Art & Entertainment News Headlines 6/2

Tet festivals take place across Vietnam

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc beat the drum to officially open the Bai Dinh pagoda festival on February 5 in the northern Ninh Binh province, praying for peace, happiness and prosperity.

In the 1,000-year-old pagoda, King Dinh Tien Hoang who reigned in the 10th century built an altar to pray for favorable weather.

In the 18th century, King Quang Trung chose this place for a ceremony to encourage soldiers ahead of a historic battle against the Qing invaders.

The festival will last until the 3rd lunar month and visitors and pilgrims will be entertained with local folk performances.

February 5 also saw the opening of the Soc Son temple festival on the outskirts of Hanoi to honor a legendary hero Thanh Giong, who defeated foreign invaders during the Hung Kings’ dynasty.

The festival includes drum performance, folk singing and lion dances.

Activities are held in accordance with local traditions and this year’s festival opened earlier than usual, at 7 am.

In the central province of Thua Thien Hue, there was a wrestling competition at Thu Le village and a fishing festival took place on February 5 in Phu Loc district to promote the beauty of Lang Co bay.

Spring Flower Festival 2014 Ends

Ho Chi Minh City’s Spring Flower Festival 2014 attracted over one million visitors from January 25 to February 5.

Spring Flower Festival 2014 attracts more than one million local and foreign visitors.

Over 700 artisans and horticulturalists from Ho Chi Minh City, Dak Lak, An Giang, Kien Giang, Tien Giang, Can Tho, Tay Ninh, Binh Thuan, Khanh Hoa and Da Lat showcased their work at the event.

This year’s festival featured over 6,000 ornamental plants, bonsai, rock gardens, dried trees, grafted stones, cacti, fish and various rare flowers.

The event’s organizer , the municipal People’s Committee, awarded 334 prizes to best art works, including two special prizes: Nguyen Toai Nguyen from Ho Chi Minh City for his small yellow apricot tree and Tran Van Ba from Ben Tre Province for his Cattleya orchid.

The festival is an annual event attracting foreign and domestic tourists to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Thousands celebrate Dong Da festival

Thousands of Hanoians and visitors took part in Hanoi’s Dong Da festival on February 4, marking Vietnamese people’s 1789 victory over the Chinese Qing invaders.

The festival commemorates King Quang Trung (Nguyen Hue) who led his Tay Son guerrilla forces from Hue (in the central region) to Thang Long Citadel (now Hanoi in the north) to defeat 200,000 soldiers of the Chinese Qing dynasty in spring 1789.

Dong Da Hill in Hanoi was said to witness fierce battles between King Quang Trung’s soldiers and the Chinese invaders on the fifth day of the first lunar month.

The annual event started with incense offerings and processions in commemoration of King Quang Trung who later became Emperor and the Tay Son soldiers.

It was followed by a series of cultural, artistic, and sport activities, as well as martial art performances depicting the victory 225 years ago.

Violinist Cong Duy performs in Germany

Violinist Bui Cong Duy on February 2 performed Felix Mendelssohn’s concerto Op.64 in Berlin to the accompaniment of world renowned Berliner Symphoniker.

More than 2,000 local and foreign audiences and Vietnamese residents supported his performance at Berliner Philharmoniker concert hall in the capital.

Among the distinguished guests were Vietnamese ambassador to Germany Nguyen Thi Hoang Anh and other Vietnamese diplomats.

This was the first time Duy had made a Germany tour.

“Although I miss the lunar New Year (Tet) celebration with my family in Vietnam, your thunderous applause has eased my nostalgia,” said Duy.

“I was invited to make a tour of Dong Xuan trade centre, meet many Vietnamese residents and especially enjoy my favourite food: noodles.”

“It is surprising that Vietnamese people in Berlin have Tet delicacies as we do in Hanoi.”

Earlier on lunar New Year’s Eve (January 31), Duy had an exchange with Vietnamese residents and German friends at Viethaus in Berlin.

