Quan ho – An Intangible Cultural Heritage of Bac Ninh province

Quan ho – An Intangible Cultural Heritage of Bac Ninh province

Music is the language of the human's soul with many different emotions and we cannot live well without music. Each place has its own music and Vietnam is the same. If you have a chance to come and visit Vietnam, do not forget to take a Vietnam group tour to experience “Quan Ho Bac Ninh” – one of the most precious cultures in Vietnam.

About Quan Ho Bac Ninh

Quan Ho folk song is an Intangible Cultural Heritage. According to cultural researchers, Quan Ho has existed since the 17th century which is originated from the "Ket cha" custom between the villages. In terms of creative folk art, Quan Ho is considered the pinnacle of poetic art. Bac Ninh province has 44 original villages singing Quan Ho. However, there are now 30 villages maintaining Quan Ho. Quan Ho is a tune, a unique folk song, and a famous tune of the North Delta, Vietnam focusing mainly on Bac Ninh - Kinh Bac.

The name "Quan Ho" has been known for a long time and no one knows exactly why it is named "Quan Ho". There are many hypotheses explaining it; however, they are not convincing. One theory explains that "Quan Ho" is the type of music of the "family name of the mandarins". It is different from the others, and it is not originated from the peasant class but from the middle class. Another legend tells that a mandarin riding horse passing through Diem Xa village (Hoa Long commune, Yen Phong district) saw a young girl sing a folk song. The mandarin stopped the horse to hear her singing. Because he liked her singing, he named it Quan Ho folk song then.

The main content of Quan Ho singing session is that there are two sides - one for men and one for women, they will sing against each other. Singing sentences can have been prepared but when singing against each other the vocalists have to use their ability to think about the singing sentences.

From the 4th of the New Year (in the lunar calendar) the festival of Quan Ho villages and the neighboring villages will be taken place in the first 3 months. During August (in the lunar year) there is another festival of the villages. Therefore, spring and autumn are the festival seasons and Quan Ho singing festival here.

Quan ho – An Intangible Cultural Heritage of Bac Ninh province

"Lien anh" and "lien chi" in Quan Ho Bac Ninh

The unique points in Quan Ho Bac Ninh


In Quan Ho singing, men usually wear silk costumes, Ao The, Quan So, and Khan Xep while women wear Ao Tu Than, or Ao Yem and wear earrings. When singing outside, men usually use the umbrella to avoid the sunshine and women use Non Quai Thao to increase the courtesy and the grace.

Quan Ho tune

Quan Ho is rich in tunes such as "la rang", "duong ban kim loan", "cay gao", "gia ban", "hu la", "la hoi", "tinh tang", "cai a", "len nui", "xuong song", "cai ho", "gio mat trang thanh", "tu quy", and etc. A Quan Ho singing session has 3 parts. The first belongs to "le loi" voice. After singing 10 songs with "le loi" voice, the people will move to "song" voice before the middle part. The songs in the middle part are sung by "vat" voice and the final part will be sung with "gia ban" voice.

The etiquettes in the festival

Men invite women to eat betel. After that, they will sing with love sentences together, if they have the affection about each other, they will make a date in the women's village and hold the ceremony. The place for the ceremony can be in the village house and lead by the boss Dam. The ceremony will be started with a warm greeting or the vow. Then they meet again in the men's village. They can sing throughout the night and express their feeling here.

Depending on the homogeneity of voice and timbre, they are arranged in pairs: Anh Ca - Chi Ca, Anh Hai - Chi Hai, Anh Ba - Chi Ba, Anh Tu - Chi Tu, and etc. The lyric in Quan Ho usually talks about love and faithfulness. However, in fact, they do not think about the love between a girl and a man, it is just the relationship expressing respect and equality to each other. They call each other brother and sister. The time for the couple in Quan Ho can be last from this generation to the other one, or even in several years.

Quan Ho singing is usually in the yard of the house, the village house, the entrance of pagoda, under the Banyan Tree, on the hillside, on the boat, and etc. Quan Ho is considered a song for love, happiness, wealth, and luck. Besides, it also is the bridge to connect humans to nature and God, from that the people can have enough water to use. This belief has made many nice habits and customs of the local people here, which results in keeping Quan Ho sustainably.

Quan ho – An Intangible Cultural Heritage of Bac Ninh province

Singing Quan Ho in dragon boat

Quan Ho in the life

Quan Ho is a specialty of the people in Bac Ninh. The life of the local people here is close to Quan Ho tunes. Talking about Quan Ho is talking about Bac Ninh as well as talking about the origin of Quan Ho means Bac Ninh. Quan Ho is not only singing sentences but also the soul of the local people. All the people here also know about Quan Ho singing. This generation will teach the next ones and Quan Ho will be kept forever.

Quan Ho in modern life

Quan Ho has been changed gradually nowadays. The new is different from the old with the following criteria.

Quan Ho in the past had no audiences because the singers were the audiences. However, Quan Ho today is performed in front of the crowd and everywhere in the country and over the world. It can be held every time not only in March and August as usual.

In the old version, Quan Ho had no musical accompaniment and it was the duet. The new is more abundant, expressing through single singing, duet, and group singing. In the past, Quan Ho was kept in the village; however, Quan Ho today has the purpose of spread it to many different places. No matter how Quan Ho becomes, Quan Ho is always the pride of the people in Bac Ninh in particular and Vietnam in general. Together with Vietnam group travel, you will have the best time to enjoy this kind of music.

Vietnamese folk music is the origin of Vietnamese music. Quan Ho Bac Ninh is a unique cultural activity of Vietnamese folklore. Over time, Quan Ho Bac Ninh has been spread to many places. It is truly the pride of the country. Moreover, we need to pay much more attention to preserving and promoting its value.

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