2:59:56 PM | 23/7/2010
Bai choi singing has become familiarwithnot only people in Hoi An City, Quang Nam province but visitors far and wide. Every night, especially on Saturday evenings, everyone gathers on a wide yard by the Hoai River in Hoi An City to enjoy bai choi performances. This stage livens up the typically tranquil night atmosphere in the ancient city.
To restore the unique cultural value of bai choi, which is threatened to fall into oblivion, Hoi An in particular and Quang Nam in general have, in recent years, popularised this form of art to enrich the spiritual life of local people and attract visitors to explore the local culture. The bai choi eve festival carries both the bustle of the modern life and gentleness and charm of traditional culture. Mr Tran Dinh Chau, Deputy Director of Hoi An Culture and Sports Centre, said: Not only domestic tourists but internationals are also very interested in this special kind of culture.
Refreshing cultural identity
Bai choi is a popular genre of folk impromptu art in central Vietnam. No one knows exactly when bai choi appeared. It is said this game was played around 400 years ago. Then bai choi lost its popularity and was almost forgotten, until the ancient town of Hoi An was accredited the World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, authorities of Quang Nam Province and Hoi An City, and particularly the Hoi An Culture and Sports Centre, restored the cultural playground to preserve and develop the national cultural identity and introduce to domestic and international visitors.
In bai choi, players sit inside makeshift thatched huts (choi) located around a tower, on which a hieu (speaker) stands. The speaker reads or sings lyrics to guide the play. Each bai choi comprises of 30 chess pieces with different names, assigned to 10 types of cards. On each card is written the names of three chess pieces and players will select the type of card they want to buy. After the nha cai (banker) gives out the cards, a bamboo stick, on which the name of a chess piece is written, is drawn to start the game. Then the speaker leads the game with lyrics about the piece’s name. If players hear the name of any of their pieces, they must shout “yes” and exchange the piece for a yellow flag. Whoever gains three consecutive yellow flags gets a red flag and wins.
Devoted to bai choi
Remarking on the importance of preserving and promoting cultural values of bai choi, Artist Dang Luong, who lives with bai choi since his childhood, said: Bai choi singing is not merely a form of entertainment but also a stage to show typical folk arts in southern Central Highlands. Bai choi provokes pride of younger generations by singing educated and humanitarian phrases. Although there are many forms of media and entertainment, this folk art attracts a lot of young people to take part in. The restoration of bai choi not only preserves a traditional art but also creates a lively cultural playground for visitors in Quang Nam.
Mr Dinh Hai, Director of Quang Nam Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said: The province is trying to restore and promote the folk cultural because it is a national value. “We have determined to do the best thing to conserve the national identity. Today, we are promoting this spirit and training young generations to preserve folk cultures of the central region and the entire nation as well.”