He performed “Melodie” and “Valse Scherzo” by Tchaikovsky, together with Le Ngoc Anh Kiet from the Berliner Symphoniker and pianist Bich Tra flying from London.

Ethnic Tet celebrations scheduled at culture village

Several lunar New Year festivals held by Vietnam’s ethnic groups will be on display at the Culture Tourism Village of Vietnamese Ethnic Groups in Hanoi this month.

During the three-day event, from February 15-17, the Sac Xuan Tren Moi Mien To Quoc (Spring in Every Region Nationwide) festival will stage the bumper crop praying ceremony of the Lo Lo ethnic group in Ha Giang province, the New Year horse race of the H’Mong ethnic, and the traditional wrestling contest of the Kinh majority.

In addition, the New Year Festival of the Dao ethnic group of Bang Ca village in Hoanh Bo District in Quang Ninh Province, the han cuong New Year celebration of the Thai ethnic group, and the gong festival of the Muong ethnic in Hoa Binh will also be presented.

The husband catching festival of the Chu Ru ethnic in Lam Dong, the rice planting festival of the B’rau ethnic in Kon Tum, the rain praying ceremony of the Cor people in

Quang Nam, and the traditional New Year Pang Kate Festival of the Cham in Binh Thuan will also be on display for visitors.

Organisers expect the February events will not only promote unique ethnic cultures, but also help foreign tourists understand Vietnam’s diverse cultures.

The Culture Tourism Village of Vietnamese Ethnic Groups is located in Dong Mo, Son Tay Town – about 40km west of Hanoi’s centre.

Vietnam attends book exhibition in India

Vietnam has joined 25 other countries at the 38th international book exhibition in the Indian city of Kolkata, West Bengal.

The annual event is considered one of Kolkata’s most important cultural and literary occasions.

Run by India-Vietnam Solidarity Committee President Geetesh Sharma, Vietnam’s bookstall displayed English and Vietnamese books and magazines on daily life in the Southeast Asian country.

The stall also showcased photos of President Ho Chi Minh’s first Indian visit. It proved a hit with the exhibition’s many thousands of attendees.

The 12 days of the exhibition will feature more than 200 international writers, poets, and cultural figures and is expected to welcome around 2 million visitors.

The Vietnamese delegation’s seven writers and poets will stay in Kolkata from February 5-8, attending the exhibition as well as the World Poetry Festival.

Preserving Central Highland cultures and identities

Socio-economic development and improving the lives of ethnic minorities has not distracted from the need to preserve and promote the cultural values of Central Highland ethnicitties.

Provinces such as Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Lam Dong, Gia Lai, and Kon Tum are important in political, economic, and defence terms but are also some of Vietnam’s most culturally diverse areas.

The Steering Committee for the Central Highlands (Tay Nguyen), says that since the Party Central Committee’s fifth resolution on Vietnamese cultural and national identity, society has united behind the Central Highlands’ political, economic, and social advances. The spiritual and cultural lives of ethnic minority groups have also improved considerably.

Cultural preservation and heritage programmes receive consistent levels of investment and international cultural cooperation schemes continue to proliferate.

Central Highlands provinces have reinvigorated the variety of traditional festivals and rituals celebrated by the region’s ethnic groups. Gong festivals and epic poetry collections are two of these cherished traditions.

Vietnamese folk music researchers consider Central Highlands gong music a unique cultural form villages and hamlets have managed to preserve for thousands of years.

The echoes of Tay Nguyen gongs call hamlets and villages together. If one considers the J’rai’s “Rong house” and the Ede’s “long house” the souls of highland hamlets and villages, gong music provides the vitality.

Central Highland ethnic minority groups also use gongs to communicate with their gods and to signify family prosperity. On November 25, 2005, UNESCO recognised

Central Highlands gong traditions as an intangible oral masterpieces of human culture. The region’s cultural richness is the pride of Vietnam as a whole.

Central Highland provincial authorities have worked hard to collect, document, and preserve Tay Nguyen gong customs. In addition to annual communal and provincial festivals, Ede, M’nong, J’rai, and Bana artisans have been hired to instruct younger generations in the gong traditions.

