Xa Tac Worshipping Ceremony

For years, the Vietnamese people have practiced many worshipping rites. When speaking about the royal worshipping ceremony, apart from Nam Giao Worshipping Ceremony, it is impossible not to mention the Xa Tac Devotion Ritual that was ranked in the list of Dai Tu, before Trung Tu and Quan Tu by the Nguyen Kings, meaning that it was one of the most important among national worshipping ceremonies.

As explained by our ancestors, the Xa Tac Altar was built to worship the two genies of wet rice cultivation; rice and soil (Xa means soil and Tac means rice).

The words “Xa Tac” also implicated the country and people. Therefore, anyone from the king to the common people attached much importance to the rite.

In the past, the national economy mainly depended on agriculture so all the kings paid much attention to the development of agriculture.

In their belief, “If there is no land, people can not cultivate, no rice, people have nothing to eat. The king must highly appreciate the soil and pray to the soil genie for happiness, wealth and luck”.

As a result, when acceding to the throne, the Vietnamese kings used to build the Xa Tac Altar to worship the Soil and Rice Genies and to pray for a powerful country and rich people and encourage the people to work industriously to prosper.

The Xa Tac Ritual was held differently during each reign. However, in the feudal Nguyen Dynasty, Xa Tac Ritual was held regularly on a larger scale.

According to history books, in the year of the 5th Gia Long (1806), the king ordered the construction of the Xa Tac Altar in the proximity of the Hue Imperial Palace in Thuan Hoa Ward, present-day Hue City.

The ceremony was held twice in the year, in Autumn and Spring by the court. One day before the ceremony, the path from the Inner City to the Xa Tac Altar was cleaned and the king, mandarins and anybody who attended the ceremony had to be abstinent and chaste.

To prepare for the ceremony, the Ministry of Rites and Interior was sent to the Xa Tac Altar to prepare offerings, worshipping objects and the incense-table.

On the main day of the ceremony, the two sides of the path from the Ngo Mon Gate to the Altar were decorated splendidly with flags and torches.

On the incense-table, apart from often-seen worshipping equipage and objects, there was a three-animal offering, including a buffalo, deer and pig.

In front of the central alter, the king – the ritual officiating priest, dressed in royal robe and gem belt, followed by correctly-dressed military mandarins, solemnly carried out the ceremony with many religious rites.

When the official ceremony ended and the king returned to the Inner Palace, local people offered their gifts and prayed for clement weather, abundant crops and a happy life.

To heighten awareness of the significant meaning of the ceremony, the authority of Hue City restored the ceremony to preserve the national religious heritage and create a foundation to set up a file to submit to UNESCO for being recognized as an intangible cultural heritage of mankind. (Source: VNP)

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