A performance of "bai choi" singing (Photo: VNA)

 

Quang Tri (VNA) – The People’s Committee of central Quang Tri province has adopted a plan to preserve and promote the intangible cultural heritage of “bai choi” activities from 2018-2023.

Accordingly, Quang Tri will spend about 1.8 billion VND (77,500 USD) on a set of measures to preserve and promote the traditional art form, including organising classes for young people on the practice of “bai choi”; supporting artisans, clubs, and communities performing “bai choi”; and promoting “bai choi” as a traditional art for cultural and tourism development.

Since 1990, “bai choi” festivals have been recreated across villages in Quang Tri, for example in Tung Luat and Co My villages in Vinh Giang, Vinh Linh, as well as in Ngo Xa Tay village in Trieu Trung, Trieu Phong. The practice has mostly been passed down orally through the generations. However, most “bai choi” artisans are now quite old, putting the art at risk of sliding into oblivion.

In December last year, the art of “bai choi” was awarded UNESCO status in the 12th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Jeju Island in the Republic of Korea.

The art 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 their 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, dancing, and other gestures are accompanied by music played on traditional instruments and cheers from 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 Vietnam’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. –VNA