Enlivening the vitality of folk games in contemporary life

Sunday, 2019-06-02 17:22:58
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A girl joining a bamboo pole dance in the walking zone surrounding Hoan Kiem (Sword) Lake in Hanoi
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NDO – Folk games are not only a good way for players to learn more about traditional cultural values, lifestyle and customs but the games can also help the players, particularly children, to develop teamwork and critical thinking skills. Thanks to the efforts and enthusiasm of youth groups, many Vietnamese folk games have been making a comeback in contemporary life.

Every weekend, the space in front of Cam Tu (Self-sacrifice) Monument in the walking zone surrounding Hoan Kiem (Sword) Lake in Hanoi is dedicated to hosting popular Vietnamese folk games.
Many city dwellers and visitors from home and abroad, both young and old, are excited to join the games, such as tug of war, skipping rope, and o an quan (mandarin square capturing).

Those who don’t already know the game’s rules will receive directions from volunteer instructors. The activities have also drawn great interest from foreign tourists. Folk games which once faced the risk of falling into oblivion have now found their own way to win public attention.

It is heartening to see that folk games have made a bolder appearance at many festivals, cultural fests and public spaces over the past recent years. Apart from the above-mentioning games, visitors to such events are also invited to play bag jumping, blindfolded pot smashing, and swing.

Notably, with the support of functional agencies, many volunteer groups and clubs have been established to popularise and revive the vitality of Vietnamese folk games. Prominent among those in Hanoi is My Hanoi group, whose operation focuses on promoting the traditional values and cultural practices of Hanoi by hosting folk games around the Hoan Kiem lake pedestrian zone.

Meanwhile, the San Dinh group targets schoolchildren and often integrates folk games with activities on promoting a green lifestyle and environmental protection.

Nguyen Thanh Nga, a student at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hanoi, is one of the co-founders of San Dinh group. She recalled that during her childhood she could play assorted folk games and listened to interesting stories about the games; however, not many children today, particularly those living in big cities, are introduced to folk games.

Prior to the establishment of San Dinh, Nga and her teammates conducted a survey, which showed that up to 90% of interviewees said they wanted to experience folk games.

Nga also revealed that, on the contrary to people’s thinking that folk games are often monotonous, they are diverse in types with some stimulating exercising while others shape skilfulness and critical thinking skills.

Schoolchildren playing 'o an quan' (mandarin square capturing) at the first-ever Vietnam Olympic Folk Games held in September 2018 on Trinh Cong Son pedestrian street

Recently in September 2018, San Dinh group coordinated with other groups to host the first-ever Vietnam Olympic Folk Games on Trinh Cong Son pedestrian street, featuring four traditional games, namely bag jumping, mandarin square capturing, walking on stilts and pitching pennies. The event received enthusiast participation and appreciation from the public.

Members of San Dinh group have also found ways to raise awareness of pressing issues through playing folk games. For example, they have hosted several activities at Trang Do Kindergarten in Cau Giay district, the Experimental Secondary School in Hanoi, and the residential areas around Ford Factory in Hai Duong province to convey the call to protect the environment among children.

San Dinh also joined the Hanoi city Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the Hoan Kiem district People’s Committee, and the Live&Learn Centre at a ‘Clean Air – Green Hanoi’ programme on May 31 and June 1.

The programme aims to advocate cleaner atmosphere, address air pollution and the impact of air pollution on health in Hanoi through a series of activities, including a contest on the environment, puzzles, and games with toys made from recycled materials.

It is difficult to revive and bring a modern breath into “olden” things. However, the operations of San Dinh and other young volunteer groups have fuelled hope for the successful comeback of unique Vietnamese folk games in contemporary life.