The “Le khao le the linh Hoang Sa” (Feast and Commemoration Festival for Hoang Sa Soldiers) pays tribute to the men enlisted in the flotilla to patrol the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos to tap natural resources and defend national island sovereignty.

The Feast and Commemoration Festival for Hoang Sa Soldiers is held in Ly Son District, Quang Ngai Province.

According to history, the Hoang Sa flotilla was established in early 17th century under the Nguyen Lords’ reign in the south of Vietnam. Each year, 70 fishermen from An Vinh and An Hai villages around the Sa Ky estuary and the An Vinh and An Hai villages on Ly Son island were enlisted in the flotilla, which was assigned the mission of surveying sea routes, erecting sovereignty landmarks and steles declaring national territory in Hoang Sa and Truong Sa. They began their trip in the second lunar month and returned six months later.

Since their mission was fraught with danger, a ceremony was held before the trip to pray for their safety. Puppets representing the soldiers and basics like rice, salt, fuel wood, and drinking water were put on replica boats which were then released into the sea to symbolically substitute for the soldiers.

The ceremony has been observed over centuries by families in Ly Son and many coastal areas in Quang Ngai, attracting increasing participation from visitors across Vietnam in recent years.

Truong Duyet, head of the ritual board of An Hai village's communal house, said that every year in the second lunar month, villagers in An Hai organize a ceremony to commemorate and pay tribute to the heroic soldiers of Hoang Sa in the past. The ceremony also helps islanders and tourists better understand the difficulties, hardships and contributions of the Hoang Sa militia in protecting and preserving national maritime sovereignty.

After the ceremony this year, a boat race was held. In the past, such races were organized to select skillful and strong seafarers to join the Hoang Sa flotilla.

Source: VNA