The Phu Yen provincial People’s Committee held a ceremony on November 21 to receive the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s certificate recognising Bai Choi (singing while playing cards) singing as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Unique to the coastal central region, Bai Choi is often seen at spring festivals in Binh Dinh, Phu Yen and Quang Nam provinces and resembles a game, using playing cards and village huts.
The stage for Bai Choi performances encompasses nine cottages, each containing five or six ‘players’. One of the cottages, the central house, contains a troupe of musicians and instruments. A deck of playing cards is split in half, with one stack distributed amongst the players, and the other placed in the central house. The cards are stuck onto bamboo poles and erected outside the cottages.
The game singer delivers a flag to each cottage, all the while singing bai choi, and then draws a card from the central house. Whoever holds the card closest in value to the game singer’s card wins.
The Bai Choi songs are about festivals, daily life and work, and are accompanied by musical instruments.
Aiming to preserve the folk art, Phu Yen province has solutions, such as establishing a Bai Choi club, teaching the art at schools, and establishing policies to support artisans.
On the occasion, Quang Nam and Binh Dinh provinces also received the certifications.
Phu Yen province is currently at work on a dossier on Bai Choi singing for submission to UNESCO for recognition as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.