Hanoi’s water puppetry theatre makes Asian Book of Records



The Thang Long Water Puppetry Theatre in Hanoi has made the Asian Book of Records as the only Asian theatre performing water puppet shows all 365 days of the year.

Established in 1969, the theatre initially started performing monthly water puppet shows for audiences in 1990, which subsequently changed to weekly and then to daily performances.

Since almost all guided tours around Hanoi included a show at the Thang Long Water Puppetry Theatre, it stays open all year round.

The theatre has also introduced the traditional art form to more than 50 countries across the world.

Two other Vietnamese representatives were also named in the Asian Book of Records this time, namely PhD Le Van Tri, for owning the largest number of invention certificates on biology, and the Vietjet Aviation Joint Stock Company (Vietjet Air), for offering the largest number of cultural activities on flight, in Asia.

Magazine about Viet Nam-Russia relations launched

The Viet Nam-Russian Friendship Association has launched Bach Duong (Birch-tree), a magazine focused on the two countries' relationship.

The magazine will be issued every three months, both in print and online. It will publish articles about politics, society and culture as well as analyses of the relations between the two countries.

Editor-in-chief Nguyen Dang Phat, a veteran journalist who worked as the Vietnam News Agency correspondent in Moscow for many years, said that a monthly edition will be published in Russia soon.

Ha Noi to host first chau van festival

Troupes from 29 districts will perform chau van, a traditional ritual combining folk singing and dancing, in an 11-day festival starting today.

This is the first official large-scale festival celebrating the art form, which was created during the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400) in Nam Dinh and has since been popular at festivals and rituals in northern Viet Nam. The joyful melodies praise beneficent deities and national heroes, backed by tambourine, castanets and cymbals. The highly rhythmic form of singing often accompanies hau dong (mediumship) to honour the Mother Goddess and connect to other gods.

Professor Ngo Duc Thinh, director of Viet Nam Belief Culture Research and Preservation Centre in Ha Noi, said the festival would help preserve the authenticity of the ritual.

"In many places, hau dong and chau van have been deformed and used for superstition-oriented rather than religious purposes, depriving this traditional singing genre of its cultural and artistic value and giving rise to many misunderstandings," said Thinh.

To counter the perception that the ritual is superstitious, organisers recommend performers refrain from smoking excessively, drinking alcohol or delivering offerings in cash. But these restrictions are not really practical, Thinh said.

"In theory, when getting into a trance, performers become Ong Hoang Ba (the third Prince), Hoang Bay (the seventh Prince) or Hoang Muoi (the tenth Prince). Should we not let princes drink or smoke?" Thinh said. "Cash offerings have been given for many years. It's long been believed that they are given by God to those participating into a ritual. So I think it's best to let the performers decide their own practices."

The festival will be divided into two rounds, with the ten best performers selected to perform in the second round. Unlike at other festivals, troupes will not perform for prizes or distinction.

"The initial chau van rituals will take place in old temples, staying true to their origin," said vice director of the municipal Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Khac Loi.

"However, in the next round, the festival will take place in Cong Nhan Theatre [42 Trang Tien Street] where a stage will enable performers to present the art to its full potential."

On the sidelines of the festival, a workshop on preserving the precious values of chau van rituals in modern life will be held on October 5. Speakers will include scientists, cultural authorities and chau van performers.

Relevant agencies are working on a dossier seeking UNESCO's recognition of the traditional signing genre as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Artists mourn communal houses

It's increasingly hard to find traditional communal houses in the capital, as modern development replaces older buildings. However, a group of artists is fighting to preserve this architectural heritage with an exhibition in downtown Ha Noi.

In Doi Thoai Voi Dinh Lang (Dialogue with Village Communal Houses), the artists mourn the disappearance of communal houses, emphasising the need to protect old buildings and, more broadly, preserve tradition.

Nguyen Ngoc Lam built many small wooden houses surrounding a gold-inlaid communal house. The work, Chen Lan (Jostle), is intended as a comment on how urban development is encroaching on communal houses, temples and pagodas.

Nguyen The Son spent six months wandering throughout the Old Quarter as well as new urban areas to record how private buildings have replaced communal houses.

"This is an open project," he said, "In the captions, I note the address of each communal house and leave a blank so that audiences can fill in what they know about the site."

In Vu Dinh Tuan's Chuyen Cua Dinh (Story of a Communal House), the artist creates an elaborate visual metaphor. A circle of unhusked rice on the floor represents the yard of a communal house, where local farmers dry their rice under the sun. Many strings connect it to a 2.5m-long kite, which looks like the roof of a communal house and is printed with various idioms and folk verses. It represents the world of humans, filled with knowledge and letters, the artist said. Above it hang multi-coloured bands of cloth, which represent the sky.

