Monday, 07/05/2018 09:21

Bài chòi art receives UNESCO recognition

A performance of bai choi art. Photo
Viet Nam News

BINH DINH — Nine localities of the central region of Viet Nam attended a ceremony in Binh Dinh Province for the formal reception of UNESCO recognition of bai choi art as an item of world intangible cultural heritage.

Earlier in December last year, the art of bai choi was voted to be awarded UNESCO status in the 12th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Jeju Island in South Korea.

Speaking at the ceremony, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said the recognition of the art helped the country to have one more mark on the map of world heritage, ranking Viet Nam at 8th place in the list of nations with the most UNESCO Intangible Heritage Status awards.

“The recognition by UNESCO on bai choi confirms the diversification of culture in Viet Nam,” said the Prime Minister, “Practicing the art helps introduce to the world the creativeness as well as the humanity of the Vietnamese people.”

Phuc reminded the provinces of Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Thua Thien-Hue, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen and Da Nang City of their collective duty in the safeguarding and promotion of this traditional art form.

He hailed the art as being a unique compound of music, poetry, painting and literature. He also said that the art belongs to the community, thus the provinces’ authorities must work to maintain the value of bai choi within those communities.

UNESCO Representative to Viet Nam Michael Croft said that bai choi is a “wonderful metaphor of Vietnamese culture”.

Croft said the half-game half-theatre art of bai choi is exclusive, inviting, welcoming and encouraging, making it an art for everybody to play and to laugh along with.

The art of bai choi originated almost 400 years ago, when Dao Duy Tu, an outstanding mandarin under the reign of the Nguyen Lords (1558-1777) who later formed the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) in Hue, created the game to entertain the community during post-harvest time.

Bai choi, which literally means a deck of cards (bai) and bamboo huts (choi), is half a game and half theatre performance. Nine bamboo huts on stilts are erected on a spacious land plot, in two rows, each made up of four huts for the players. The bigger hut is in the middle, with a wooden stand for the controller of the game.

One to three players share a hut while the audience surrounds the rectangular playing plot. At the beginning of each game, each hut receives three cards. The controller sings folk songs that include the names of 27 cards, giving clues to the players as to what their cards might be. The aim is for the players to guess their cards.

The players must find the name of the card being mentioned in the verses in the song, and then find out the coinciding cards in their hands. The winner is the first hut to have three cards that coincide with the names given by the controller.

The controller’s singing, dance and gestures are accompanied by music played on traditional instruments and cheered by the audience. Bai choi stories include lessons on morality and compassion, as well as love for the village and the nation.

The art reflects the spirit of human solidarity. All the villagers, both audience members and players, are drawn into the joyful ambiance for the purpose of sharing happiness and solidarity.

Bai choi is Viet Nam’s tenth cultural practice to receive the title from UNESCO. The art was awarded intangible heritage status thanks to a creative recreation within a village community.

UNESCO’s recognition confirms the diversified nature of Vietnamese culture, and strengthens the local community by promoting cultural diversity and encouraging communication among individuals, communities and peoples.

During the Saturday ceremony, Nguyen Ngoc Thien, minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, announced an action programme for safeguarding and promoting the art of bai choi.

He said the programme oriented the practice of heritage in communities in the nine coastal provinces ranging from Quang Binh to Khanh Hoa.

The programme was defined in five tasks, with the first being to figure out the values of bai choi songs and performances, document them and enhance awareness on the art. The second is to support the community in conserving the art. The third is to recognize and honour artists and the communities. The fourth is to educate and train, and the last is to have a media campaign on the art.—VNS


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