Dak Lak province has more than 500 Ede children gong teams who regularly perform for local people during community activities, traditional festivals, and rituals. The Lunar New Year Festival is the height of collective, ritualistic gong performances and dances in villages nationwide.

The Central Highlands are equally famous for its oral literature masterpieces. Epic poetry is an integral part of ethnic groups’ community activities.

Experts have researched and collated more than 622 of the region’s epic oral poems. New epic forms recited by the M’nong and Xdang ethic groups were especially exciting finds.

Twenty-one of 52 translated epic poems have been published and disseminated widely.

Central Highlands provinces have held classes on epic poetry for younger members of the community since 2003. The classes, organised by the Folk Art Research Institute, were warmly welcomed by both students and village elders.

Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Deputy Director Nguyen Tan Dac is a passionate promoter of the Central Highlands’ vibrant cultural traditions.

The gongs and epic poetry of Tay Nguyen are great contributions to Vietnamese and international culture.

Variety of plays offered during Tet holiday

Drama enthusiasts in HCM City have never had it so good. With 20 new plays staged by seven theatres running three shows per day during the Tet (Lunar New Year) festival, they are spoiled for choice.

Comic shows are some of the most popular on offer, with comedians plying their trade at no fewer that three venues downtown: Phu Nhuan Stage Club, IDECAF and The Gioi Tre (The Young World).

Phu Nhuan Stage Club is one of the busiest night spots in the city. Three of the sketches performed at the club, Yeu Gio Chot (Last Minute Love), Ma Luc Kinh Hoang (Supernatural Force) and Hu Hon (Playing Games), have attracted large audiences and the tickets are sold out for the coming week.

More sober entertainment is on offer at IDECAF. The theatre has a preference for traditional stories from the south like Linh Vat Hoang Trieu (Royal Treasure) and Chiec Vong Gia Bao (Family Jewel).

But some have criticised the theatre, saying its recent comedy performances illustrate the fact that it too has sold its soul to commercialism.

“These comedies are not what the IDECAF is known for,” said drama critic Hoang Thuan.

Comodian Thanh Loc, art director of the IDECAF, has a different idea, saying: “People want to be entertained and forget their problems after a year of hard work so we try to make them laugh during Tet.”

The Gioi Tre Theatre, founded four years ago, is known for its performances of serious plays like Bi Mat Nha Xac (The Secret of the Mortuary) and Me Oi (Mum), which focus

on the trials and tribulations of daily life. But it changed its tune to meet the taste of audiences at Tet

Gentle sport: A player must down his opponent without causing any injuries to his soft body parts.

The theatre invited veteran comics like Hoai Linh and Minh Nhi to the stage, as well as younger actors well known for their roles in sentimental plays. Despite this they were excied by the prospect of doing something different and accepted the invitation to perform in comedies.

For cai luong (reformed opera) fans, artists from the Tran Huu Trang Theatre performed extracts from popular operas such as Huyen Thoai Me (The Legend of Mother) and Ngao, So, Oc, Hen (The Stories of the Clam, Oyster, Snail, Mussel) during every night of the Tet festival.

As in previous years, the theatre selected historical plays during the Tet season staged by renowned artists like Tu Suong and Kim Tu Long, providing a veritable feast for cai luong lovers.

“Tet is also the time for people, especially youngsters, to look back, remember and improve their knowledge about the country’s history, traditional culture and lifestyles,” said Nguyen Van Tham, director of the Cu Chi District’s Cultural House, a partner of the theatre.

Tham and his staff have worked hard to offer free cai luong shows for local residents.

Last weekend, the young actors and dancers from the Tran Huu Trang Theatre began their run of performances giving several thousand rural fans a treat of sound and light on a modern stage at open-air concerts.

“As is our tradition, we always travel to rural areas because we want to create a happy and peaceful Tet ambience for people who appreciates traditional art forms but are rarely able to enjoy them,” said young actor Nguyen Van Doi.

