Dao Thuc water puppetry, Van Phuc silk and Hat Do traditional folk singing, three of Hanoi's specialties, are among the latest 13 national intangible heritages compiled by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
The art of water puppetry
The traditional art of water puppetry originated during the Le Dynasty (1428-1789) in the ancient village of Dao Thuc in Hanoi's Dong Anh District, 25 kilometers north of downtown.
|A water puppetry play recreates the farming activity in Dong Anh District's Dao Thuc Commune, Hanoi. Photo: The Hanoi Times|
Over time, many water puppetry groups have disappeared, and Dao Thuc Village is the only one left, with local farmers playing a pivotal role in preserving the tradition.
Local artists have created 20 plays, telling modern and ancient stories and depicting the life activities of Vietnamese farmers through exceptional skills.
Water puppetry is the art that requires high techniques to control and perform the puppets in harsh underwater conditions.
In the old days, when there were no waterproof suits and underwater monitors, the artists had to drink fish sauce, which they believed could keep their bodies warm during winter performances.
Dao Minh Hung, head of the Dao Thuc Water Puppet Theater, said it is impossible for local artists to perform and make a living at the same time.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the area, he added that life became harder for local artists, while it also required high expenses to maintain the theater and puppet troupe.
But the love for the art has kept the local artists carrying on the tradition, Hung said.
At present, the Dao Thuc Water Puppet Troupe has 50 members, including 10 young mentors, 20 to 30 regular performers, and five puppet makers, and its plays have been performed on stages at home and abroad.
The love for the art is so great that the performers are willing to travel and perform wherever the audience is, the theater head said.
He hoped that the tradition would be passed on to the younger generations so that the art would be preserved and Vietnamese cultures would be promoted worldwide.
In 2022, the Dao Thuc Water Puppet Theatre organized two training courses to find new talents for the team, and all those who qualified from the training were recognized as "new artists," Hung said.
Traditional silk weaving recognized
In addition to Dao Thuc Water Puppet Theatre, Hanoi has Van Phuc Silk Village, Vietnam's oldest silk production site, is also on the list of 13 national intangible heritages.
|Visitors come to a shop at Van Phuc Silk Village. Photo: The Hanoi Times|
Van Phuc Silk Village is known as the oldest community of silk makers with a history that has lasted for more than 1,000 years.
Located 10 kilometers from the center of Hanoi, the village has the best silk artists in the country.
Local artists and makers have turned their products from mere merchandise to a symbol that represents the beauty of Hanoi and Ha Dong District in particular.
Until now, Van Phuc silk products still have their own traditional traits and are well-received by both domestic and international customers.
Popular for its softness, elegance, gentleness and durability, Van Phuc silk brings visitors a view of quintessence and uniqueness that impresses them at the first glance.
Furthermore, Van Phuc silk has its own soul, which is poured into the products through the artistic, skilled, and experienced hands of local makers.
Through time, local producers still manage to preserve their traditional way of making the outputs.
In the time of rapid development of the fashion industry, many brands have come to life and people have found the opportunity in the costume business.
That makes it more difficult for Van Phuc artisans to make and preserve their traditions as it takes more time to produce one silk item than industrial fabrication.
Once it was believed that Van Phuc silk will vanish under the pressure of industrialization, it is the hands of local artisans that keep the job existing through hard times and continue to promote local silk traditions to the world.
Hat Do (Do singing), the almost-lost tradition
Hat Do, the traditional folk singing that comes from Quoc Oai District, is another Hanoi specialty listed among the 13 national intangible heritages.
|A Do singing performance at Liep Tuyet Commune in Hanoi's Quoc Oai District. Photo: The Vietnam National Institute of Culture and Arts Studies|
The traditional folk singing Hat Do (Do singing) is the tradition of the people in Liep Tuyet Commune in Quoc Oai District. It has remained unknown when the singing started.
The singing takes place every 36 years to praise the Saint of Tan Vien Mountain, one of the Four Immortals in the Vietnamese culture, as he taught and guided the locals with rice farming.
Do singing reflects the awareness and wish of local people to live with their natures in a life of sufficiency, happiness, and kindness.
The Do singing festival lasts from the 10th to the 15th of the first lunar month. Since the event occurs every 36 years, folk singing almost exists through word of mouth, thus facing the risk of being forgotten.
“It has been hard for the local artists to preserve the art of folk singing,” said Nguyen Thi Lan, Head of the Liep Tuyet Do singing Club.
It had taken Lan quite some time to find and motivate old-but-experienced local singers and young generations to join and build the club in 1999.
Now the club has more than 1,000 members, including 35 students that often partake in training and performing. Do singing has become a normal cultural activity of Liep Tuyet people.
Lan and her club members are now able to perform at the festivals and events in Quoc Oai District. They are even invited to neighboring provinces and introduce the folk singing to the cross-country audience.
“Now, the young generations of Liep Tuyet Commune, from kindergarten to secondary school, all know Do singing. That is the joy and motivation that keeps me continuing my work to preserve our tradition,” Lan said.
Thirteen national intangible heritages
1. Dao Thuc water puppetry – Thuy Lam Commune, Dong Anh District, Hanoi.
2. Van Phuc silk village – Van Phuc Ward, Ha Dong District, Hanoi.
3. Hat Do traditional folk – Liep Tuyet Commune, Quoc Oai District, Hanoi.
4. Xe Pang A (praying for the good) spiritual festival – Khang people in the districts of Quynh Nhai, Muong La and Thuan Chau, Son La Province.
5. Mung com moi (New rice/season celebration) festival – Bru-Van Kieu ethnic minority in Ngan Thuy Commune, Le Thuy District, Quang Binh Province.
6. Co Le Pagoda festival – Co Le Town, Truc Ninh District, Nam Dinh Province.
7. Thuan Hung rice paper village – Thuan Hung Ward, Thot Not District, Can Tho.
8. Weaving village – Champa ethnic minority in Chau Phong Commune, Tan Chau District, An Giang Province.
9. Basket making – Stieng people in the districts of Bu Dang, Bu Gia Map, Hon Quan and Loc Ninh, Binh Phuoc Province.
10. Nhiang cham dao (dancing festival) – Dao people in Ngoc Lac District, Thanh Hoa Province.
11. Traditional dance with lanterns and cheo singing in Ngu Vong Phuong festival – Thieu Quang Commune, Thieu Quang District, Thanh Hoa Province.
12. Le Hoan Temple festival – Xuan Lap Commune, Tho Xuan District, Thanh Hoa Province.
13. Ba Vu Temple festival – Chan Ly Commune, Ly Nhan District, Ha Nam Province.
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