Nguyen Dinh Dieu, a governor of Thanh Hoa Province was born in Dinh Ca Village, Noi due, Bac Ninh. Nguyen donated many lands and money for Noi Due, helping to restore temples, organize festivals and preserve fine tradition and customs of the region. He also built his own tomb in Lim Mountain and named it Hong Van (Red Cloud). When Nguyen died, in order to show the gratitude to his contribution to Noi Due, the locals have decided to worship him as one of the regional Gods.
Today a stelae dated in 1769 can still be found at Dinh Ca. It mentioned Nguyen’s story and the local ceremonies organized annually on his date of birth and death at Hong Van Mausoleum and Hong Van Pagoda in Lim Mountain. Today, only one ceremony is taken place on the 13th of the first lunar month which is the same day with the opening of Lim Pagoda Festival. Hence The Lim Festival has become one of the most important festivals in the region since the XVIII century.
The 13th of the first lunar month is the main day of the festival. The Lim opens at 8am with a parade. Thousands of locals in colorful and traditional costumes march together for over 1km.
Also in the morning, local officials and elderly people from all villages in Noi Due gather at Hong Van Mausoleum to join the sacred worshipping ritual for village’s Gods. Quan ho singing is also a part in this ritual when female and male singers stand in line facing the mausoleum’s main gate and sing many songs hailing the Gods of the village.
There are many traditional games, entertainments, fairs and other cultural activities at the festival, such as human chess, martial-art performance, swinging, rice cooking competition etc. However, the most distinguished part is Quan ho singing.
The singers are normal local farmers but on special occasion of The Lim, they turn out to be skillful and talented artists. Their performance includes various types of songs and on different stages: in the pagodas’ yard, the communal house’ yard, on the hills, even on boats gently rowed along the river, or elsewhere.
The singers are categorized into two groups, which call lien anh (male singers) and lien chi (female singers.) They also dress in traditional style: men wearing long dress and holding umbrellas while women wearing the beautiful four-flapped dresses (ao tu than) with colorful belts and traditional large flat hats (non quai thao.) The most popular types of Quan ho singing is hat doi (call-and-response singing) and hat doi (duet singing).
During lunch, the host singers must provide company to their partners, offer them food and, again, songs. In the afternoon, the visiting singers are requested to continue the song exchange up to midnight when there would be recess and a tea party. Thereafter, the song exchange goes on until dawn, when guests and hosts and hostesses, again in the form of songs, bid farewell and express keen hope to meet again some time in the future.
It is also a traditional opportunity for young men and women to seek life partners. Young men and women who want to find their partners often come up hill to sing. There men hold umbrellas while women are wearing flat palm hats, without concern about the sun or rain. Sometimes they can even sing all night to show their love, ebullient passion and grace. Besides, visitors can come to the Lim Festival to enjoy the weaving competition of the Noi Due girls. They weave and sing Quan Ho songs at the same time.