Lang Son festival not so cocky after plagiarised genital claims

Na Nhem Festival in Lang Son Province has been accused of imitating a festival from Japan as both have gigantic phallus on parade.

The Na Nhem Festival in Tran Yen Commune is a traditional festival held on lunar January 15 to make tribute to emperors Mac Thai To and Mac Thai Tong. This year, the festival raised much controversy as one of the mascots looks similar to the one in Kanamara Matsuri - Festival of the Steel Phallus in Japan in which people carry a giant phallus down the streets.

This year, a one-metre long and 80kg phallus was carried at the Na Nhem Festival. After a photo was posted on internet, many people said that the two phallus both were pink and looked suspiciously similar.


Giant phallus in Vietnam's Na Nhem Festival (left) and Japan's Kanamara Matsuri - Festival

Nguyen Xuan Kinh, director of the Culture Research Institute, said male and females genitals parades were not rare in Vietnam, but Lang Son Province didn't have this ritual.

"I don't have enough evidence to say whether Na Nhem has straight-out imitated the Japanese festival or not, but I don't think we should hold this ritual. It's just a cheap way of attracting attention and people to spend money. Even if it's a traditional ritual, we shouldn't recreate it nowadays," he said.


Daily life of the past was recreated

Ban Tuan Nang from the Institute of Culture and Development, under HCM City National Academy of Politics, was involved in restoring the ritual in 2012. He said people paid too much attention to the genitals while this was only a small part of the whole festival.

The Na Nhem Festival started at 5am when the processions went to the temples of the two emperors. The emperors were brought to see a military exercise. After that, various offerings were brought to the emperors include the genitals. In the afternoon, ancient lifestyles and works were recreated.

He said, "I didn't know anything about the Japanese festival. This year, I proposed to make bigger genitals to add some colour to the event. It's better if a festival can put a smile on people’s faces."

According to Nang, they had brown, red and pink to choose from and agreed on pink as brown would be too obscene and red would be too jarring.

"The festival is a success because Na Nhem was recognised as national intangible heritage last year and relatives and bloodlines of Mac family attended and supported the festival," Nang said. "The genitals this year were bigger than last year but they are only mascots. Problems only arise if they are taken out of context. We didn't hire any actors for the festival, everything were made by local people."


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