"I hope my work will show people that communal houses are not only valuable in terms of fine arts, but also in terms of abundant language," he said.

Vu Nhat Tan brought the only audio project, a 60-minute record of the sounds at a communal house.

"We cannot hear echoes of the past with cocks crowing, birds twittering and people praying," he said, "The communal houses are no longer quiet and tranquil. They are as noisy and busy as the bustling street."

Several of the artists, like Le Tran Hau Anh, Pham Duy and Luu Chi Hieu, are teachers at the Viet Nam Fine Arts University. Dang Thi Khue is a researcher at the Viet Nam Fine Arts Institute and Vu Nhat Tan teaches at the Viet Nam National Academy of Music.

Researcher Bui Thi Thanh Mai, curator of the exhibition, hoped each work would awaken a love for heritage among audience members and help protect communal houses.

The exhibition runs at Viet Nam Fine Arts Museum, 42 Yet Kieu Street, till October 4.

Largest ever Xoe dance to be recognized

Vietnam’s largest ever Xoe dance, expected to involve 2,000 artists, will be held in Yen Bai province’s Nghia Lo town stadium on September 29.

Xoe dance, a style where large masses of people link hands and dance in a circle, will form part of a ceremony launching the project “Building Nghia Lo Town’s Culture Tourism Over 2013–2020”.

Nghia Lo People’s Committee Vice Chairwoman Hoang Thi Hong Hanh said more than 2,000 artisans, artists and people of various ethnic groups in the province had practised the dance for weeks and they are now ready for the performance at the opening ceremony.

Hanh, who is also head of the event’s organizing board, said three large public LED screens will be erected around the stadium, making it easier for local people and visitors to enjoy the performance.

Yen Bai has been preparing for one month, inspecting accommodation and hospitality facilities, and instructing local police forces to protect public order and traffic safety.

The locality has also completed preparations for five of Nghia Lo Culture, Sports, and Tourism Week’s major activities. These include celebrating 55 years since President Ho Chi Minh’s visit to Yen Bai, a food and trade fair, a buffalo fighting festival, sports matches, and tours of the area’s historical sites.

UK Week in Vietnam helps enhance bilateral ties

A UK Week in Vietnam will be held from September 28 to October 4, according to the British embassy.

This is part of activities to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the UK and Vietnam which has been significantly strengthened since the two countries signed a strategic partnership agreement in 2010.

On this occasion, domestic businesses will have the chance to learn more about the UK’s services and products, especially in the fields of culture, education and vocational training.

The UK Week will take place in Hanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh city with diverse activities including a seminar on the role of education and vocational training in the development process and a meeting between UK and Vietnamese businesses to share experience in the marketing and advertising field and seek business opportunities.

Ambassador Antony Stokes said the event will prove the UK as an ideal partner for Vietnam’s fast growing economy. It will offer an opportunity for UK businesses to meet and establish business cooperation ties with Vietnamese partners.

The highlight of the UK week will include a film festival in five major cities, a charity run and a football friendly tournament for businesses.

Innovative stencil art to open in Hanoi

A showcase of stencil art by Knee Jerk will take place at Manzi Art Space, No14 Phan Huy Ich Street, Hanoi from September 25 to October 7.

The focus for the (E)Motion exhibition is a series of anomalous motion illusions and other optical art pieces that will make visitors wonder if they are seeing things or if in reality it is the artwork that is itself moving.

As with all of Knee Jerk’s work there is a social and environmental commentary within the pieces and rather than having a knee jerk (automatic) reaction to the work, the artist urges you to think about the art and its context to understand more fully the juxtaposition of geometric beauty and hidden meanings.

This is the artist’s first solo show and features a new body of work that promises to deliver a fresh taste of something you probably haven’t seen before – Artwork that appears to move in some way, in what is the first gallery exhibition of stencil art in Vietnam’s history.

Knee Jerk is a graphic designer, illustrator and stencil artist currently residing in Hanoi. His colourful work ranges from abstract to realistic, minimalist to high detail and anywhere in between.

Usually, his designs begin in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and end up as large multilayer stencils that are painstakingly cut by hand before being sprayed onto canvases, walls and other objects.

Nhạc vàng aka “Soft music” being revived in Vietnam

Nhạc vàng, or “Soft music”, a popular music during the 1960s and 1970s in southern Vietnam, is now being revived by modern artists.