The free shows will continue until February 15 at various district cultural houses.

Phong Hien festival is a swinging success

Since early this morning, the villagers of the Phong Hien Commune in Phong Dien District have been holding pennants and beating drums.

They have gathered in the front yards of communal houses to open their traditional swinging festival. Du tien, meaning fairy swing, is a typical cultural event in the central

Thua Thien Hue Province’s Phong Hien Commune’s rural areas in the early days of each New Year.

One of the early birds at the festival, local resident Ho Van Nam said, “The festival starts from the fourth day of the New Year and runs till the 10th. The traditional swinging

is so popular that it often attracts a huge number of participants each year.”

There were different types of swinging poles. But the favourite one of the Phong Hien villagers is the pair swing on which a man and a woman compete with those on other pair swings, Nam said.

“Up in the sky and far from the ground, the swingers feel like they are close to heaven. So the entertaining game is widely known as du tien or fairy swing,” he added.

In Du tien, competitors have to try to swing the highest. Those who can snatch the pink scarf will win the game. — VNS Photo Phuoc Buu

The swings are made of old, straight bamboo trees which are usually chosen from all across the region. Next to the swings, a pole is erected on which a pink scarf is tied at a height equal to that of the swing.

The contestants have to try and swing the highest. The winner is the one who snatches the pink scarf. Each pair of contestants needs to flex their legs in order to swing well and coordinate rhythmically.

Elderly residents said that winning is not important. The festival is more significant for creating a joyful atmosphere for the local people at the beginning of the year.

The event is not a spiritual one for the local people and presents them with a chance to wish for favourable weather conditions, peace, prosperity and bumper crops.

That’s why the Phong Hien swinging festival attracts thousands of young and old people who join as contestants and supporters.

Ancient Thai books: a treasure of Son La province

The provincial museum of the northern mountainous province of Son La has collected 1,094 ancient books of the Thai ethnic group, some of which have been translated into Vietnamese.

The books, which came in a variety of sizes, ranging from 15cm x 15cm to 50cm x 30cm, were not printed. Authors used brush and black Chinese ink to write on the Thai traditional paper called Do paper. The book covers are made either by cloth, animal skin or thick paper.

The books tell rich stories about the history and culture of the Thai people. The “Quam to muong Muong Muoi”, “Quam to muong Muong La” or “Quam to muong Muong Mua” recalled how the current Thai villages and communes were formed. The “Cuon Tay pu soc,” “Quam chuong han” and “Quam xoc Han Co Luong” wrote about how the Thai joined other ethnic groups in fighting foreign invaders.

There are also books recording official documents of village heads, giving an insight into the operation of the feudal administrative system in the old time.

Thai traditional customs and practices were recorded in some other books, as were detailed description of rituals such as marriage, funerals, completed with guides on how to choose good days for important activities and shamans’ prayers.

Not a few books are literary works, folk verses and songs and proverbs of the group, such as “Song chu son sao”, “Khun Lu-Nang Ua”, “San Luong-Inh Lai” and “Tao

Hom-Nang Hai”. Some works of the Thai were based on Vietnamese and Chinese classics including Luu Binh-Duong Le, Tong Tran-Cuc Hoa and Three Kingdoms .

On the other hand, researchers said the books will help the study of the script of ancient Vietnamese people. According to leading historians and ethnologists including the late professors Tran Quoc Vuong and Tu Chi, the ancient Thai script was the “Khoa dau” script used by the Vietnamese during the time of the Hung Kings. Some quoted ancient records in China saying that a Hung King presented a big tortoise to Emperor Yao, with greetings in Khoa Dau carved on the animal’s shell.

The Son La museum has put on display some of the books, while the provincial Culture, Sport and Tourism Department has started a project on translating the books into Vietnamese.

Several books will be re-published in bilingual form (Thai-Vietnamese) in order to popularise the cultural treasure of the Thai ethnic group.

