Phủ Giày complex is made up of palace Tiên Hương, Vân Cát, the tomb of god, Lý Nam Đế temple, Linh Sơn pagoda... in Kim Thái commune, Vụ Bản district, Nam Định province and it stands out specifically in a large area of rice-fields and rivers.
Every year, the festival takes place from 1st – 10th of lunar March and it’s one of five most important events in Viet Nam to celebrate the mother-lady Liễu Hạnh, the first in maternity worship and one of 4 immortals in spiritual life of the Vietnamese.
In front of Tiên Hương palace, there’s a round well meaning water-supply for prosperity. In the middle of the well there’s an earthen hill as a flag-pole, cross a large yard, there are gate columns and an image of a unicorn, then there are 3 smaller houses: one for stele, one for drums and one for gongs. Each one is two-stored with eight roofs in between the stone staircases. There are 4 tigers stand watching the palace and you will be surprised to see a stone-laid road around a semi-circular lake, in front is a stone wind-shield wall made in Chinese character-shape depicting fine decoration and cultural identities. The sides are liked by a stone railing, at each side-end there’s a stone-dragon looking up the palace.
Unlike Tiên Hương palace, Vân Cát lies in a refined atmosphere, in front is a large semi-circular lake then comes the 5-door gate. Centrally located is the temple dedicated to “goddess Liễu”. On the left side is a Buddhist pagoda and in right side is a temple dedicated to Lý Nam Đế. Tomb of the goddess is built of stone, centrally is an eight-side smaller tomb, each is 1m long.
Apart from usually religious activities in the festival, there’s “hầu đồng or hầu bóng or closely related to songs and dance popularly famous in Phủ Giày. Singing and religious dance depicting dailylife activities, sampan-riding… make the festive more fascinating.
Procession of sedan-chair in Phủ Giày is partially important. It’s performed in the merry and ritual ceremony, villagers and monks and local officials on hand-pulling carts make the atmosphere exciting and expecting. There are also dragon dance, lion dance and dance of 4 sacred animals, martial arts... especially a procession of 3 dragons made of coloured balloon, symbols of 3 goddesses that look lively and solemn.
A contest of letters-tugging is normally organized on 7, 8 and 9 of lunar March. 20 or 30 young men sent by villages dressed in yellow, wearing red scarves, red belts, white trousers, red leggings and in hand, each holds a stick (3m long stuck with coloured letters) and all is directed by a head-master. The players will run round the lake, then stand in a position that make a letter. It’s really a beautiful line of letters, colourful, sparkling in sunshine. There are usually 4 letters: “mẫu nghi thiên hạ” or the mother of the world, “Quang phục thánh thiện” or brightly shown of kindness, “Hòa cốc phong đăng” or good weather and bumper crops, “Thiên hạ thái bình” or peace for the whole mankind. It’s said to be kind of religious activity but also a game of sports participated by thousands of players and supporters.
Visitors to Phủ Giầy could also pay visit to Viềng market, it’s not only a market but a spiritual and cultural activities. Marker-goers do not mean to buy cheap or sell dear, they just come to buy something, no bargaining for good luck only. There are almost on sales farming tools or agricultural products, dailylife tools like a basket, a set of tea-cup, worship objects, decoratives, jewelleries... and every goers expects to try baked beef or buy some rice cakes.
Viềng market is closely associated to Liễu Hạnh worshipping. Visitors can visit market, and pray at goddess Liễu Hạnh palace or burn incenses at Mẫu Thượng or Mẫu Thoải temples to pray for good luck, prosperity, happiness, good weather and bumper crops.
Phủ Giày festival is kind of cultural spiritual activity, popularly known and famous in spring time.