Hanoi is expected to be the first locality to host the annual tug of war festival, Dr. Pham Thi Lan Anh, Head of Heritage Management Division (under the Hanoi Department of Culture and Information) said when the Cultural Heritage Association of Vietnam recently called for the founding of a club for the Vietnamese folk game communities.

 An overview of a seminar themed “Ritual and Tug of War Games in 2020” on December 26. Photo: Linh Anh

Exchange and connectivity

Recently, the Cultural Heritage Association of Vietnam (CHAV) in collaboration with the Hanoi Department of Culture and Information, and related agencies held a seminar themed “Ritual and Tug of War Games in 2020” with the desire to be a representative connecting the tug of war community in Vietnam.

At the seminar on December 26 in Hanoi, the organizing committee raised the idea to set up a club for Vietnamese tug of war communities with the participation of all heritage localities. The club will organize exchanges and seminars every month and every quarter respectively.

Dr. Le Thi Minh Ly, the CHAV’s Vice Chairwoman said the organizing committee will consider holding at least a one-day festival annually that all communities can gather and practice the tug of war. The localities will take turns hosting the event. The date maybe on November 23 (the Vietnam Cultural Heritage Day), or on the day the heritage was recognized by the UNESCO, she said.

According to Dr. Ly, the tug of war is not a game or a sport but an expression of Vietnamese spiritual beliefs like that of many countries in Southeast Asia or Asia. The spiritual ritual demonstrates the people’s belief in the gods; linking, preserving and promoting the common values ​​of the community.

In Vietnam, the folk game is known by different names such as tug of war, sitting tug of war or tug of beak. It aims at honoring the spirit of sportsmanship amongst the people and praying for a new year with favorable weather conditions.

Many localities such as Xuan Lai village (Xuan Thu commune, Soc Son district), Tran Vu Temple (Thach Ban ward, Long Bien district), Huu Chap village (Hoa Long commune, Bac Ninh province), Huong Canh town (Binh Xuyen district, Vinh Phuc province), among others are home to this heritage.

Preserving heritage

 A sitting tug of war performace in Thach Ban ward. Photo: sovhtt

Local authority and residents in Thach Ban ward (Long Bien district) have paid more attention to the tug of war since it was recognized as the heritage by the UNESCO.

The heritage was introduced to the ward’s students, attracting about 12,000 students  to the Tran Vu Temple to learn, watch and practice the sitting tug of war games every year, Mr. Ngo Quang Khai, Head of Tran Vu Temple Management Board in Thach Ban ward, said. 

Vice Chairman of Xuan Thu commune People’s Committee Nguyen Huu Manh said: “Tug of beak is very important for the people of Xuan Lai hamlet in the spring season. From the selection of bamboo and making rope, the rituals are conducted solemnly.”

Local people in Hoa Loan village, Lung Hoa commune (Vinh Huong district, Vinh Phuc province) have taken the initiative in preserving and promoting the values of this heritage. However, they lack funding for protection and preservation of it and also traditional materials such as bamboo trees (used in tug of war) are increasingly scarce, Mr. Nguyen Van Thang from Hoa Loan village said.

However, Dr. Do Van Tru, Chairman of the CHAV said that the connectivity of heritage localities is very weak. Each village holds its own show of the tug of war and its values as a whole still remain unknown. In many localities, the heritage performance space is degraded, the resources for organizing and participating in the heritage demonstration are meager, due to the lack of attention from local authorities.

Some local insiders said that the heritage maybe disappear if the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism fails to issue a reasonable conservation policy.

Currently, the People’s Committee of Long Bien district has approved the construction of a traditional house to promote the heritage. Mr. Khai from the Tran Vu Temple hoped that Vietnam will has a museum displaying tug of war games so as to help Vietnamese people understand the heritage. To achieve that, he recommended that the heritage community should exchange and learn conservation experiences.