Bell casting work must ring changes to survive

Kien Lao bells from Xuan Truong district, the northern province of Nam Dinh, have long been used in pagodas and churches across Vietnam and even exported to other countries.

Casting bells is a traditional craft here, but is now in real risk of being forgotten.

The making of Kien Lao bells dates back to some 200 years ago. It requires scrupulous technique, patience and great enthusiasm from bell makers.

Depending on the size, it takes from one month to a whole year to make a bell.

Besides being the right shape, a commissioned bell must produce a resounding and pure sound. This depends on the mixture of copper and tin and the way in which the makers use moulds and casting techniques.

Due to the strict requirements of the craft, there remain only 10 families making bells here. This fact has caused concern for the elderly.

“Almost all young people do not follow this line of work since it is hard and they have gone far away for study,” said a villager in Xuan Tien commune, Xuan Truong district, adding that some families do not have successors in making bells.

A further complication is that most of workshops are located in residential areas, thus limiting their work space and polluting the environment. Meanwhile, many makers do not have enough money to expand their production.

“We plan to provide better conditions for local families to develop this craft, especially by supporting them with capital. We will also zone an area in an industrial park for bell casting workshops,” said Bui Quang Dong, Vice Chairman of Xuan Tien People’s Committee.

While directions for the craft’s development are being discussed, local makers are still trying their best to maintain their traditional bell making.-

Coming-of-age rituals of the Dao Tien in Cao Bang

It is a custom of the Dao Tien ethnic group in the northern mountainous province of Cao Bang that married men will be recognised as mature by the community following the “Cap Sac” ceremony, whereby he will be given a new name.

The tradition is different from “Cap Sac” ceremony practised by other sub-groups of the Dao ethnic group, which is conducted for boys, thus recognising they are mature enough to get married.

During the three-day ceremony of the Dao Tien, offerings like two pigs weighing over 80kg, 5-10 chickens, dried squirrel meat, incense, paper, two mats, silver coins, rice wine, vegetarian dishes and deity paintings will be needed.

During the two months before and after the ceremony, the man and his wife must live separate. They must neither use bad words and nor let others touch them.

Prior to the ceremony, the man must take a bath and wear new clothes.

Local guests are requested to eat oil-free vegetarian dishes and shun animal killings.

Throughout 10 rites, the man will receive a hat, then represent himself to gods and ancestors after undergoing a ritual of lighting lamps to remove bad luck, during which shamans will light the lamps made from bamboo and put one on the man’s head and two others on his shoulders to light the path for moral standards of the locals to enter his soul.

After that the man will be given a new name by the deities through the shaman. The naming ritual will allow him to stand in the rank of important members in their family clans.

With this new name to talk with gods and ancestors, he can worship the clan’s ancestors and take responsibility for the common tasks of the community.

It is concluded by the sharing of pork meat with all guests in attendance.

The local community believes that the rituals will give the men good luck and prosperity.

Heritage preservation socialised in Ly Son island

The cultural heritage of Ly Son island district in the central province of Quang Ngai is being effectively preserved thanks to the combined efforts of local people and governing authorities.

Ly Son district is 18 nautical miles off the Vietnamese coast and covers an area of 10 square kilometres. It includes three communes: An Hai, An Vinh and An Binh.

Archaeologists have found that people from the Sa Huynh culture lived on Ly Son Island 3,000 years ago. Then from the late 16th century, numerous clans from the mainland came to the island and have inhabited it ever since.

Since Sa Huynh, Champa and Viet people lived alongside each other, the culture on the islands is now very rich and diverse.

At present, there are 50 heritage sites and 23 old religious buildings in the area. Some of the many pagodas, tombs and temples have been recognised as sites of provincial or national heritage.

The islands also boasts a lot of intangible cultural heritage, such as traditional boat races and the Hoang Sa Soldier Feast and Commemoration Festival, which was recognised as national heritage in April this year.

Since their establishment in 1993, the managing authorities of Ly Son island district have been well aware of the importance of preserving and upholding cultural heritage, considering this to be an important task in socio-economic development.

