Unique to the coastal central region, bai choi is often seen at local spring festivals and resembles a game, using playing cards and village huts.
The stage for bai choi performances encompasses nine cottages, each containing five or six ‘players’. One of the cottages, the central house, contains a troupe of musicians and instruments. A deck of playing cards is split in half, with one stack distributed amongst the players, and the other placed in the central house. The cards are stuck onto bamboo poles and erected outside the cottages.
The game singer delivers a flag to each cottage, all the while singing bai choi, and then draws a card from the central house. Whoever holds the card closest in value to the game singer’s card wins.
The bai choi songs are about festivals, daily life and work, and are accompanied by musical instruments.
The game and songs were developed by Mandarin Dao Duy Tu (1572-1634) to help locals protect their crops, according to Hoang Chuong, Director of the Centre for Preservation and Promotion of National Culture.
The Vietnam National Academy of Music and the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Binh Dinh, the cradle of bai choi, have been tasked with the preparation of the application dossier, which is to be submitted prior to March 31, 2015.
Studies on bai choi will be conducted in 11 central provinces ranging from Quang Binh to Binh Thuan to provide information for a database.
Vietnam is currently home to eight UNESCO intangible heritages, namely Hue's royal court music, the space of Gong culture in the Central Highlands, Quan ho (love duet) singing, the Giong festival, Ca Tru ceremonial singing, Xoan singing, Worshipping the Hung Kings, and Don ca tai tu (amateur singing).