The ancient songs of Tuyen Quang

The northern mountainous province of Tuyen Quang is the meeting place for ethnic minority cultures. What follows are some traditional ceremonies and performing arts of the ethnic communities in Tuyen Quang.


Then” singing – the Tay ethnic group

Then is a traditional form of ritual singing of the Tay ethnic group, often used in important ceremonies to seek peace and happiness for the villages and their people. In Tuyen Quang, the practice of singing Then is preserved and kept intact in the rural districts of Chiem Hoa, Na Hang, and Lam Binh. In 2019, Then was recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The ancient songs of Tuyen Quang
Photo: A traditional art troupe performing Then / Tuyen Quang Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism

Cấp sắc” ritual and the singing of Páo dung – the Dao ethnic group

Cấp sắc is the coming-of-age ritual for boys, usually held in November, December, or January every year. Cấp sắc is considered a treasure of the Dao communities in Tuyen Quang. It marks the moment when a boy is recognized as man and can engage fully with the community.

Páo dung singing is a form of folk arts of the Dao ethnic minority group. Páo dung is classified based on its purposes: For ritual (religious, customary) purposes and for everyday life. The ritual singing of Páo dung is seen in traditional ceremonies such as cấp sắc, wedding and funeral, while Everyday life Páo dung singing is often used as lullabies, love songs, and in call-and-response singing between men and women.

With its deeply rooted cultural values, the practice of singing Páo dung was named national intangible heritage in 2013.

The singing of Sình ca – The Cao Lan ethnic group

Sình ca is an age-old form of performing arts of the Cao Lan ethnic group. A type of call-and-response singing between the male and the female members, Sình ca adopts the structure of a four-line poem with seven words in each line, and is documented using Chinese characters. Sình ca singing competitions often last from the afternoon of the day before to the early morning of the next day; each competition has its own topic. The Cao Lan’s Sình ca was recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage in 2014.

The ancient songs of Tuyen Quang
Photo: San Diu women singing Soọng cô /

The singing of Soọng cô The San Diu ethnic group

Soọng cô is a unique cultural practice of the San Diu ethnic group in Tuyen Quang province. Soọng cô songs reflect the working and everyday life, and the traditional customs of the San Diu. Not simply a form of art, Soọng cô is one of the San Diu’s traditional methods to reflect historical and cultural phenomena. In 2014, Soọng cô was listed as a national intangible cultural heritage.