Xoan Singing of Phu Tho Province: Intangible Cultural Heritage

2:17:45 PM | 19/8/2014

According to historical records, Xoan singing has existed for over 2,000 years and is an extremely valuable folk cultural heritage. Over its long history, this art form has been promoted by many people with status and prestige in society, and supported and facilitated by many writers and poets.
Xoan singing or hat cua dinh (singing at the communal house) is a kind of performing art relating to worshipping gods; it is believed to be a legend from the time of Hung Kings. Long time ago, the Van Lang's people held many Xoan singing events in the spring to welcome the new year. There are three forms of Xoan singing as the worship singing to commemorate Hung Kings and village guardian gods; the ritual singing to pray for good crops, good health; and the festive singing – a form of love duet.
The Xoan's melodies are rooted in the ancient village that is located in the central area of Van Lang under the Hung Kings. The Xoan singing stems from Phu Tho region and then spreads to the riverside village of the Lo river bank, the Red River, and through the Vinh Phuc province. Four old Xoan guilds are An Thai, Phu Duc, Kim Doi and Thet in two communes of Kim Duc and Phuong Lau (Viet Tri city, Phu Tho province).
Xoan singing has three types: recital melody (hat noi); chanting melody (hat ngam ngoi) and praising melody (hat xuong). It is a combination of many types of vocals: female choir, male choir, group song, the lyrics, polyphonic singing, chasing singing, chanters, and repartee. In terms of musical nuances, the Xoan music is a combination of six different tones (no tone mark, rising tone, falling, low glottal, rising glottal, falling-rising).
The Xoan singing has both of dancing and singing that always go together and the dancing is to illustrate the lyrics of the song. The dancing performances are usually sorted in the order given. Opening has 4 performances with the ritual repertoire, praying content, praising, describing and simulated production. These are ancient songs that are mainly to commemorate Hung Kings, village guardian spirits, the people, who had merit for the country and families' ancestors, through the repertoires of Moi vua, Giao trong, Giao phao, Tho nhang and Dong dam. Next is the qua cach singing. The structure of each qua cach comprises of 3 parts: the opening part called giao cach, the central part called dua cach and the ending part called ket cach. In this part, a lead or dual singers will start 14 qua cach (folk melodies) written in Nom (ancient Vietnamese language), accompanied by the voice actress stood in the rear. 14 qua cach in the Xoan singing is the poems with different themes to describe labor, living in the countryside, praising the nature scenes, and the old stories. The cach singing is followed by other folk performance with bold lyrical content, giving the appearance of folk songs, pair signing, and singing with drums. Each successive performance is often associated with movement and dancing groups or narrative nature scenes such as hat gai, bo bo, xin hue, do hue, do chu, gai hue, hat dum, and fishing. The vitality of Xoan singing lies in the combination of the type of ritual signing and love singing, that have been lasting for many years and loved by many people.
Preservation and promotion of value of intangible cultural heritage
In recent years, Phu Tho province has implemented some key tasks of preserving and promoting Xoan singing, known as the value of the intangible cultural heritage that urgently needs for protection.
The province focuses on teaching and practicing the Xoan Singing for younger generation through the organisation of training of the artisans, especially the young artists in the community of the original Xoan ward, the commune staffs, and the core artisans in the folk clubs of the province.
These are important issues, deciding the sustainability of the long-term conservation of the Xoan singing and promoting the role of the elderly artisan on training young artisans. By 2015, the current artisans are trained to become the future trainers for other generations.
Relating to the project of preservation and promotion of Xoan singing of Phu Tho as a intangible cultural heritage in the period of 2013-2015 and orientations to 2020", the provincial department of sports, culture and tourism will investigate the current state of the original areas and neighbourhoods of the Xoan singing and the status of conservation and promotion of values of the Xoan singing for summary, analysis, information processing, and report.
At the same time, the province are adopting the plans to protect the intangible cultural heritage that are determined under the UNESCO Convention for the development objectives of socio-economy, cultural development, and tourism of the province.
Phu Tho is conducting research, collecting, and compiling the collection book of Xoan singing of Phu The. This is the most complete scientific works on Xoan singing of Phu Tho, contributing to the scientific basis of the proposal submitted to UNESCO in order to put the "Xoan singing of Phu Tho" to the list of the intangible cultural heritages by 2015.
Besides, the province will set up the projects to preserve, repair and restore the intangible heritages related to Xoan singing; the provinces also collects, making research, publishing, and digitizing the documents on Xoan singing as well as promoting the organisations of the performing activities, domestic and foreign culture exchange events, scientific conferences and recovery of the festivals and traditions of Xoan singing associated with the worship of Hung Kings in the original wards of Xoan singing.
Phu Tho will also promote the dissemination and promotion of the Xoan singing in the mass media and focus on the special advocacy, referral, and frequent updates to the conservation and promotion of heritage values of Xoan singing on the website of Phu Tho in both English and Vietnamese.
Under the preservation and protection plan of Xoan singing of Phu Tho, the province aims to bring Xoan singing to be the intangible cultural heritage of humanity by 2015. The Phu Tho province requests the related authorities should organize and design the content to meet the requirements of this objective.