Published: 09/02/2011 05:00



UNESCO-recognized Saint Giong festival kicks off

The Saint Giong festival, which was recognized by UNESCO as world intangible cultural heritage, started in Soc Son and Dong Anh districts in the outskirts of Hanoi on February 8 or the 6th day of the first month of the Lunar New Year.

The events also ushered in a series of related festivals in 2011.

According to the legend, Saint Giong, born in suburban Hanoi many centuries ago, became a hero who drove away Chinese invaders.

The Giong festival includes a procession of a young girl who personifies a general and is accompanied by many young men as his guards.

The most impressive is a procession that reminds participants of Saint Giong pulling up Vietnamese bamboos and using them as weapons to rout China’s Yin dynasty troops.

In addition, there are also folk activities such as cockfight, Xiangqi (Chinese chess) games, and singing prayers to Gods.

The Saint Giong festival not only commemorates the services of the previous generals who fought off enemies to protect the country but also educates the younger generations about noble values. Saint Giong was said to have flown to heaven after fulfilling his historic task, without expecting any reward.

Despite Vietnam’s turbulent history and the changes it brought to culture, this festival has survived and has not been affected by commercialization.

*** The Huong (Perfume) Pagoda Festival in southernmost Hanoi also began the same day. The country’s biggest festival will last until the end of the 3rd month of the Lunar New Year.

Coming to Phu Yen to listen to Bai Choi music

Phu Yen people often sing Bai Choi (singing while playing cards) during the traditional Lunar New Year festival (Tet). It is a unique feature of this region’s culture.

Bai Choi is a traditional form of art that originated from the South-central region and is often played by central people during Tet.

Nguyen Phung Ky, former Vice President of the Phu Yen Literature and Arts Association who sings and researches Bai Choi says Phu Yen people often sing Bai Choi during Tet and they consider it as the unique feature of their culture.

During the resistance wars against the French colonialists and American imperialists, Bai Choi songs and music encouraged soldiers and people to fight the enemies and persuaded those who followed the enemies to turn back and join the revolution. Although singers were amateur their songs were persuasive. All the songs have been preserved until today.

Nowadays at Tet all villages in Tuy An, Phu Hoa, Dong Hoa, Dong Xuan districts in Phu Yen province are bustling with Bai Choi. These folk songs are specific to coastal areas.

Before Tet, people build U-shape bamboo huts. The Bai Choi festival usually begins on the first day of Tet. As soon as a large number of people gathers the game singer will open the festival with a song. The stage for playing Bai Choi includes 9, 11 or 13 huts. Each one has five or six players inside, a bamboo pipe to hold cards and a signal flag. One hut is called the centre house for a music troupe with a drum and musical instruments. A deck of cards with 27 pairs is divided into two, one for players and one put in the centre house. Cards are printed on paper and glued onto bamboo sticks.

The game singer draws a card from the bamboo pipe in the center house. The player whose card matched the one drawn by the game singer wins. The game continues until the final card is drawn.

Phu Yen has renown artists such as Dinh Thoang, Phung Long An and Phung Ky as well as many talented amateur singers. Many people like to indulge in Bai Choi and play the game until the fifteenth of Lunar January.

Bai choi has been an integral part of Phu Yen people’s lives for many years. It is particularly meaningful those who study or work far away from home. Whenever Tet comes they remember the singing which embodies the sentiments of people who live in areas often hit by floods and droughts.

The provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism opened Bai CHoi for young people in late 2010 to preserve and promote the traditional art. The Folklore Arts and Culture Preservation Fund and the Culture Research Association have conducted programmes to restore this cultural heritage of Phu Yen.

Vice Director of the Phu Yen provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Phan Dinh Phung says that this is part of the programme to promote and preserve the regional folklore and to mark the province’s 400th anniversary. In addition, the national Bai Choi festival will also be held during the time when the province will be hosting the National Tourism Year 2011.

Fighting fest opens in northern province

Thousands Tuesday flocked to Chuong market in the northern Thanh Hoa province’s Dong Son District to throw potatoes and rotten eggs at one another — a practice thought to bring good luck for the year ahead.

From early morning (5:00 am), locals and visitors wearing new clothes rushed to the festival, which is annually organized on the 6th day of first lunar month, to buy eggs, potatoes and apples to be used later as weapons to ‘fight’ one another.

Locals told Tuoi Tre it is impossible to go to the market unattacked by potatoes and eggs thrown by festival goers.

According to traditional beliefs, the redness of potatoes is a symbol of luck while fighting is said to bring abundant crops and a prosperous life.

However, some young people have taken advantage of this custom to settle real-life dispute. Actual fights and serious injuries, even death, do happen sometimes.

“Usually, police are mobilized to the scene to handle such problems. However, in some cases, the public security forces are also victims,” said Hung, a policeman in Dong Son District.

According to legend, an army general was once besieged by the enemy when he was passing through the market. He sharp-wittedly ordered his men to pretend to be market goers and hide all weapons inside baskets.

As the result, the enemy was misled and defeated.

“Our village saw abundant crops that year,” said 70-year-old Tuan.

To celebrate the event, locals gather at the market on the 6th lunar day to wish for a lucky and prosperous year.

They also stage a mock battle - with eggs and potatoes - to commemorate the legendary victory.

Ho Chi Minh City bookworms rummage festival

Parents take their children to search for books during the book road festivalAround 150,000 people visited the first-ever Book Road Festival organized in Ho Chi Minh City from January 31 to February 6 during the Lunar New Year.

Located on Mac Thi Buoi, a side street connecting Dong Khoi with the heavy-trafficked Nguyen Hue city flower road in District 1, it was filled with people from morning until late at night.

