culture tour review: Xoan Singing – The cultural
beauty of Xoan Festival in Phu Tho province
Read on to see one of the most
noticeable UNESCO intangible cultural heritages in Vietnam, Xoan Singing for
your Vietnam culture tour now!
Singing has long become an invaluable cultural heritage of the people in the
area of ??Phu Tho province in particular and in Vietnam in general. It is an
art born in the cult of wet rice farming and on the land of the nation where
many folk festivals are held annually in spring. The ancient Xoan Singing is
derived from ancient villages located in the center of the Van Lang Dynasty of
the Hung Kings. Four ancient Xoan guilds are An Thai, Phu Duc, Kim Doi and
Thet, which are located in Kim Duc and Phuong Lau (Phu Tho). It originates from
Phu Tho, and then spread to the villages on the banks of Lo River and Red River
across Vinh Phuc province.
to folk legends of the Phu Tho region, the art of Xoan Singing dates back to
the time of Hung Kings (more than 2000 BC). It is not only to celebrate the
kings, but also to pray for the rain, the lush harvest, the natural scenery, and
good health in the countryside.
Often practiced on the seventh day of Lunar New
Year in Hung Temple, Xoan Singing is a combination of poetry, music, singing,
dancing and clapper beating. Three major types of Xoan Singing are recital
melody (Hat Noi), chanting
melody (Hat Ngam Ngoi) and
praising melody (Hat Xuong). A
performance of Xoan Singing normally includes three phrases: Worship Singing,
Ritual Singing (or “Qua Cach” Singing)
and Festive Singing with some basic instruments such as a small drum, a big
drum and a few pairs of clappers. Xoan Singing is often organized into Xoan
guilds or clubs including at least 15 to 18 people with 2 to 9 male
instrumentalists called “Kep”,
and 6 to12 female singers called “Dao”.
Each guild is headed by “Trum”, an old man who has a thorough knowledge of Xoan
Each of the Xoan guilds had their own communal
house. Xoan singing has a customary ceremony called “keep the door”
(Giu Cua Dinh). Each Xoan group has a number of communal houses where they are
free to sing and do not allow other families to sing. Maintaining the door
means avoiding conflicts and trampling on each other among Xoan guilds. Sometimes
four Xoan guilds com to sing together in a house. In the 2 or 4 guilds coming
together, which guild keeping the door still has their own honor such as attending
the ceremony or dancing in worshipping ceremony.
“Keep the door” ceremony also called “Nuoc Nghia”
ceremony is to create a strong relationship between the Xoan family keeping the
communal house and the local people of that village. As mentioned above, Xoan Singing
is a form of general performance. Xoan Singing is a group with three elements
of performance: singing, dancing and accompaniment. It includes not only singing
but also dancing together with some musical instruments to buffer the voice and
keep the pace. Dancing in Xoan is just in the level of illustration and likes a
form of dance simulating movements in human social and natural life such as
cooking, fishing, or cultivating.
Xoan Singing was composed by two classes of people
with two different literary lines: Confucian scholars (mainly Confucian teachers
and students) with the flow of philosophy literature and workers (mainly
farmers) with simple folk literature. Therefore, besides the content of
pleasure or sacred ceremony, Xoan Singing also stimulates the soul of
On 8th December, 2017, at the 12th
meeting of the UN Intergovernmental Commission on UNESCO in Jeju Island, UNECO
officially registered Phu Tho Xoan Singing as the intangible cultural heritage
of human being. UNESCO appreciates the local effort to preserve, transmit and
spread this precious heritage in the community due to the restoration of 33 clubs
with over 1,000 Xoan lovers and hundreds of performing spaces.
Xoan Singing that used to be in the ancient communal
yard, has been echoing all over Phu Tho. The singing space of Xoan area has
expanded, the awareness of conservation and promotion of Xoan Singing in the
community has been enhanced. The fact that Xoan Singing remains alive in our
modern life for thousands of years affirms the significant effort of artisans,
communities and Phu Tho in preserving and promoting the values of this
invaluable the intangible cultural heritage.
There are many interesting and meaningful things to do in Northern Vietnam, if
you are confused on what to explore in this country, let’s join cultural tour in Vietnam to experience Xoan
Singing in Phu Tho. Let’s backpack and enjoy it!