The decision was made during the 14th meeting of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Columbia on December 12 (local time).

The practices of Then reflect concepts about human beings, nature and the universe. Then ceremonies describe a journey in which the Master controls ghost soldiers travelling from earth to heaven to present items of worship and prayers for peace, good crops, and good health.

During the practice, the Then Master sings and plays a ‘tinh’ lute, wearing ceremonial dress. Then is always transmitted orally while the rituals are conducted, reflecting its succession across the generations.

The ritual practice is mostly observed by Tay, Nung and Thai ethnic communities in the north-western and north-eastern provinces, including Bac Giang, Bac Kan, Cao Bang, Ha Giang, Dien Bien and Lai Chau, among others.

It was honoured as Vietnam national intangible heritage in 2012.

UNESCO’s recognition to the practice of Then has reaffirmed the cultural diversity of ethnic groups in Vietnam, and encouraged dialogues between individuals, community and nations towards tolerance, love and humanity.

The 14th annual meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage is taking take place from December 9 to 14 in the Colombian capital of Bogotá.

During the session, the Committee inscribed seven elements on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding and 31 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The Committee also selected the Land of Legends programme, proposed by Sweden, for inclusion in the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices, which allows States and communities to share safeguarding experiences that can serve as a source of inspiration for others.