Festival honors the many hues of Hue

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This year's Hue Festival, themed "Cultural Heritage with Integration and Development, the Rendezvous for Historical Cities," combines new elements and activities to its magnificent traditional events, such as Imperial Nights and the Nam Giao Offering Rituals.

Nguyen Duy Hien, director of the Hue Festival Center and deputy head of Hue Festival 2012 Organizing Board, says that Hue's rich culture presents both advantages and difficulties to him and his team as they prepare for the biennial festival.

"It is always a challenge to preserve the traditional culture while adding new elements which renew the event and attract tourists," said Hien, who has been a member of the organizing board since the first Hue Festival in 2000, and director of the center since 2007.

 "The festival only takes place for a few days but it takes us years to prepare," the director said, adding the event will take place inside and outside Hue royal citadel of Hue Town in the central province of Thua Thien Hue.

The opening ceremony, due to begin at 8 p.m. on April 7 at the Noon Gate Square, will kick off the 9-day event and also the National Tourism Year 2012.

The opening ceremony will feature a stunning fireworks show organized by pyrotechnics expert Pierre-Alain Hubert and a magical fire installation by the renowned French company, Carabosse.

The Nam Giao Offering Rituals, one of the traditional rites under the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), which express the desire for prosperity, peace and favorable weather for the nation will consist of two parts: the procession of the ancestral tablet from the Fasting Palace to the offering site and the main ceremony at Nam Giao Esplanade.

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The show, to be held at 8 p.m. on August 8 of the festival, will be performed in a more authentic ceremonial proceeding than in previous years.

Two Imperial Nights, each with royal banquets, are sure to be highlights of the 2012 festival. The program will take place at 7:30 p.m. on April 10 and 13 at three main stages: the central one (from the Noon Gate to the base of Kien Trung Palace), the left wing (from The Mieu Temple to Truong Sanh Residence) and the right wing (from Noi Vu Office to Co Ha Royal Park).

In addition to the highly praised events from previous festivals, including the welcoming performance, paintings, photography, calligraphy, royal games and dances, this year's Imperial Nights will also include the "Ancient Hue Memories Through Antiques" exhibition (at the Ta Vu Pavilion), the performance, "Memoirs of Imperial Concubines" (in the Truong Lang area) and the art installation, "Tuong's mask" (at the Nhat Thanh Pavilion).

Oriental Night shows will take place at 9 p.m. on April 8, 10, 12, 13 and 14 at the Thai Hoa Palace, featuring vibrant traditional costumes from Cambodia, India, Japan, Korea, Laos, Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, representing the cultures of each country.

In the idyllic setting of the Supreme Harmony Palace's front-yard, lit by lanterns and candles, performers from participating countries and Vietnamese models will put on a show in traditional costumes accompanied by beautiful original music.

Two Ao Dai (Vietnam's traditional long dress) Grand Shows to be held at 8 p.m. at Quoc Hoc Stele on April 9 and 11 will feature local beauties, including the respective Miss Vietnam winners in 2006, 2008 and 2010 - Mai Phuong Thuy, Thuy Dung and Ngoc Han - appearing in lotus themed ao dai designed by Si Hoang and Minh Hanh.

Everyday at 4 p.m. from April 8-12, there will be street art music and dance performances which express the vitality and enthusiasm of people throughout the world working for peace, cooperation and friendship. The street shows will take place along Hung Vuong, Le Loi, Nguyen Dinh Chieu and Tran Hung Dao streets.

"A Peaceful World" show by the Perfume River at 8 p.m. on April 12 will feature royal court music and dances and the recitation of epic poems inscribed on Hue's monuments.

"The call of eternity" concerts, dedicated to Vietnam's renowned composer Trinh Cong Son, will take place at 8 p.m. on April 8, 9, 11, 12, and 14 at the Co Ha Garden inside the citadel. Popular local singers, including Anh Tuyet, Anh Ha, Thuy Long, Minh Thuy, and musician Nguyen Anh 9 will perform the late Hue-born composer's timeless songs.

The Drums and Percussion Concert, "Resounding the Spirit of Vietnam," will take place at 4 p.m. on April 11 and 14 at the Nghinh Luong Dinh, and is expected to present the essence of Vietnamese music.

The closing ceremony at Phu Van Lau Square at 8 p.m. on April 15 will include another fireworks show and the release of floating lanterns down the Perfume River in a romantic farewell to festival attendees.

This year's festival, according to the organizer, will not only take place in the center of Hue town, but will also involve other neighboring locales within the province, to bring the festive atmosphere to all of Hue's outlying areas.

Huong Thuy Municipality will hold Cho que ngay hoi (countryside market of festive days) on April 8 11 at Thanh Toan Tile Roofed Bridge, whereas Phuoc Tich Ancient Village will offer Huong xua lang co (the soul of an ancient village) tour, as well as several community activities, including, boat races, human chess, a kite festival and a children's festival, along with other exhibitions.

According to Hien, the festival has transformed Hue both inwardly and outwardly. More tourists and donations to restore Hue's buildings, many of which are more than one hundred years old, have flowed into the town since the festival was founded 12 years ago.

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