Hùng temple, locating on Nghĩa Lĩnh mountain, Cổ Tích village, Hy Cương commune, Phong Châu district, Phú Thọprovince, is considered the most sacred of the historic sites by the Vietnamese. The area is a complex consisting of several temples dedicated to the cult of Hùng Vương – the first descendants the mythological founders of the Vietnamese, Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ. Styled sequentially as Hung Vuong I to Hung Vuong XVIII, the monarchs were the first dynastic rulers of Van Lang, the primordial kingdom of the Vietnamese.
Popular belief designates the Hùng temple as also the site of Van Lang’s capital, Phong Châu. The kingdom is associated with the Đông Sơn culture and the famous bronze drums. For the successive Vietnamese dynasties and states, the Hùng Temples are revered with annual processional festivities known as Giỗ Tổ Hùng Vương held every 10th day of 3rd lunar month.
Legend recounts that in his search for a site for his court, Hung Vuong I traveled to 99 places but found none to his satisfaction. Upon reaching the village of Hy Cương, the king’s mount abruptly stopped and whinnied. The king climbed the highest peak Mount Nghĩa Lĩnh nearby where he scanned the four directions. It was then that he proclaimed the site as fitting of his capital.
Located in the midland province of Phú Thọ the landscape combines both mountains and rivers. In feng shui terminology, the site fits the ideals of “sơn chầu thủy tụ” (mountains and rivers gather), “long chầu hổ phục” (dragons and tigers prostrate), “phượng bay ngựa chạy” (phoenixes ascend and horses gallop), abundant of “khí thiêng sông núi” (sacred energy of the land). The rugged hills provide protection against attacks yet with the rivers coursing through, afford easy access. Phú Thọ being at the confluence of three major rivers: the Đà River with its black water, the Thao river with its red silt and the Lô River with its clear water, is well situated to link the uplands and the lower delta.
From Nghĩa Lĩnh mountain looking downstream, the low hills seem to stack themselves as graduating steps up to Hùng temple. Looking upstream the village of Hy Cương guards the rear. Khang Phụ hill on the right and An Thái hill on the left of the temples form the tiger-dragon pairing. At the foot of the mountain are Cổ Tích village and Thậm Thình village. These named locales are associated with various myths of the Hung Vuong era including the creation of the heaven and earth bánh chưng and bánh dày. From Thậm Thình to Phú Lộc legend spoke of the 100 elephants hills. Of these, 99 elephants peer up at the temples but one errant elephant turned the other way. For that, the hill appeared “headless” as it was punished by decapitation.
Nghĩa Lĩnh mountain being the highest in the group, rises to the height of 175 m. Its peers, the mountains Trọc, Vặn, and Pheo cluster nearby forming the “Tam Sơn Cấm Địa” (the three forbidden mountains).
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