Tu Linh (Four Holy Beasts) boat race festival in Ly Son Island, an emerging travel destination in Quang Ngai Province, has been designated a national intangible cultural heritage.
The festival was first held in 1826, according to Ly Son islanders. It aims to pay homage to the island’s ancestral inhabitants and soldiers who have fought for national sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes.
The event is also an opportunity for local fishermen to pray for prosperity, peace and smooth voyages at sea.
A beach on Dao Be (Small Island) in Ly Son Island, central Vietnam. Photo by Shutterstock/Big Pearl.
Each year, from the fourth to eighth day of the first lunar month, islanders and mainland visitors flock to Ly Son for the boat race.
Eight boats participating in the race are decorated following the images of four holy beasts, including long (dragon), lan (unicorn), quy (turtle) and phung (phoenix). Before the festival opens, teams typically worship their specific gods.
Ly Son islanders believe the winning team would enjoy the most peace and prosperity during the year.
Participants should be healthy and skillful men. In the past, the boats were designed for only 14 people; however, in recent years, they have been designed to carry 24.
Ly Son lies 30 kilometers offshore and covers nearly 10 square kilometers. Formed by five mountains, four of which are dormant volcanoes, it comprises three islands including Dao Lon (Big Island), Dao Be (Small Island) and Mu Cu Islet.
The island district, formerly off the beaten track, has become increasingly popular in recent years.
Ly Son is currently home to two festivals recognized as national intangible cultural heritages, with the other being “Le khao le the linh Hoang Sa” (Feast and Commemoration Festival for Hoang Sa Soldiers).