The annual Quan The Am (Avalokitecvara) Festival, one of Viet Nam’s biggest Buddhist festivals, takes place at Ngu Hanh Son District’s Quan The Am (Avalokitecvara) Pagoda in the Marble Mountains Tourist Area on the 17th,18th and 19th days of the 2nd lunar month. The main festival day is on the 19th day of the second lunar month.
It was first organised in 1962 for the inauguration of the Avalokitecvara Buddhisattava statue in Hoa Nghiem Cave on Thuy Son (the Mountain of Water) – the highest of the five Marble Mountains. The same year, the festival was reorganized in Kim Son cave after the construction of the Quan The Am Pagoda on the Kim Son Mount. After 2 years, the festival celebrated the inauguration of the Quan The Am Pagoda in Quan The Am Cave, where a stalactite shaped like Avalokitecvara had been found. The festival did not take place after that until the Avalokitecvara Spirit Anniversary in 1991 (Tan Mui Year). Since then, this festival has organized annually on a large scale and celebrations last for three entire days.
Like other traditional festivals, Quan Am (Avalokitesvara) Festival on Ngu Hanh Son, Danang consists of two parts: the religious ceremony and the festival itself. The former takes place with the rituals of Buddhism: The ceremony to worship spring with full rituals; The ceremony of beginning sutra chanting (this ceremony is to pray for peaceful country and prosperous people); The ceremony of giving alms to the wandering souls (the monks pray the Buddha for peace and happiness to the living and for freedom from suffering to the souls of the death); The preaching sessions (about culture, arts); Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva statue procession.
The ceremony to worship spring with full rituals is usually held on the evening of the 18th of the second lunar month. The notables of Hoa Hai, Hoa Quy and Bac My An Wards perform the rites of worshipping, reading oration and praying for safe and sound to everybody.
The ceremony of beginning sutra chanting occurs on the early morning of the 19th of the second lunar month. This ceremony is to pray for peaceful country and prosperous people. It is held in the sanctuary of Quan The Am (Avalokitesvara) Pagoda and conducted by the monks. This ritual shows the solemnity the belief of Buddhism.
The ceremony of giving alms to the wandering souls is held on the afternoon of the last day of the festival. The ceremony is dedicated to patron saint, god of earth and spirits of the death. The monks pray the Buddha for peace and happiness to the living and for freedom from suffering to the souls of the death. Normally, the Buddhist bereaved gives the list of the deceased to the pagoda in advance. The master of ceremonies must be a superior bonze.
The preaching sessions about culture, arts, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, and the association between the Buddhist culture and traditional culture in the history of the nation is also part of the festival.
Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva statue procession is held on the morning of the 19th day. Four people carry a palanquin that contains a stone statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisttava standing on the lotus-shaped throne. She has a look of refined beauty with a gentle smile like the image of a mother. The palanquin goes first and is accompanied by Buddhist followers.
During the festival, there are also various exciting activities such as a photo exhibition about the Marble Mountains, “bai choi” (singing while acting as playing cards), a poetry exchange, music, calligraphy entitled “ Nguyen Xuan”, martial arts performances, human chess, a camp fire, the floating of flower garlands and coloured lanterns, and traditional boat-racing.
The annual event is not only a religious festival but is also a community cultural event, which helps to preserve and uphold national cultural values. This is also the opportunity to introduce domestic and foreign visitors to Da Nang’s tourist attractions, local unique tourism products, local customs and habits, the lives of local people, and the beauty of the city. This year, 2017, the Quan The Am Festival in central Da Nang City, will be held on March 14, 15 and 16 (the 17th, 18th and 19th day of the second lunar month) at the Quan The Am Pagoda in Ngu Hanh Son District.