Come to Ba pagoda festival, take part in lantern auction

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Taking place during the fortnight of the first lunar month, with the main day on the 15th, Ba Pagoda Festival in Binh Duong attracts a great number of pilgrims coming from the southwest.

Each spring, from the 1st day of the Lunar New Year, people from all over flock to Ba pagoda in Binh Duong, lighting incense, praying for a lucky and prosperous year. The major visitors are the Chinese people living in Ho Chi Minh City. The pilgrims come to the festival continuously; it lasts until Tet Nguyen tieu, the day of the full moon in the first lunar month.

On this occasion, thousands of people converge to the Ba Pagoda festival procession of Ba Chua Xu – Ba ThienHau, established by the Chinese association in the late 18th and early 19thcentury. According to the Chinese guilds, Ba (the lady) was born on March 23rd, year Giap Than (the year of monkey, 1044). She was able to read since her age of eight and became a Buddhist when she was eleven.   When she was thirteen, she found some old books in a well, and through studyingthem became enlightened.

Once, there was a big storm when her father and her two brothers carried salt to sell in Jiangxi Province (China). At that time, she was weaving, sitting next to her mother but stopped suddenly and went to save her father. She used her teeth to bite his shirt and her hands to grab her two brothers. Right at the moment, she was called by her mother; she had hardly answered before her father was swept away; she was only able to save her two brothers. Since her father’s death, she often rescued people during storms. After her death, people built a temple worshiping her. Until year Canh Dan (the year of the tiger, 1110), she was ordained as “ThienHauThanh Mau”. The meaning of worshipping her has been handed down when the Chinese built her temple in Binh Duong, a place for pilgrims to worship and pray for luck as well as prosperity when the spring and lunar new year come.

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During the festival, her procession is carried around the streets and wards in the city center area, Thu Dau Mot, bringing luck to all people and is then returned to the temple. The procession time is about 15 hours. It was carried by lions, dragon dance groups coming from Ho Chi Minh City and neighboring provinces with hundreds of brilliant colors. The kids are dressed just like the “Tien Dong Ngoc Nu” (people serving the fairies), tossing flowers from the float parade, making it looks like fireworks all the way of approximately five kilometers. Following them are the groups dressed as Phuoc(happiness), Loc(luck), Tho (long-lasting life) and Duong Tam Tang group (characters in “Hsi Yu Chi”, a classic Chinese novel), people walking on stilts, Western and Chinese music bands… in the cheerful atmosphere.

As the procession goes by, people try to pray for blessings of luck and fortune. In front of each house, they place formal altars filled with fruits, incense; red envelopes are given out when the lions and dragon dance groups pass by, performing to bring good luck to each home.

In particular, prior to the festival at the pagoda, there is an auction ceremony for the lanterns brought here from many pagodas. There are about 9 to 12 lanterns, depending on each temple. Each lantern has its own name and meaning. They are called: “Nhat bon van loi”, “Dinh tai luongvuong”, “Tam tinhloctho”, “Tuquy hung long”, “Huuphuoc lam mom”,  “Luc ma phu tri”. “That tinhphunghuyet”, “Bat tien ho tho”, “Truong truongcuucuu”. Lanterns sold at the auction range from a few millions to hundreds of millions by the locals and Ho Chi Minh city Chinese enterprises to buy fortune for the new year and hoping forgood luck throughout the year. All of the money collected is used for charity.

Ba Pagoda festival in Binh Duong is both a unique festival of the Chinese community and the spring festival of the people in Binh Duong as well. The festival attracts people from all over to enjoy folk culture and gathering together in the new spring and wish for harmony, happiness and fortune for all.