LAI CHÂU — In a special class in Than Uyên District in the northern province of Lai Châu, local artisans can be seen engrossed in teaching students the traditional dances and songs as well as how to play đàn tính, a handmade gourd lute.
Beginning on June 12, the class has attracted 80 students from three communes, Mường Cang, Hua Nà and Mường Kim, the majority of whom are children. They all share one thing in common: a passion for traditional Thái ethnic art and culture.
The class of then singing and Thái ethnic folk music is part of Than Uyên District’s resolution on promoting traditional cultures of ethnic groups in association with the development of community-based tourism over the next five years.
In addition to preserving and upholding the traditional cultures, the resolution also aims to improve the cultural and spiritual life of local people.
However, as the COVID-19 pandemic is still complicated, all participants of the class have to strictly comply with regulations on pandemic prevention and control, including wearing masks and social distancing.
Preserving cultural legacy
Than Uyên District is home to 10 ethnic groups with diverse original cultural identities that are showcased through their costumes, architecture, customs and language.
Thái ethnic people account for more than 70 per cent of the district’s population, therefore, the cultural and spiritual life of the people in the district has been mostly influenced by Thái culture from songs, dances, folk games to cuisine.
In recent years, Than Uyên District authority has made great efforts to preserve the local original culture by restoring traditional festivals, establishing clubs for playing đàn tính and then singing as well as maintaining activities of local art troupes in recent years.
Many artisans have also joined these efforts, among them is Lò Văn Sơi from Mường Cang Commune.
Like many other artisans, Sơi was concerned about preserving the cultural legacy passed down from the Thái predecessors, which is at risk of falling into oblivion because of modernisation.
He said, then singing, which is accompanied with đàn tính, is a unique performing art of the Thái ethnic group.
“It is an art form that combines the beauty of human and nature, artistic values and spiritual elements,” he said.
“The content of the songs expresses the wish for bumper crops, a peaceful, prosperous and happy life. Thái people in Mường Cang consider then singing and đàn tính as an indispensable spiritual ‘specialty’ of their life.”
Sơi added that it is his strong bond with his homeland that has helped him to understand, respect and preserve his ancestors’ culture that has nurtured his soul since a young age. He always makes time in his busy schedule to pass on his passion for folk songs and the traditional musical instrument to everyone, particularly the youth.
The artisan has also been collaborating with the Department of Culture and Information of Than Uyên District to develop the content for teaching traditional songs and dances to younger generations in the future.
Hearing the sound of đàn tính and then singing since birth, Hà Khánh Ly from Hua Nà Commune, a young member of the class, said that she had been proud of the cultural tradition of Thái people.
“I had difficulties in handling the instruments and the melodies at first, but artisans with great enthusiasm have helped me to improve my skills.
“I will make more efforts in studying to contribute to the conservation of national cultural values,” she added.
Developing cultural tourism
With the advantage of diverse cultural identities that have been well preserved by the local ethnic groups, Than Uyên District has great potential to develop community-based tourism.
To exploit such potential, the local authorities have organised a variety of activities that aim at both promoting a traditional culture of ethnic groups in association with the development of community-based tourism in the period 2020-25 in the district.
The district has regularly celebrated the Ethnic Culture and Sports Festival that includes many cultural activities like fairs, street festivals, ethnic cultural spaces or ethnic costume contest.
In particular, a tourism and cultural exchanging programme featuring hot air balloons was successfully held at the district early this year, attracting thousands of both locals and tourists from far and wide.
The local authorities have also made great efforts in restoring many traditional festivals and activities like Lùng Tùng, Xòe Chiêng, swallowtail boat racing and ancient songs of Khơ Mú ethnic community while encouraging the establishment of 129 art clubs.
“Than Uyên District is now focusing on preserving the cultural values of four ethnic groups, Thái, Khơ Mú, Mông and Dao,” said Hoàng Thị Liễu, head of the District Information and Culture Department.
According to Liễu, the regular organisation of cultural activities has attracted an increasing number of tourists to the region in recent years. Than Uyên District received nearly 20,000 tourists last year despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first six months of 2021, that number is estimated at nearly 10,000, which she said is good news for the tourism sector of the district.