A Q&A session with four writers Do Thi Thanh Binh, Le Thi Kim, Bui Chi Vinh, and Pham Sy Sau on Sunday morning attracted a large audience, some of whom stayed longer than expected to get a chance to talk to the famous writers.

The festival also provided a special area for children to read books and color drawings, which proved a huge attraction with kids.

People looking for rare books published before the Renovation period could exchange or buy them at a stall put up by the city’s General Science Library, some for merely VND10,000 (50 US cents).

“At first, we did not think we would be able to sell many books during Tet but it turned out people in HCMC bought a lot,” said Tu Ha, a cashier for a bookstall at the event.

“Books on Buddhism, culture, and philosophy; works by famous authors like Tran Dan and To Hoai; and translated items by well-known publishers like Nha Nam, Tri Thuc, and Dong A, were in great demand.”

Fahasa, the biggest book distributor in the country, reported sales worth VND500 million (US$ 25,500) during the week.

“This is a success [at the festival in the city with population of 8 million]. Next year perhaps we can seek a larger area, a larger street to organize the festival,” Le Manh Ha, director of the city’s Information and Communication Department, said.

Buddhism helps Hanoi youth bust stress

Children and teenagers attend a Buddhism class to seek sense of calm and peace in mindWith Vietnam’s increasing integration with the outside world, young Hanoians are getting a taste of the stresses associated with a modern economy.

They have begun to explore ways to ease the stress, including attending Buddhism classes.

In the past, few went to pagodas. Even those who did go were often sent by their parents to keep them away from trouble.

But more and more youngsters are now turning to Buddhism. The Buddhist Youth Union’s 12 clubs had 20 members in 2005 and this has risen to 300.

At the clubs, they chant and meditate, read books on Buddhism, listen to prayers, and participate in social activities.

Thu Phuong, a student of the Hanoi University of Culture, said: “[When I] listen to Buddhism lessons at pagodas, I really feel a sense of calm and inner peace.”

Nguyen Hai Van of Cau Giay District said: “I send my three sons to pagodas during weekends to learn Buddhism to not only seek peace of mind but also curb their aggressive instincts.”

Tran Thanh, a new convert, said: “I find the Buddhism lessons very interesting though I have just started attending.”

Buddhism, one of the world’s major religions, was founded around 2,500 years ago in India by Siddhartha Gautama who was contemplating about how to bring happiness to the world.

Film, theater buffs flock for their Tet fix

Cinemas and theaters in Ho Chi Minh City raked in the moolah during Tet last week.

With movie-going becoming a growing habit in Vietnam, producers now look to the Lunar New Year holidays as a high season for releases, as a horror-comic flick and two romantic comedies hit the screens this year.

“Co dau dai chien” (Bride in a big fight), a laugh-a-minute love story involving five girls and a guy, was popular with both fans and critics for its strong plot, interesting characters, and attractive cast.

During the Tet week, it collected VND14.2 billion (US$730,000).

The first made-in-Vietnam 3D movie, the horror-comic “Bong ma hoc duong” (school ghosts) produced by Thien Ngan Movie JSC and directed by Le BaoTrung, delves into issues faced by teens with relation to family, love, and school violence.

In the 12 days since its release, it has picked up a cool VND22 billion (US$ 1.1 million).

However, critics have slammed it for being too sex-focused and its grainy and blurred visuals.

“Thien su 99” (Heavenly messenger 99), the last of the releases, cast the lone shadow, being deemed a disappointment in all aspects.

Some cinemas even had to cancel screenings for lack of audience.

As for theaters, most had to increase their shows to three or four daily to cope with demand despite increased ticket prices, which aficionados seemed to shrug off.

Tickets for plays at Idecaf Playhouse featuring star actor and playwright Thanh Loc were sold out in advance though they were criticized for not being as good as usual.

Hong Van Theater, owned by renowned ex-actress Hong Van, welcomed the Lunar New Year with horror plays.

Though ghosts are a taboo topic during the New Year for many Vietnamese, the shows ran to full houses.

Most popular were the shows by comedienne Kieu Oanh who combined theater with singing, hip-hop dance, and acrobatics.

Oanh’s shows were full though tickets cost a whopping VND500,000-1.5 million (US$26 - 77).

Overseas Vietnamese are subjects of film series

The latest stories about the lives of Vietnamese expatriates will be retold in a multi-episode documentary film by the Ho Chi Minh City Television Film Studio, with plans to broadcast the programme on the city’s TV channel HTV7 early this year.

“The diversity of the overseas Vietnamese (OV) community living around the world has encouraged us to make the film series, and we hope they will act as a bridge to connect all Vietnamese people worldwide,” the film’s general director Ly Quang Trung said.

“Nguoi Viet xa xu” (Vietnamese Expatriates) is the film studio’s longest chronicle film and includes 240 episodes. Production started four years ago.

Six working groups, each with seven members, travelled to many countries in the world where Vietnamese people are living to record their daily life, including their activities to maintain traditional customs, as well their wishes to make contributions to the homeland.

“Each country where Vietnamese people are living will tell an exciting story about the culture and history of the Vietnamese community,” Trung said.

Despite difficulties in climate and working conditions, film makers have tried their best to bring the film to public in the hope that the series will act as a bridge to connect local people and Vietnamese expatriates, Trung further said.

Apart from the multi-episode film on OV, Vietnamese television stations, such as Ho Chi Minh City television HTV and VTV4 channel of Vietnam Television have made a number of programmes retelling the lives of Vietnamese around the world.

There are about four million Vietnamese people living and studying in 100 countries and territories worldwide who are considered as an indispensable part of the nation.

Provide by Vietnam Travel

ART & ENTERTAINMENT IN BRIEF 10/2 - Files - In depth |  vietnam travel company

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