Efforts put into gong culture preservation of Central Highlands hinh anh 1A Central Highlands gong performance (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – The cultural space of gongs of the Central Highlands has been preserved and upheld across localities ever since it was recognised as an Oral Masterpiece and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO 15 years ago.

Gongs dated back to the Dong Son culture, some 3,500-4,000 years ago. Nowadays, the cultural space of gongs covers five Central Highlands provinces, namely Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Lam Dong, Kon Tum and Gia Lai, with 17 ethnic minority groups. Gongs have become a communication form among people, with Gods and the supernatural world. Gongs become the most sacred and valuable asset in every ethnic family.

Gongs have become a charming cultural identity of the Central Highlands.

According to Associate Professor Dr Nguyen Thuy Loan, Central Highlands’ gongs hold a special cultural value among Vietnam’s traditional musical instruments. They bear the cultural value of both localities and people. Moreover, it represents the material and spiritual living condition while connecting the community and upholding the history.

Most of ethnic minority villages in the Central Highlands have a gongs team to play at their groups’ traditional rituals and festivals, such as wedding, new house welcoming, baby delivery, crop harvest, new year, funeral, etc.

Therefore, gongs not only represent the Central Highlands cultural but also serve as the ambassador of the Vietnamese culture.

Most of visitors to the Central Highlands, particularly foreigners love to enjoy gongs, drink ruou can (drink alcohol with a bamboo tube) by the firecamp and see local ethnic minority dance.

Central Highlands gong festivals have become attractive to visitors, especially foreign ones.

However, the Central Highlands, encompassing Dak Lak, Gia Lai, Kon Tum, Dak Nong, and Lam Dong, is facing a disintegration of this heritage as some ethnic minority households have recently sold their gongs and dismissed their traditional festivals due to impacts of the market economy and western lifestyles.

It is difficult to recover the cultural space of gongs as much as before. However, it is necessary to preserve the cultural heritage.

To cope with the decay, Central Highlands provinces have undertaken various measures in a bid to preserve and uphold values of the cultural space of gongs – part of the world’s intangible cultural heritage.

These provinces have designed respective blueprints for the preservation of the cultural space and purchased sets of gongs which were then distributed to local cultural and community centres to use.

Training courses have been offered to instruct local children to play gongs, bringing the number of gong teams in the region to nearly 1,400, 991 of which group young players.

Dak Lak province alone has spent more than 6 billion VND (over 279,000 USD) on buying 150 sets of gongs for 150 cultural centres in ethnic communities.

The province has invited Ede and M’nong ethnic artisans to teach children how to play gongs and some villages have proactively coordinated with primary schools to invite experienced players to give instruction sessions.

As a result, all communes in Kon Tum have gongs teams. They are home to 1,853 sets of gong.

A number of traditional festivals and gong songs have been revitalised while cultural festivals at the district and provincial levels have also been held every two or five years to help ethnics popularise their culture.

Gongs, considered the most sacred and valuable asset in every ethnic family in the Central Highlands, have historically been widely played at ethnic minority groups’ traditional rituals and festivals.

Ethnic families in the region are keeping more than 9,880 sets of gongs with over 5,650 sets in Gia Lai and another 2,307 in Dak Lak. Most of the gongs belong to the Jarai, Bahnar, Ede and M’nong groups./.