Quan Lan is an island lying in the Bay of Bai Tu Long, where vast mountains, sea and land together form a perfect beauty in a rarely prosperous land. Nearly one thousand years ago, Quan Lan was the center of Van Don commercial port, a very busy harbor which received many foreign traders.
At present Quang Lan belongs to Van Hai archipelagoes, Cam Pha district, Quang Ninh province; 120km away from Hai Phong, 55km from Hong Gai and 35km from Cua Ong port (Quang Ninh).
Every year Quan Lan village holds a festival of rowing on June 18 (lunar calendar), but actually the festival lasts from June 16 to June 26. This is either the annual celebration of victory over Yuan enemy in 1288 or the festival of fishermen. The festival of rowing is usually held at the beach in front of Ben Dinh where there is a village communal house. This house was built to worship the Village Tutelary God Tran Khanh Du, a famous general of the Tran Dynasty who defended Van Don for many years and once achieved a well-known victory that destroyed the whole fleet of supply ships of the aggressors in early 1288, contributing an important part to
Quan Lan has got five main hamlets and three other smaller ones. To hold the festival, Quan Lan is divided into two guilds, eastern and western. Each guild includes three groups which are called Dong -
Locking the village. Villagers are not allowed to go anywhere. For those who do not abide by, their boats may be burned. But it is open to villagers working far from home and guests to come and prepare for the festival.
Each group chooses one place (may be the house of a member in the group) to meet and discuss the contribution of money and the preparation for the festival.
The group holds a party, in which, the secretary of the group as well as strong, active, good-at-rowing men are chosen to go to receive god. Those are also the rowers. On the average, ten people are chosen, but more people can be chosen in larger group. The number of people holding oars in each guild may be from 25 to 30. In addition to this, the people who hold flags, fans, drums are also needed so the number attentive may reach 40 or 50.
Each guild has to nominate someone to play the role of commander or civil mandarin. Usually the Eastern guild nominates civil mandarin and the Western guild nominates commander.
Each guild makes arrangements for its own boats, oars, drums, gongs and people. Each boat is usually smoked to lighten it, then made beautiful with a painted or drawn dragon head.
Ceremony to welcome bud. The master of ceremonies (the village chief) together with the notables of the village, the generals and the soldiers (the rowers) gather at the village communal house to go to welcome god. When they arrive at Nghe where the ancestral tablets of Tran Khanh Du is shown (1.5km away from the communal house), the master of ceremonies presents to the altar a food tray of chicken, steamed glutinous rice, wine, fruit and tries their fortune, then the ancestral tablets of Tran Khanh Du is carried in the sedan chair to the communal house and put it on the altar inside the house. This is to invite the god to witness the festival.
At on the morning of June 17th the god-offering ceremony is held at the communal house. The ancestral tablets of the gods are put on the altar in the smoke of burning incense and fragrance of fruit. Simultaneously the ceremony is also held at the altars of other temples.
At 8 o'clock in the morning, at the ceremony in the temple by the communal house, for Mr. Pham Cong Chinh, the civil mandarin and the commander respectively received one slick of incense from the altars in the two sides of the temple and brings it to the altar of their guild to worship. Then they have a party and prepare for the festival. At three in the afternoon when the tide rises near the communal house, the two sides set out drumming and waving flags. The generals and the troops are in uniform, Doug Nam Van guild usually in white and Doai Bac Vu in black; the generals must wear the ceremonial dress of a mandarin, and those who hold oars, poles and drums must be in uniform, as well. They all go to the
Drums start and live-colored flags wave. The general of Dong Nam Van reads the proclamation first, then conies the general of Doai Bac Vo. The contents of the proclamation are to beg the gods to protect and assist the villagers so that they will have good health and a prosperous life and their troops will win in any battle. Then they gel on the boats. Only one boat of each side will take part in the competition. The others will supervise and defend them. It is about 1,500 m from the temple of divine being to the landmark out in the sea, where two flags are hung and two referees are watching. The competing boats arrive at landmark, and each boat picks up the flag and exchanges it with the other side. Then the competition begins. The most important thing is to turn the boat quickly, skillfully and to take advantage of the wind. The boats dash to the landing pier and the first to arrive is the winner. The troops of the winner carry their general to a pole is front of the
Besides the festival of rowing officially held on June 18th, from June 16 to June 26, in the village there are many other games such as tug of war, swing, chess, performances of popular opera or classical opera, and, in recent years, sports.
The leaders of the two guilds prepare a tray of food and two colorful paper boats for the June 20th ceremony.
Peace Prayer ceremony. Early in the morning, the village chiefs gather at the communal house. A witch doctor is invited to come. A tray of food is placed on a stage built in front of the communal house. After the witch doctor makes offerings, some troops (who took part in the festival) quickly carry the boats to the end of the village. They pray to the gods then burn the boats. The villagers have a party then carry the ancestral tablets of Village Tutelary God back to the little temple. The festival ends in the villagers' joy and hope prevailing in their minds that happy days are coming.