Nhạc vàng is a style of music that appeared in southern Vietnam in the 1960s. It then  became popular across the country by the 1970s, especially before national reunification in 1975.

After 1975, nhạc vàng was used to label any music from southern Vietnam that was produced during  partition and was consequently banned in the public media.

During that time, all music produced in the southern region was classified as “reactionary” or “depraved” or “mawkish” and many of the recordings were destroyed for failing to demonstrate the collective will.

However, this style of music still exists and is sung by many people across the country as it helps to  describe their feelings.

And recently, nhạc vàng has come back with a vengeance and is being performed on several major stages.

Several overseas Vietnamese singers who are famous nhạc vàng performers, like Tuan Vu and Che Linh, have recently organised shows in their adoptive homelands so as to meet people’s rising demand for such style of music.

Many popular modern singers in Vietnam, namely Dam Vinh Hung, Phuong Thanh and Le Quyen, have also organised programmes for this music.

Anh Tuyet who is a famous singer of nhạc vàng has recently released a new disc of it.

“I decided to sing this music as a natural option for my soul. It’s not true that I do it because I'm short of ideas. I honestly do think that nhạc vàng is a genuine part of the history of Vietnam’s music industry,” Anh Tuyet said.

Soft music seems to have penetrated  the academic environment as singer Anh Tho recently announced that she would also sing nhạc vàng.

Popular singers in southern Vietnam including Thuy Duong, Xuan Phu and Quang Minh, who previously sang both red music and soft music, tend to favour soft music when the demand for red music slips.

Composers of modern light music, Quoc Trung and Huy Tuan seemed to foresee that the rebound of soft music might mean a smaller market share for other types of music. They then decided to perform nhạc vàng as well and this caused some public controversy.  Then in a remarkable move, Quoc Trung chose to blame other singers of nhạc vàng for the controversy.

Several members of the public said that people have a perfect right  to sing whatever music they choose and should not be criticised for doing so.

“It’s not really true that certain types of music can be classified “soft” or “high-end”, the value of music depends on how it affects people’s souls,” Anh Tuyet commented.

Art Program ‘Forever Autumn’ marks 10th anniversary

An art performance took place at the Opera House in Ho Chi Minh City to mark the 10th anniversary of the program titled ‘Forever Autumn’ on September 23.

The program has been organized in the City 100 shows in the last 10 years attracted over 50,000 audiences from many different fields such as students, workers and ect...

As part of the anniversary celebrations, a series of Vietnamese traditional revolutionary songs were performed by well-known singers, music groups, such as the song ‘Nam Bo Khang Chien’ (South Vietnam's Resistance), ‘Vietnam Que Huong Toi’ (Vietnam is My Fatherland), ‘Thanh Pho Toi Yeu’ (I love the City) and many other famous songs.

On this occasion, the Prime Minister awarded certificates to two teams and two individuals, who have had many achievements as well as contributions for the program.

Moreover, the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City also awarded certificates to seven outstanding teams and 27 individuals for performances during the last ten years.

Humanity, optimism filled Ho Chi Minh’s"Prison diary"

In his revolutionary career, President Ho Chi Minh wrote many historic documents and famous works, including a collection of poems called "Prison diary". The work is a self-portrait in poems, reflecting the humane and optimistic soul of the profound communist and poet Ho Chi Minh. Stay tuned for some insights from the Voice of Vietnam Radio.

To mark the 70th anniversary of "Prison diary", a recent workshop in Hanoi confirmed the artistic value, humanity, and vitality of the poem collection, a high-profile work in Vietnam’s modern poetry. The workshop was organized by the Party Central Committee’s Communication and Education Commission, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and the Union of Vietnam Arts and Literature Associations.

"Prison diary" consists of 133 poems written in Chinese Han script from August 29, 1942, to September 10, 1943. The original edition is a small notebook whose cover is illustrated with 4 verses and a sketch of two hands in chains.

Ho Chi Minh was both the author and a character who recorded and retold "stories in jail" in a diary format. "Prison diary" can be seen as an autobiography in verse, in which President Ho placed the revolution and the people in the supreme position.

Literary critic Phuong Luu says the work shows the greatness of a great personality, whose earnest desire was "Independence for the nation and freedom for humans": "It’s noteworthy that the word 'freedom' is repeated again and again, demonstrating Ho Chi Minh’s desire for freedom as a human being and a poet. This also matches his thought as a leader. When establishing the State, he named it the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. But this was not enough. Vietnam was one of the rare countries that have added another phrase to its official name: 'Independence – Freedom – Happiness', meaning the nation was independent and the people had to a right to freedom and happiness. This is what we are pursuing now."