She added that the local authorities would continue to promote local people’s awareness by organising regular meetings and classes for villagers “so that future generations can multiply their pride and therefore contribute their bits to building an advanced and rich cultural national identity”. —
Painter dedicates artworks to victims, rescuers of tragic Hanoi fire
Artist Le Sa Long crafted a series of seven paintings within three days to commemorate 56 dead victims of a recent fatal fire in Hanoi, while also conveying his appreciation for the relentless efforts of both emergency responders and compassionate civilians who fought the blaze and aided the struggling victims.
Long, a member of the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Association, joined numerous Vietnamese citizens from across Vietnam in closely monitoring news about the fire at an apartment block in Thanh Xuan District of the capital on Tuesday night last week.
The conflagration hit the apartment block down a narrow alley on Khuong Ha Street in the district and claimed the lives of 56 people while injuring 37 others.
|A painting by artist Le Sa Long depicts the scene of a tragic apartment building fire in Hanoi, September 2023. Photo: Supplied|
The tragedy inspired Long to dedicate nearly three days to crafting seven paintings in remembrance of the lost victims.
Out of the seven paintings, five form a sequential narrative.
The initial one portrays the scene of the tragic incident, while the subsequent paintings describe the efforts of emergency responders extinguishing the flames and rescuing individuals from the engulfed building.
|A painting by artist Le Sa Long depicts two brave emergency responders fearlessly entering a burning building to rescue victims in Hanoi, September 2023. Photo: Supplied|
The last two paintings consist of individual portraits.
In one, he depicts Nguyen Dang Van, a 30-year-old deliveryman from Bac Ninh Province in northern Vietnam, who valiantly assisted in the rescue of nine people from the fire.
|A painting by artist Le Sa Long depicts police officers, firefighters, and civilians banding together to rescue victims of a tragic apartment building fire in Hanoi, September 2023. Photo: Supplied|
In the other portrait, Long painted Pham Quoc Viet, founder and leader of First Aid Support Angels, a civilian charity organization committed to offering prompt first aid assistance for all accidents in Hanoi.
Viet and his team also provided aid at the scene of the fire last Tuesday night.
“If I have the opportunity to meet these two brave young people, Pham Quoc Viet and Nguyen Dang Van, I will present them with their portrait paintings as a gesture of gratitude for their fearless acts of rescuing people without regard to their own safety,” Long said.
|A painting by artist Le Sa Long depicts emergency responders working at the scene of a tragic apartment building fire in Hanoi, September 2023. Photo: Supplied|
Besides, Long is currently working on another oil painting measuring 120cm x 160cm, centered around a rare moment of respite among the firefighters after they successfully combated the deadly blaze on Tuesday night.
He plans to put this painting up for auction, with the proceeds to be used as support for the families of the 56 deceased victims.
|A painting by artist Le Sa Long depicts a firefighter carrying a child out of a tragic apartment building fire in Hanoi, September 2023. Photo: Supplied|
The artist said he worked diligently to finish the first seven paintings on Sunday night, just before various Hanoi departments and organizations observed a minute of silence in memory of the 56 victims on Monday morning.
The result of his work, however, did not feel rushed at all.
|A portrait by artist Le Sa Long depicts Nguyen Van Dang, a heroic deliveryman who helped rescue nine people from the site of a tragic apartment building fire in Hanoi, September 2023. Photo: Supplied|
Long conveyed the poignant incident with a touch of compassion and sensitivity, paying tribute to the fire brigade and promoting fire prevention and fighting in a gentle and impactful manner.
He agreed with Hoang Song Viet, a prolific composer of traditional southern Vietnam music and performance ‘cai luong,’ on transforming this heart-wrenching incident into works of literature and art as a means to raise people’s awareness about the importance of fire prevention and fighting, particularly in densely-populated urban areas like Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City.
|A portrait by artist Le Sa Long depicts Pham Quoc Viet, founder and leader of First Aid Support Angels, a civilian charity organization dedicated to providing timely first aid for accidents in Hanoi, who led his team to help rescue victims at the site of a tragic apartment building fire in Hanoi, September 2023. Photo: Supplied|
Vietnam wins silver at Int’l Circus Festival in Russia
Vietnamese artists Hien Phuoc and Thanh Hoa won the silver prize for their circus act titled ‘Moment of Love’ at the second ‘Without Borders’ International Circus Festival, which wrapped up on Sunday (local time) in Russia.
