Fostering the ‘soul’ of Muong culture

Artisan Pham Thi Tang in the north-central province of Thanh Hóa’s Ngọc Lặc District is known locally as the “soul keeper” of ethnic Muong culture.

She has indeed been a major influence in restoring, preserving, and promoting the Pon Poong, or Choi Hoa, Festival, which has been recognised as a national intangible cultural heritage of the Muong.

Fostering the ‘soul’ of Muong culture

Artisan Pham Thi Tang

Born and bred in a family with a tradition of becoming shamans, Tang grew up in a space filled with Muong dance and song.

Her parents and grandparents taught her how to sculpt and trim the local tree, called Chạng Pạng, to make a cay bong -- an artificial tree decorated with “flowers” made from wood and colourful pieces of cloth and a symbol of spiritual life for the Muong.

She was also taught rituals on preserving worshipping beliefs as well as rituals for making a cay bong.

Tang still treasures one old cay bong made hundreds of years ago.

Through her passion for learning and exploring the ancestors’ traditions, she gradually picked up reams of knowledge about her Muong ethnic minority and became responsible for retaining its culture.

The Pon Poong Festival, she said, originated a long, long time ago.

“‘Pon’ in the Muong language means play and dance while ‘Pôông’ means flowers, so the name means dancing beside the flower tree,” she explained.

The festival is held annually on the day of the full moon in lunar January, March and July, in the hope of a bumper crop and a happy life. It is also a time to pray for human peace and love between men and women.

A ritual is conducted under the flower tree next to an ancient stilt-house. It starts when the sound of gongs, drums and flutes fill the air.

Tang and a group dressed in traditional Muong costumes dance and sing around the tree. The music and singing are so appealing they attract others.

She then acts as a shaman and also a narrator, reciting legends about the birth of heaven and earth and, especially, the creation of Muong villages.

The gods are also told about the year’s crop and the villagers’ celebrations to thank them for the good weather that made the harvest a success.

At the age of 75, Tang still remembers all of the details of the Pon Poong Festival, with its 48 unique games and characters, of which she acts as the main player.

Her stories have helped recreate and recount the cultural lives of the Muong since their early days, depicting rice cultivation, land division, house construction, brocade embroidery, wild animal hunting, fishing, folk games, wine making, and religious rituals.

The stories are linked together in a way that makes them part of a long history, so are told all night long by the side of the flower tree.

 

There were times in the past, however, especially before 1990, when the festival was neglected due to the encroachment of modern culture.

People focused on making money and not so interested in traditional festivals. The Pon Poong Festival gradually fell into decline as the younger generation wasn’t interested in inheriting and promoting it.

Only after 1990 did authorities in Thanh Hoa Province launch a programme on the preservation of local festivals, including folk games of ethnic communities.

And the Pon Poong Festival was included in the programme.

Over the years, Tang has enthusiastically and patiently passed on the dances and songs of the festival to the younger generations of the Muong by organising classes from village to village.

She is now holding additional classes in other districts around the province and spreading her love of traditional culture to as many as possible.

The number of people taking her classes has reached more than a hundred, including many children of pre-school and primary school age.

Tang and others from her village also gave folk art performances at many events held outside of the province, as a way of promoting their cultural identity.

One of her students, Le thi Sinh, 58, from Vin Con Village, is the third generation of her family to learn about the Pon Poong Festival from Tang. She is now trying to teach her children and grandchildren about it.

Sinh's interest in the festival began when she was a child, after seeing Tang and other women in the village dancing passionately by the flower tree.

“I wanted to be one of them, so when I heard about Tang classes I was keen to learn more,” Sinh remembered. “Tang carefully taught me about every dance and song. She also took me to traditional dance contests and events in other areas.”

Pham Van Dat, vice chairman of the People’s Committee of Ngoc Lac District, agreed that Tang was both the main character and the holder of the intangible cultural values of the Pon Poong Festival.

“Despite her age, Tang remains active in teaching the young,” Dat said. “Without people like her, the traditional cultural values of the ancestors would be at risk of disappearing.”

“Hopefully, with her continual dedication and effort in preserving and teaching the unique culture of the Muong, Tang will encourage many young people to follow in her footsteps and preserve the ‘soul’ of the ethnic minority community,” Dat said.

In November 2015, Tang was recognised as an Excellent Artisan for her outstanding contributions to preserving and promoting the country’s cultural heritage.

And in 2016, the Pon Poong Festival of the Muong was recognised as a national intangible cultural heritage.

VNS

HCM City launches new art project on folk music

HCM City launches new art project on folk music

A long-term art project offering folk music albums and performances has been launched as part of HCM City’s efforts to introduce Vietnamese traditional arts and culture to young people.

 
 

Other News

.
Huong Pagoda Festival canceled because of Covid-19 pandemic
Huong Pagoda Festival canceled because of Covid-19 pandemic
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  07/02/2021 

The Huong Pagoda Festival in 2021 would be canceled for the prevention of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sai Gon FC plan to send players to Japan
Sai Gon FC plan to send players to Japan
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  06/02/2021 

This year, Sai Gon FC plan to send two players to compete for FC Ryukyu in Japan, who play in the J2 League.