Ho Chi Minh’s "Prison dairy" depicts the revolutionary’s perseverance, resilience and iron will to overcome all hardships with hope and optimism for the future. Despite being in custody and enduring 18 prisons in 13 district of China’s Quangxi province, the author showed dignity and unruffledness as a revolutionary prisoner.

To begin the collection, Ho Chi Minh wrote "I am not keen on reciting poems, but what else can I do in jail; All day long I recite poems to find solace; Reciting and waiting for the day I will be released". Enduring the harsh conditions of Chiang Kai-Shek’s prison, the prisoner was firm in his belief in the rosy future of the revolution. "There is neither wine nor flower in jail; It’s hard to resist tonight’s beauty; A human being watches the moonlight via a window; The moon peeps at the poet through the gap of the window".

Literary critic Professor Phong Le calls "Prison diary" the most honest and in-depth self-portrait of Ho Chi Minh. He emerged in various postures: a revolutionary who lost freedom, a miserable prisoner, a friend who was sympathetic to all lower-class people and a poetic soul in favor of nature. He was also a human being with extraordinary strong will and a revolutionary optimism amid the most difficult circumstances.

Poet Vu Quan Phuong told VOV: "I wrote several studies about him, including articles about his prison escape and how he merged into the circle of prisoners, the bottom-of-society class. 'My itchy body is purplish-red as if covered an embroidered silk cloth; Rustling as if playing a guitar. Wearing silk cloth, my prisoner friends are honored guests. Playing music in jail voices friendship'". (Poem Scabies)

"Prison dairy" was translated into Vietnamese in 1960 and since then has been translated into English, Arabic, Portuguese, German, Korean, Japanese, and Spanish. On October 1, 2012, the Prime Minister of Vietnam signed a decision recognizing "Prison diary" as a national treasure.

Art exchange features clear eyes for the elderly

An art programme aimed to help prevent eye diseases for the elderly will be held at the Friendship Palace in Hanoi on September 28, according to the Central Committee of the Vietnam Association of the Elderly (VAE).

The event is part of the drive on taking care of and upholding the role of the elderly for the 2012-2015.

Since 2012, the drive has been implemented in 61 provinces and city nationwide, providing free eye checks and medicines for nearly 1.6 million old people. Over 190 billion VND (9 million USD) have also been spent on different surgeries for over 151,000 people.

In the coming time, the Vietnam Association of the Elderly (VAE), the Vietnam Red Cross and the Ministry of Health will join hands to conduct eye checks and treatment for the old in remote and needy areas.

Film week gives sneak preview of Vietnam Film Festival

A film week, held as a preview of the 18th Vietnam Film Festival, officially kicked off at the National Cinema Centre in Hanoi on September 23.

‘Nhung Nguoi Viet Huyen Thoai’(Legend Writers), a film directed by Bui Tuan Dung about the revolutionary war against American imperialism, was screened at the opening ceremony.

Throughout the week, audiences will have the chance to enjoy nearly 20 films which have been entered in the 18th festival. The films will be shown in Hanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City.

A feature film entitled ‘Suoi Nguon’ (The Fountainhead) by the Liberation Film Studio and a scientific film named ‘Vi Mot Viet Nam Xanh’ (For a Green Vietnam) by the Central Documentary Science Film Studio have also been sent to cinema and film distribution centres to serve audiences around the country at mobile film shows.

The 18th Vietnam Film Festival, ‘Vietnam Cinema: Nation, Humanity, Creation and Integration’, is scheduled to take place from October 12-15 in Ha Long City in the northern province of Quang Ninh.

The festival features documentaries, feature films, scientific films and animations.

Photo exhibition conveys mainland support to Truong Sa soldiers

Nearly 70 photos depicting the stunning beauty of Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago are on display at an exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City.

The exhibits were taken by Viet Dung, a journalist from the Saigon Giai Phong newspaper, when he accompanied a delegation from Ho Chi Minh City on a visit to the archipelago in May.

The photos illustrate memorable moments and the sentiments of Ho Chi Minh City leaders towards Truong Sa soldiers, who always remain optimistic and energetic while steadfastly protecting the country’s sea and islands.

Dung said that through his photos he wished to convey the love and support of Ho Chi Minh City residents to the soldiers and islanders on Truong Sa. ‘Keep your belief’, he says. ‘The mainlanders always stand firm behind you’.

The exhibition runs until September 25 at the HCMC Youth Cultural House: 4 Pham Ngoc Thach street, district 1.