The judging panel awarded three gold medals to performances from two Russian teams and one Chinese representative, according to Le Dien, director at the Phuong Nam Art Theater’s circus in Ho Chi Minh City, which manages the Vietnamese circus duo.
Two more silver medals were presented to two other Russian performances.
Four bronze medals went to the teams from Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Bulgaria.
|Vietnamese artists Hien Phuoc (above) and Thanh Hoa perform the circus act titled ‘Moment of Love’ at the second ‘Without Borders’ International Circus Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, September 2023. Photo: Supplied|
Vietnam’s Hien Phuoc and Thanh Hoa were invited to the second ‘Without Borders’ International Circus Festival, jointly organized by the Russian Ministry of Culture and the Russian State Circus Company in St. Petersburg, after securing a gold medal at the International Circus Festival in Almaty City, Kazakhstan in July with the same performance.
Teams with about 200 artists from 16 countries and regions, including Russia, China, Mexico, Italy, and Ethiopia, participated in the fest from September 14 to 17 (local time).
|Vietnamese artists Hien Phuoc (C) and Thanh Hoa (L) pose with Le Dien, director at the Phuong Nam Art Theater’s circus in Ho Chi Minh City, at the second ‘Without Borders’ International Circus Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, September 2023. Photo: Supplied|
Vietnam’s Ha Giang halts tourist boat service on famous Nho Que River
Boat service for tourists on the Nho Que River, a popular destination in Ha Giang Province, northern Vietnam, has been suspended since Saturday as a result of an unresolved disagreement concerning the temporary management plan for tourist transportation services on the river.
Tu San Agricultural and Tourism Service Cooperative, the only tourist boat service provider on the Nho Que River, located in Meo Vac District, said that its passenger transportation contract with Nho Que 1 Hydropower JSC expired on September 15.
As per the announcement made on the same day, both the parties and the People’s Committee of Meo Vac District had not found a suitable resolution for extending the contract.
Consequently, the cooperative made the decision to temporarily suspend the operation of tourist boats on the Nho Que River.
A 30-minute boat ride on the river, whose tickets cost VND100,000 (US$4.12) per person, takes tourists to Tu San Canyon, through the same route to the Nho Que 1 Hydropower Plant, and return to the boat dock.
Reputed to be Southeast Asia’s deepest canyon, Tu San Canyon boasts awe-inspiring features, including cliffs towering up to 800 meters, a length of 1.7 kilometers, and an astonishing depth of nearly one kilometer.
This canyon is the result of a wondrous process that unfolded millions of years ago, back when this area was submerged beneath the vast ocean.
Through geological transformations, as the earth’s crust shifted and waters receded, erosion gradually shaped this distinctive and enduring geological marvel.
The canyon, along with the Nho Que River and Ma Pi Leng Mountain Pass, constitutes a trifecta of stunning natural landscapes in Meo Vac District, Ha Giang, making it an unmissable destination for tourists visiting the northern mountainous province.
The temporary halt in tourist boat services on the Nho Que River implies that travelers visiting Ha Giang during this period will miss the chance to encounter the renowned canyon.
However, there are alternative experiences available for visitors to select from, Giap Van Hai, a longtime professional tour designer and tour guide in Ha Giang, told the news site VnExpress.
Hai suggests that tourists consider embarking on a trek along the White Cliffs trail, which provides a gorgeous panoramic view of the Nho Que River and Tu San Canyon.
The trek covers a distance of five kilometers and typically takes between 2.5 and 3.5 hours, depending on the physical condition and preferences of the visitors.
In addition, travelers can visit the section dubbed a ‘mini Tu San’ on the same Nho Que River for activities like stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, or traditional boating.
This area, known as Khau Vai Canyon, is situated in the northern part of Meo Vac District, along the border between Ha Giang and Cao Bang Provinces.
Similar to the famous Tu San Canyon, Khau Vai Canyon, located at the base of Ma Pi Leng Mountain Pass, boasts striking cliffs on both sides and a picturesque turquoise river.
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