien Bridge in 2000, Lai Van Sam, the director of a programme on VTV3, the entertainment channel of Viet Nam Television Co. regarded it as ‘extravagant’.

"However, we decided to make this vision a reality and the result will be a remarkable performance."

Royal revelry: A revival performance of what was once known as the Nam Giao Ritual, a ceremony performed exclusively for kings and royal family members. — VNA/VNSPhoto Anh Tuan

Graceful: Dancers accompany the royal court music of nha nhac, a newly recognised world heritage asset. — VNA/VNS Photo Tran Tuan

International guests

Undoubtedly, the cultural festival has grown into a major event on the country’s entertainment calendar. To date, 19 countries have sent thousands of artists to the festival, among which France is the main contributor.

The highlight of all the programmes could be a concert that brings together Hue royal court music; Aak, the Korean royal court music; and Japanese royal court music, Gagaku. This is the first time Vietnamese and foreign audiences will have the chance to participate in an event that brings these three unique royal music traditions under one roof.

A stay of nine days in one place may seem a bit long, but not considering all of the activities happening around the city of Hue on this occasion. All day, exhibitions of every kind will take place on the streets and in exhibition houses, while late night visitors can enjoy French video art and dance, Chinese classic operas, Argentina’s Folk-Tango Sensations Troupe, classical Thai dance, Royal court music, and numerous other outdoor activities like the lantern competition on Huong River.

Tourists looking for a change of pace can travel to the Lang Co Legendary Beach Festival 2006, taking place 60km south of the city. The festivities, part of Festival Hue 2006, are a great way to enjoy a special summer vacation. Visitors can take part in different water sports or join in the first-ever beer festival, where one can drink or even take a bath in beer.

Described both as a masterpiece and as poetic, the city of Hue is trying its best to reach the ultimate status of being designated an Asian festival city by 2010 and in the world by 2020. Under the motto of "always new", will Festival Hue 2006 bring the city one step closer to this goal? Whatever the answer, the whole affair will be wrapped in a shroud of mystery until opening day. — VNS

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