Na Nhem Fertility Festival Kicks Off in Lang Son Province

The annual Na Nhem festival in Tran Yen commune, Bac Son district, Lang Son province, known as one of the most unique festivals of fertility in Vietnam, was held on the 15th of the first lunar month.
February 08, 2023 | 10:44

Na Nem Festival is a unique festival with a genital, a ritual to pray for luck, peace, and fertility in the northern province of Lang Son.

Na Nhem Fertility Festival
Na Nhem festival takes place from the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Source:

The Na Nhem Festival in Tran Yen Commune is a traditional festival held on lunar January 15 to make a tribute to emperors Mac Thai To and Mac Thai Tong. This annual event attracts many Tay people and visitors in Tran Yen Commune, Bac Son District, Lang Son Province.

Na Nhem has been restored for several years. During the festival, all participants have to make their faces dirty to drive away evil's attention which might bring disasters and diseases to villagers. A highlight of the festival is a ceremony to worship male and female genitalia to pray for growth and development.

Na Nhem Fertility Festival
The event is held to promote traditional and unique features of a community festival. Source:
Na Nhem Fertility Festival
The Na Nhem Festival started at 5am when the processes went to the temples of the two emperors. Source: Zing News
Na Nhem Fertility Festival
The emperors were brought to see a military exercise. Young men with soot-smeared faces in the procession from time to time stop to perform a mock fight. Source: Zing News

The festival includes two processes; one is to escort the god and the deities from Tran Yen Communal House to Xa Vun Shrine for worship. This procession is led by four men who represent a general and his three assistant generals. They must come from families which are not in mourning and must neither have sex nor drink liquor for two weeks before and after the festival.

Meanwhile, the other is to escort the sacred offerings to the shrine. The offerings include rice and taro, cycad, and medical herbs, accompanied by linga and yoni, the symbols of fertility and harmony of heaven and earth, which implies bumper crops and peace for villagers.

The highlight and most unique of the festival is the parade of a gigantic phallus (called Tang thinh) 1.3 m long, weighing about 60 kg - describing the "jewel" of men, symbolizing the desire to proliferate, to have many descendants.

The Mat Nguyet (means moon face), symbolizing female fertility, is made of two large-sized mats facing each other, painted with colorful yin and yang and the two words "Binh An" (Peaceful). The moon sacrifice is carried on a palanquin by 4 healthy young men.

Na Nhem Fertility Festival
The moon face, symbolizing female fertility. Source: Zing News
Na Nhem Fertility Festival
After the offerings are brought to Xa Vun shrine, a ceremony is held to pray for the deities' support for a year of peace and prosperity. Source: VOV

The processes stop by noon when all the offerings are given to the gods at the shrine. In the afternoon, attendants to the festival join cultural activities, including folk games and folklore performances of the Tay.

Na Nhim Festival is a festival with a form of community cultural and religious activities, so it is imbued with a deeply democratic and humane spirit. At the same time, it represents a long process of cultural exchange between the Tay and the Vietnamese, the Tay culture and the Chinese culture. Now, after more than 50 years of hiatus, Na Nhem Festival has been restored and reorganized every year to meet the needs of people for cultural exchange and enjoyment.

The Na Nhem festival was restored in 2012 in order to preserve and preserve the traditional cultural values ​​of the locality and the nation. On June 8, 2015, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism issued Decision No. 1877/QD-BVHTT&DL identifying the Na Nhem festival as a national intangible cultural heritage.

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