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Gong classes preserve Central Highlands' gong culture

A secondary school in the Central Highlands has opened classes teaching students to play the gong to preserve and promote one of the most recognised traditional cultural features of the region.
Ly Thuong Kiet School in Dak N'Drung commune, Dak Song District of Dak Nong province, has recently put gong classes on the curriculum to preserve the intangible cultural heritage that is recognised by UNESCO.

Useful information and dedicated teachings are part and parcel of the gong lessons.

In an open space decorated with cultural characteristics of the M'Nong ethnic group, the children excitedly learned about the cultural roots of the gong, its importance to the spiritual life of the Central Highlands people and the journey to becoming an intangible cultural heritage.

Excited to hear the gong's reverberation, the children touch each gong to feel the material and test its sound.

Thi So Man, a M'nong ethnic 6th grader, said she was thrilled when she first experienced the gong class.

"With what I have learned, my friends and I will try to absorb and practise playing the gongs thoroughly to preserve our nation's cultural identity," Man said.

Dieu Nhin, the gong teacher, said there were two gong players in his family, so all of his brothers and sisters were taught to play.

The sound of the gong was indispensable on happy days and important events when Nhin was growing up.

"This class is a way to convey love and pride for national culture to the younger generation," Dieu Nhin said.

"Gongs are invaluable assets, created by ethnic communities in the Central Highlands and constantly promoted and handed down among generations. As M'nong people, we must know the sound of gongs and be responsible for preserving and passing it on."

He wants to replicate the classes in more schools and ethnic villages.

The gong class is a great effort by Ly Thuong Kiet School.

The school had recently bought a gong set worth over 30 million VND (1,300 USD).

With the gong set and a professional gong team in the district, the school decided to maintain regular gong classes and turn them into an optional subject taught by local artisans.

Pham Van Tuan, the headmaster, said that the school wished to establish its own gong team to teach students every academic year.

The development of economic, social and religious life has strongly changed the lives of ethnic communities in the Central Highlands. Many artisans who knew the secret of playing the gong passed away. And the younger generation has little or no interest in the gongs due to a strong attraction to modern life and imported culture. As such, gongs are gradually disappearing.

"In addition to learning in school, the students are taught their culture, which is an essential factor in preserving and spreading the love for this intangible cultural heritage to the youth and local community," said Tuan./.