BackStories » Vietnam » Xòe, a Thái Dance Tradition, Is Recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Xòe, a distinctive performance art by members of the Thái ethnic minority, was the latest Vietnamese cultural tradition inscribed by UNESCO as an officially recognized Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The inscription was announced at the 16th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, taking place in Paris on December 15, reports Phu Nu. The Thái dance tradition joined 35 other entries from other countries as the latest additions to the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Including xòe, Vietnam currently has 14 traditions in the list, mostly consisting of performance arts such as quan họ, ca trù, bài chòi, hò ví giặm, nhã nhạc, đờn ca tài tử, and more. Vietnam has also nominated Đông Hồ woodblock printing and Chăm pottery for future consideration.

Xòe means dance in the Thái language. It’s a ceremonial art form performed at rituals, weddings, village festivals, and other community events. Three main types of xòe are ritual, circle and representational. Dancers may also employ props during their performance, like scarves, fans, conical hats, flowers or even bamboo poles, but the most recognizable setting is circle xòe, where participants stand in a circle and move in synchronicity.

A major circle xòe performance with hundreds of participants during the Mường Lò Cultural Tourism Festival in 2019.

According to the UNESCO file on xòe, the music for xòe employs a range of traditional instruments, such as gourd lutes, mouth organs, drums, gongs, cymbals and reed flutes.

Data from the Vietnam Population and Housing Census conducted in 2019 shows that there were over 1.82 million citizens of Thái ethnicity, placing the group as the country’s third-largest ethnic population behind Kinh and Tày. Thái communities are mostly centered in mountainous provinces of northwestern Vietnam, including Yen Bai, Lai Chau, Son La and Dien Bien.

[Photo via Quan Doi Nhan Dan]

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