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Thua Thien-Hue promotes revival of bai choi

Thua Thien-Hue province is fostering the revival of regular bai choi performances in villages that were once familiar with the art form in an attempt to keep it alive.

Half game half theatre performance, bai choi was recognised as a world cultural heritage item earlier this year by UNESCO and is a common legacy in the central provinces ranging from Quang Binh, Thua Thien-Hue to Khanh Hoa.

According to local authorities, practice of the art form in this province is quite different from others, so conservation of Thua Thien-Hue’s bai choi is necessary to ensure the diversity of the art is not lost.

Under a recent proposal made the provincial People’s Committee, authorities will give funds to revive bai choi clubs in villages where it used to be performed regularly during the holidays.

The number of performances has dwindled over the last two decades as a result of changes created by the modern lifestyle. Only Thanh Thuy Chanh, the village that has the Thanh Toan roofed bridge, has kept the traditional bai choi performance every Tet (Lunar New Year festival).

At the same time, local authorities will fund a programme to teach bai choi singing in schools.

The Department of Culture and Sports has tried to make digital documents of local bai choi songs, create a list of top artists and integrate the performances at the biennial Hue Festival, the biennial festival for craft villages and at public playgrounds during Tet.

The department is also in charge of creating classes for veteran artists to train younger performers.

Bai choi literally means a game of a deck of cards (bai) by sitting in bamboo huts (choi). Nine bamboo huts on stilts are erected on a spacious plot of land in two rows, each made up of four huts for the players. The biggest hut is in the middle, with a wooden stand for the leader of the game.

The leader sings songs that include the name of the cards or illustrated the figures on the cards. A hut that has three cards that coincide with the songs win the game.

Experts said bai choi in Hue is a different type of entertainment compared to those of theatres in Binh Dinh, Phu Yen and Khanh Hoa. Game leaders in Hue are said to be more creative as they have various lyrics on the sample music.