Ngoc Tan village festival revitalises folk games

March 12, 2018 | 12:36
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Phu Tho province's Ngoc Tan village holds its annual festival on the 1st and 2nd day of the lunar February. During the event, locals and visitors pay gratitude to predecessors, pray for a New Year of peace and favorable weather, and participate in folk games.
ngoc tan village festival revitalises folk games
Ngoc Tan village festival revitalises folk games

Ngoc Tan village is located at the foot of Dau mountain, the highest mount in Doan Hung district and is home to the Cao Lan ethnic minority people. The village’s communal house was built in 1803 by King Gia Long and ranked the provincial cultural relic site in 1994. The communal house worships generals Cao Son,Cao Dai, and who helped the 18th Hung King defend the country. At its annual traditional festival, a ritual ceremony was held followed by a wide range of cultural and sports activities and folk games which are the main attraction of the event. Tran Ngoc Hoan, Vice Chairman of Ngoc Quan commune’s People’s Committee said, “Visitors from elsewhere come here to play traditional folk games like walking on stilts, crossbows, and tug of war. The festival helps enhance solidarity between communes and neighboring areas.”

Stilt walking appears to be the most popular. Previously, these high stilts were used to cross rivers and forests. Nowadays, the game has become a representation of the Cao Lan’s aspiration for wealth and happiness.

In Ngoc Quan hamlet, everyone, even the children can walk on stilts. In the games, players are required to slip chopsticks into bottles while walking on stilts. It’s not easy at all. Some players have their own methods to win the games.

Nguyen Thi Hong Nhung, a Ngoc Tan villager said, “I have practiced walking on stilts for 6 years. I was taught to play the games when I was a kid and played it when I was at school. The secret is to keep balance on the stilts, hold the stilts firmly and walk comfortably.”

Crossbow shooting is another favorite game at the festival and a reminder of our ancestors’ past struggle for their livelihood.

Nguyen Van Ngoc, a resident of Ngoc Quan commune said, “Crossbow shooting is not difficult, it’s very easy. We need to get a straight line to the target and don’t have shaky hands. In gun shooting, the bullet rises before reaching the target while in crossbow, the arrow goes down before reaching the target.”

Con or silk ball throwing is often the last game played at the festival. It represents the local worship of sun and moon genies. In a large yard, a 13.5 meters bamboo tree is erected. On its top, there’s a circle with a diameter of 50 cm covered with red papers. After the first ball is thrown, the game begins.

For the locals, the ball throwing means that all the bad luck and sickness will be thrown away and good luck and wealth will come. The ball going through the circle and making the red papers fall down means there will be harmony between Yin and Yang and that there will be a bumper crop. That’s why everyone is excited about the game in a hope for a peaceful and prosperous year.

Sam Xuan Sinh, Patriarch of Ngoc Tan village said, “Con throwing is played at spring festivals, wedding and engagement ceremonies. The festival helps younger generation to learn more about local folk games and culture of the Cao Lan people.”


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