The district People’s Committee has ordered its culture and information division to regularly survey heritage, restore cultural buildings and artefacts that fall into a bad condition and revive fading cultural forms so that they are not lost forever.

According to Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ly Son district Party Committee Nguyen Tai Luan, 85 percent of the locality’s heritage sites have been restored and their cultural and architectural value remains intact.

In recent years, a number of activities have been revived. The collection of folk songs, proverbs and poems has been declared a great success.

Notably, up to 90 percent of resources for preservation have been contributed by local residents.

Many clans in the district have drawn up their own rules to keep important documents safe. For example, the Dang clan carefully preserved an official decree issued by King

Minh Mang nearly 180 years ago on sending soldiers from Ly Son to the Hoang Sa archipelago to erect sovereignty marks.

In April 2009, the clan presented this document to the Quang Ngai provincial People’s Committee, who in turn handed it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be used as legal evidence of Vietnam ‘s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos.

This willingness for the islanders to work together with provincial and national authorities to protect their culture has been met with a positive response.

Luan has commented that district authorities will now continue improving local people’s awareness of how to preserve the values of cultural heritage and encourage them to contribute personally to restoration efforts. Some will also be trained so that they can work in the cultural and tourism sector.

He emphasised that it is necessary to consult experts and elderly people who are knowledgeable about the local culture in order to ensure that successful preservation efforts continue.

Horse race – a unique festival of Thi Thung mound

Go (mound) Thi Thung traditional horse race is a unique festival, which is held annually in An Xuan commune, Tuy An district, Phu Yen province, on the ninth day of the first lunar month and attracts thousands of people from across the country. Report by Nhan Dan (People) newspaper online.

According to elderly residents of Thanh Xuan village, the horse race was around before the war against the French. However, during the wars against the French and

American invaders, the race was stopped.

After the liberation of the country in 1975, the race was restored in An Xuan commune on the ninth day of the first lunar month. Nearly 10 years later, the Go Thi Thung traditional horse race was officially recognised as a traditional festival of Phu Yen province.

Horseman Vo Ngoc, who has won the championship title many times in Thanh Xuan village, said that the horse is as important to the people of An Xuan commune as the elephant is to Tay Nguyen ( Central Highlands ).

Horses in An Xuan commune play an important role in the daily life of the people with the animal considered as a member of each local family. An Xuan commune has currently 25 horses. The commune has been provided with two buck-horses to develop their herd.

Ngoc first participated in 1982 and won first prize this year but will not enter the next competition as now 60 years of age, he has decided to share his knowledge with the young horsemen.

The traditional approach of riding without a saddle makes the race more interesting with spectacular performances. Essentially, the man who has the fastest horse is the winner.

This race is designed for “barefoot cavaliers”, riders who have been friends with their horses since they were born.

According to Le Cao Bang, head of the Cultural and Information Office of the Tuy An district People’s Committee, visitors to the festival will have a chance to join the exciting atmosphere with a series of cultural activities such as folk games, sports activities and art performances.

The district is working out a plan to maintain and develop the race with hopes for the participation of other localities in the region.-

Earthen stoves face risk of disappearing in Kien Giang

Hon Dat district of the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang has long been well-known for making earthen stoves. However, the craft is facing the risk of disappearing without preservation solutions.

Hòn Đất people have made earthen stoves from clay for generations. According to Vu Trong Nho, Stove producer in Hon Dat district, in the past, all households in the village made earthen stoves. Now, many people have moved into farming or gone to other localities to work. Stoves are now unsalable, thus reducing the number of workers.

Demand for earthen stoves is decreasing due to the rapid growth of gas and electrical cookers as well as cement stoves. Poor consumption has led to a decline in production output. This worries producers, who fear the disappearance of the craft.

Ngo Truong Sinh Head of Dau Doi hamlet said the making of earthen stoves in Hòn Đất hasn’t been included in the locality’s development plan, making the loss of this craft inevitable.

Local residents said they hope to maintain their craft and receive development investment so as to improve their income and preserve local cultural identities.