Interesting features of Nang Hai (Moon’s mother) festival in Chu Lang, Kim Dong commine village, Thach An district, Cao Bang

Tuesday - 21/12/2021 15:52

Cao Bang in general and Non nuoc Cao Bang UGGp in particular is an exceptional territory with diverse and interesting history and culture. This is home to different ethnic minority groups such as Tay, Nung, Mong, Dao, Lo Lo and San Chi, etc. Each group possesses different customs and practices.

          Tay ethnic minority group in Non nuoc Cao Bang are famous for Nang Hai festival which demonstrates the wishes for good crops of farmers. Particularly, the Nang Hai festival in Tien Thanh commune, Phuc Hoa district was recognized as the National intangible heritage in 2017. In addition, the Nang Hai festival in Chu Lang, Kim Dong commune, Thach An also different from the other which demonstrate stereotypes of Tay people living in Thach An district.

          Nang Hai Festival in Chu Lang village is organized for several days, normally from the beginning of March to 18th of March (lunar calendar).  

          To prepare for the Festival, people chose a wide area at the entrance of the village to set up the tent for Nang Hai and it will be the ground for activities to farewell Nang Hai back to the heaven. Nang Hai tent is made of bamboo poles, and inside put a tray of offerings including two incense holders and there is a paper-swallow on each holder which plays the role of an information ambassador between the earth and heaven. In front of the offering tray, there are bunches of wild flowers for rite practice at night time.

 The main actors in the practice of the festival includes: two shamans, one is in charge of the rite at the sacred shrine, one is in charge of the rite at the Land god shrine to recall the soul of Nang Hai back to the earth. Two young and beautiful girls played the characters named Cuong and So to host the soul of Nang Hai. Cuong wears the yellow dress with a yellow scarf. So wears the red dress with a red scarf. Tay people named them “Hai Po, Hai Me”. One important character is Ba Tam who can sing different songs with experience in hosting festivals; this is the one who teach Cuong and So to sing and dance and their maids. Another two characters are Me Co who takes the responsibility to lead in the songs and take care of Nang Hai. There are about 20-40 maids, half of them follow Cuong wearing yellow dress with yellow scarf and the rest follow So with red dress and scarf; they bring with them the offerings and escort Nang Hai to the heaven to offer the gifts to the heaven, they also sing and join the fan dancing in the last day of the festival. There are two more young and single men who play the role of Cu Tien at The Nang Hai farewell day. Cu Tien hold two branches of bamboo with the end ties a cloth bag holding betel known as “Co Tien” which is brought a head by Cu Tien to sweep the road for Nang Hai to carry out the rite.

          On the opening day of the Festival, the shamans, Ba Tam, Me Co and two Cuong, So bring the offerings including a tray of sticky rice with chicken to carry out the rite at the Land god shrine to ask for permission for the organization of the Festival and for Nang Hai to come to the area. The shamans carry out practice to recall the soul of Nang Hai to merge into Cuong and So. After that, Nang Hai goes to the tent to practice singing and dancing for the Festival day. During the nights in the midst of the Festival, in case there are visitors from other villages they will stop their practice to exchange the singing with visitors.

          On the Nang Hai farewell day, also the key day of the Festival, people in the village slaughter a pig and a chicken as their offerings. Their offerings also include a wooden sample boat with beautiful decoration, two trays of sticky rice of Cuong and So which are covered with flowery cloth. Particularly on the Nang Hai farewell day, 63 households in the village carry with them a hand-basket with two bowls of mountain-like shape and red-black sticky rice to offer to the Moon’s Mother. The offerings are set at the most important position, normally at the center of the Festival ground with surrounded fence and black and white cloth roofing. The black and white cloths function as a bridge to transport the gift to the mothers. The offerings are conjured by the Shaman for the purity. In addition, the offering also includes one box of seeds, fried 8 shape rice cakes, and round shape rice cake.

The offerings practice to the Moon’s Mother in the Nang Hai festival in Chu Lang, Kim Dong commune, Thach An district.
The offerings practice to the Moon’s Mother in the Nang Hai festival in Chu Lang, Kim Dong commune, Thach An district.

In the early morning, the Shaman in charge of the rite at the sacred shrine brings the slaughtered pig to the shrine to carry out practice and ask for the heaven return permission, after that the offerings are set at the stage of the Festival. The main activities of the Festival are carried out in the afternoon; The Shaman conjured to lead the march through the gates like the the Land god shrine, sacred shrine, the devil cave, the King of the heaven, the Five basic elements, father of Nang Hai, mother of Nang Hai, mother for rain, Mother for seeds. The procedures of the Festival are as follows: Receiving Nang Hai with the practices of soul merging into Cuong and So, purification, abandonment of contamination; followed by the practice of escorting including fan dancing, checking boat, exchanging folk songs, setting offerings on the boat, and giving the offerings to the Moon’s Mother; The festival ends with thanksgiving practice, cleaning the ground, removing the camp, spread the seeds; For the practice of Nang Hai escorting, the people carry with them the offerings towards the stream and sing along their march for the release boat. The shamans conjure to free the soul of Nang Hai from Cuong and So.

Father thanksgiving practice at the Festival in Chu Lang, village, Kim Dong commune, Thach An district.
Father thanksgiving practice at the Festival in Chu Lang, village, Kim Dong commune, Thach An district.

The Nang Hai festival also includes a rite with different chapters describing the march of people lead by Cuong and So to the heaven to pray for fruitful crops. Such as: praying for the April for water for seedlings in the fields but not too much or praying for the mothers to keep the insects and worm from the crops. The fan dancing of Nang Hai and the maids is very graceful between hands and legs which normally require skillfulness in the incense praying dancing or Sluong dancing, the dancing demonstrates the action of giving offerings, flowers, rice cake. The last one is Land god, local authority, and visitors thanksgiving dancing.
The Nang Hai festival in Chu Lang, Kim Dong is one of interesting festivals. The sacred spirits of the Festival is manifested with the merging of the sould of Nang Hai into Cuong and So and Nang Hai lead the march to the Heaven through the imagination of people which is demonstrated in the songs. This place also well-known for the preservation of Sluong dancing, love-exchange couple song of Tay people, and singing in chorus while the shaman carry out the rite or Ba Tam leads into the songs, then people follow which create a chorus, and visitors will be enchanted with the Chorus or the fan dancing.  

The dancing at the Festival in Chu Lang, Kim Dong, Thach An district.
The dancing at the Festival in Chu Lang, Kim Dong, Thach An district.
Sluong dancing at the Festival in Chu Lang, Kim Dong, Thach An district.
Sluong dancing at the Festival in Chu Lang, Kim Dong, Thach An district.

Though there are regulations on the selection of people to participate in the rite at the moment, they are as not as strict as they used to be and the people here still take the organization of this Festival seriously. To them, it is not only the traditional Festival to pray for fruitful crops but demonstrates their hope for a peaceful and comfortable life; generations after generations will preserve their Festival.      

           Mrs Nong Thi Chin, who is 70 years old and once played the role of Nang Hai, now is chosen to play the role of Ba Tam and she continues to teach younger generation the folk songs and the fan dancing for the Festival. Though she is 70 years old, she is very smart, active, and proud of her role as “Ba Tam”, and she sings a folk song that is part of the songs in the Festival; the song is about the hope and thanks for the support of gods that their crops in the year are fruitful.

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