Introducing Vietnam’s Cultural Heritage to Malaysia

An exchange of arts and culture between Vietnam and Malaysia has been organized as part of a series of visits by Vietnamese artisans to exchange, learn about, and promote the folk art and culture of Vietnam in the region.

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 the Mother Goddess Worshipping belief is very important to Vietnamese people. Photo: VNA
The Mother Goddess Worshipping belief is very important to Vietnamese people. Photo: VNA

On June 11, a Vietnam-Malaysia arts and cultural exchange was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic relationship.

This program is part of a series of people-to-people exchange activities organized by the Malaysia – Vietnam Friendship Association to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic relations (1973-2023). This event is also a part of a series of working visits of Vietnamese artisans to Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia, with the purpose of exchanging, studying, and promoting Vietnamese folk art and culture in the region.

The event was attended by over 120 representatives from the Vietnamese Embassy, businesses, and the Vietnamese community in Malaysia.

In her statement, Tran Thi Chang, president of the Malaysia-Vietnam Friendship Association, expressed that the event was a chance for both countries to explore some of the traditional art forms of Vietnam which have been acknowledged by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritages of humanity, such as Chau Van (a traditional northern Vietnamese folk art combining singing and dancing), Quan Ho (love duet) singing, and Cheo (Vietnamese traditional opera).

Chang stated that the exchange of art and culture will encourage the Vietnamese community in Malaysia to have a greater appreciation for their traditional culture, as well as foster a love of the traditional art and culture of Vietnam in the Malaysian people.

Addressing the event, former Malaysian Ambassador to Vietnam, Azmil Zabidi, stressed that the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Malaysia provides a great opportunity for the two countries to organize cultural exchange activities.

Quan ho (love duet) singing at the event. Photo: VNA
Quan ho (love duet) singing at the event. Photo: VNA
Vietnamese artists and delegates at the event. Source: Malaysia-Vietnam Friendship Association
Vietnamese artists and delegates at the event. Source: Malaysia-Vietnam Friendship Association

The highlight of the event was the remarkable performance of the Vietnamese artisans. Mother Goddess worship, a practice that has been part of Vietnamese culture for centuries and was recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity in 2016, has withstood the challenge of social transformation.

The belief in Mother Goddess reflects people’s desire for health, wealth, and fortune. The “hau dong” ritual is the most essential component of this practice, according to Kien.

The practitioners of the Mother Goddess spirit pantheon consist of temple guardians, ritual priests, spirit mediums, mediums’ assistants, musicians who provide the musical accompaniment for the spirits, disciples, and lay adherents who hold the same beliefs in the spiritual force and supernatural power of the Mother Goddesses. These practitioners come together in groups to worship, partake in customary festivals, and hold spirit possession rituals at temples and palaces devoted to the Mother Goddesses.

Performances by Malaysian dancers. Photo: VNA
Performances by Malaysian dancers. Photo: VNA

At the event, Liena Abdullah expressed her delight and optimism that more Vietnamese people will come to Malaysia to study and work, and Malaysians will also have the chance to study and work in Vietnam. This will give both sides the opportunity to learn more about each other and their respective countries.

Artist Cao Xuan Van was delighted to showcase Vietnamese culture in Malaysia and was filled with joy when experiencing the artistic repertoire of the country. He expressed his hope that there will be more opportunities for cultural and artistic exchanges between the two countries in the future.

Hannah Nguyen