Local movie industry at stake this Tet
Local movie industry at stake this Tet
FEATUREicon  07/02/2021 

The Lunar New Year (Tet) has always been an ideal occasion for film distributors, but it will probably be different in 2021. 

HCM City to open book street festival to mark Tet holiday
HCM City to open book street festival to mark Tet holiday
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  06/02/2021 

Thousands of books are set to go on show at the annual book street festival which will take place in downtown Ho Chi Minh City from February 9 to February 15 in celebration of the upcoming Lunar New Year, known locally as Tet.

Oldest bookstore on Hanoi's Dinh Le Street
Oldest bookstore on Hanoi's Dinh Le Street
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  07/02/2021 

Nestled quietly in the small attic of the old dormitory on Dinh Le Street in Hanoi, Mao Bookstore has become a familiar destination for book lovers in the capital city.

Hoang Anh Gia Lai to face An Giang in National Cup opener
Hoang Anh Gia Lai to face An Giang in National Cup opener
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  05/02/2021 

Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) have been handed a straightforward National Cup draw against An Giang FC in the qualifying round following the online draw held on Tuesday in Hanoi.

Quang Hai named among most valuable players of ASEAN teams
Quang Hai named among most valuable players of ASEAN teams
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  05/02/2021 

Vietnamese midfield maestro Nguyen Quang Hai of Hanoi FC has been named in a list featuring the most valuable footballers playing for ASEAN teams, as announced by website Asean Football.

Hanoi to set off fireworks at only one location in Lunar New Year’s Eve
Hanoi to set off fireworks at only one location in Lunar New Year’s Eve
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  04/02/2021 

The capital city of Hanoi will cancel fireworks display in all of its 30 districts as planned in the Lunar New Year's Eve, which falls on February 11, in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Kitchen Gods ceremony a tradition of Tet
Kitchen Gods ceremony a tradition of Tet
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  04/02/2021 

The Vietnamese traditional New Year (Tet) festival actually begins on the 23rd of the last month of the lunar year, which falls on February 4 this year, with the “Ong Cong - Ong Tao” (Land Genie and Kitchen Gods) ritual.

Spring colours featured at village
Spring colours featured at village
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  05/02/2021 

A series of annual cultural activities to welcome spring by various ethnic minority groups will be held throughout February at the Vietnam Village for Ethnic Cultures and Tourism.

Midfielder Nguyen, a rising star of Hai Phong
Midfielder Nguyen, a rising star of Hai Phong
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  05/02/2021 

Nguyen Phu Nguyen's sparkling form has helped Hai Phong FC become the surprise V.League 1 leaders as the season is paused due to the pandemic.

Vibrant spring energy on show in art exhibition
Vibrant spring energy on show in art exhibition
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  03/02/2021 

An art exhibition to celebrate the success of the 13th Party Congress and the founding anniversary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (February 3) has opened in Hanoi.

New book on Tet released
New book on Tet released
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  03/02/2021 

A new book on the culture and lifestyle of Vietnamese people during Tet (Lunar New Year festival) has been released in HCM City.

Hanoi's historical sites brought to life
Hanoi's historical sites brought to life
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  03/02/2021 

Student Dang Viet Loc won first prize at a drawing contest held by the Centre for Scientific and Cultural Activities of the Temple of Literature.

Goalkeeper Lam joins Cerezo Osaka of Japan
Goalkeeper Lam joins Cerezo Osaka of Japan
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  02/02/2021 

Cerezo Osaka of Japan have announced their successful signing of goalkeeper Dang Van Lam from Muangthong United of Thailand.

New insights on Emperor Gia Long
New insights on Emperor Gia Long
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  02/02/2021 

To commemorate 200 years of death of Emperor Gia Long in the Lunar calendar, Hue Monuments Conservation Centre held the opening ceremony of an exhibition on Emperor Gia Long at Long An Palace, Hue Royal Antiquities Museum. 

V-League postponed amid COVID-19 outbreak
V-League postponed amid COVID-19 outbreak
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  02/02/2021 

The fourth round of the 2021 V-League has been delayed due to the spread of Covid-19 in some provinces in Vietnam.

New museum about Ho Chi Minh Campaign opens in HCM City
New museum about Ho Chi Minh Campaign opens in HCM City
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  02/02/2021 

A new museum showcasing items and documents about the Ho Chi Minh Campaign in April 1975 has opened in HCM City.

Chance encounter with a Thai wedding
Chance encounter with a Thai wedding
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  03/02/2021 

Hoa Village is home to Black Thai people, with stilt houses made of cement and metal frames resembling those in Doi Village.

Sculptors showcase pottery artworks to mark their club's opening
Sculptors showcase pottery artworks to mark their club's opening
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  01/02/2021 

Nearly 100 pieces of pottery by members of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association are on display at an exhibition in Hanoi.

 
 
 
Leave your comment on an article

OR QUICK LOGIN