Preservation and development of Chau Van singing (spiritual singing) in contemporary society

The recent increasing reappearance of Chau van  ritual has required the researchers and managers to take appropriate measures facilitating Chau van to have true values with a view to preserve and promote its values in the contemporary society.


Chau van ritual performance in the first Chau van singing festival. Photo: Vi An

The first Chau van singing festival in Hanoi 2013 has just finished, the warm response from the audience to the performances held from the grassroots level to that performed in Cong Nhan Theatre showed the increasing reappearance of Chau van singing in the contemporary society, especially in urban areas.

Among the audience and performers at the shows were young people born in 1980s, 1990s. Is it not difficult for Chau van to have its successors and to draw attention from the audience?

For Chau van singing to have true values

According to Prof. Dr. Ngo Duc Thinh, Director of Centre for the Study and Preservation of Vietnamese Religion and Culture, together with the development of market, the changes in perception in traditional culture is the prosperity in religious beliefs. Mother Goddesses and Chau van ritual (mediumship) used to be banned but they are now being recovered and developed. At present, in Hanoi there are hundreds of temples of all kinds (including private temple) where Mother Goddesses is worshiped, which is also the places where Chau van ritual is performed. Every year, on occasion “Worshipping Father in August, worshipping Mother in March” hundreds of Chau van rituals like that are held at the temples of all kinds in Hanoi, Hue, Ho Chi Minh city.

Prof. Dr. Ngo Duc Thinh asked a question, does Chau van ritual become religious-cultural activity in urban areas as this kind of religious activity is being organized not only by the temples of all kinds but it is also organized at the private Mother Goddesses worshipping temple. The participants are not only the disciples of Mother Goddesses but also the businessmen, civil staff, intellectual circles, writers, artists …

According to Dr. Luu Minh Tri, Chairman of Thang Long Cultural Heritage Association, it is in need to have the right awareness, take responsibility for preserving, maintaining and promoting the values of Mother Goddesses worshipping belief characterized by typical Chau van ritual (mediumship). Currently, Chau van ritual is in high speed development in Hanoi and some provinces and cities, therefore, due attention, supports and management should be given for maintaining the traditional belief while suitable to the contemporary society.

According to him, Hanoi authorities should provide the Management Board and responsible staff with the guiding documents on Chau van ritual practice to be organized in the temples of all kinds and the communal and ward authorities should also carry out close inspection and supervision facilitating Chau van ritual to promote its true values, make good the deviation and negative matters. Additionally, propaganda should be carried out to help people have thorough knowledge about Mother Goddesses worshipping belief and Chau van ritual held at the temples of all kinds.

Mrs. Nguyen Thi Bich Loan, manager of Tan La Vong Tu, Dong Da, Hanoi, one who have the longest seniority in this field, said that the researchers should compile a standard documents regulating the mission of Thanh dong and rules, regulations applied in  Mother Goddesses aiming to prevent fanaticism, negative phenomena and the managers are required to apply the severe measures on the cases taking advantages of religious rituals for personal benefits.

Over the years Chau van rituals have been preserved and maintained mainly by the individuals, groups of individuals, temples …, Thanh dong and Cung van are the persons who received and promoted these rituals. The Prof. Dr. Ngo Duc Thinh said: “Many people have taken advantages of mediumship for personal benefits, commercializing religion. Many people are richer from making corrupt use of religious beliefs, contrary to the nature of any religion that inclining to good and eliminating evil”. Therefore, strict measures should be taken to eliminate the cases that making corrupt use of religious beliefs for personal profits, spoiling the beauty of Chau van in the social life.


Chau van singing, ritual music in Hau dong. Photo: Vi An

Bringing Chau van to the stage

Recently, some stage artists have made progress, regenerating Chau van with the language of dance and music performed on stage. People’s artist Lan Huong, Tuoi Tre Theatre, has staged a Chau van ritual performance  with the title “Vietnamese spirit”, the Pianist Pho An My has brought Chau van rite to the stage with the title “Dong”, Hanoi Cheo Theatre staged the play “Ba gia dong”… The Prof. Dr. Ngo Duc Thinh said that these are well-received experiments, creation by the artists, which showed the high demand of the public to this kind of this ritual.

According to Dr. Le Thi Minh Ly, former Deputy Director of Cultural Heritage Department, the attraction of plentiful audience to the first Chau van festival showed the demand of people to enjoy this rite of this kind, Vietnam may learn from experience to bring folk belief to the stage as performed by some regional countries such as Korea.

According to Prof. To Ngoc Thanh, Chairman of Vietnam Folk Arts, spirit can not separated from Chau van ritual, “Chau van is alive thanking to spiritual factor, if there is no spirituality as core there is no Chau van”, therefore, it is in need to have careful study if Chau van is brought to stage so that to preserve the core soul of Mother Goddesses belief characterized by Chau van as typical ritual.

As a contribution to preserve Chau van ritual, Thang Long – Hanoi Cultural Heritage Association is making and organizing the activities for Mother Goddesses and Chau van Singing Club with more than 60 members to open at the end of fourth quarter of 2013 at Tay Ho temple. The members of club will exchange views on Chau van rite and Van singing arts, organize training courses for the participants who take part in Mother Goddesses ritual, exchange opinions on measures to be taken to rectify the shortcomings in practice of Hau dong ritual.

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