Preserving UNESCO-recognised Gong culture in Central Highlands

VOV.VN - The 2022 Gong Culture Festival was held in Gia Lai, a province in the Central Highlands, from November 18-20 to popularize and preserve the Gong cultural space.

Gong performance is an art that is closely connected to the cultural history of ethnic groups residing in the Central Highlands along Truong Son mountain range such as Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Dak Nong and Lam Dong provinces.

The Space of Gong Culture in the Central Highlands includes not only Gongs, Chimes and Gong music melody, but also the artists, the festivals with Gongs, Chimes and the places to hold the festivals. The owners of this cultural space come from different ethnic groups such as Ede, Bana, Ma, Lac, Xe Dang and Jia rai.

Gongs and Chimes can be found in daily life of the local people in the Central Highlands such as ceremonies of the buffalo sacrifice, the funeral, the house inauguration, the blessing of seeds prior to sowing, the blessing of new harvests, the closing of stocks, as well as in community rituals like naming the newborn, house-warming, abandonment and water trough ceremony.

Closely linked to daily life and the cycle of the seasons, their belief systems form a mystical world where the Gongs produce a privileged language between men, divinities and the supernatural world.

Behind every Gong hides a god or goddess who is all the more powerful when the gong is older. Every family possesses at least one Gong, which indicates the family’s wealth, authority and prestige, and also ensures its protection.

While a range of brass instruments is used in the various ceremonies, the Gong alone is present in all the rituals of community life and is the main ceremonial instrument.

Gongs and Chimes are made of brass alloy which is a mixture of brass and gold, silver or bronze. A Gong is a circular musical instrument with a central raised boss or nipple while a Chime does not. Gongs come in various sizes ranging from 20-60 cm to 90-120 cm which is the biggest one. Gongs and Chimes may be used separately or in an ensemble. Ethnic groups in the Central Highlands use different sets of Gongs and Chimes: a set of Chimes with 2 or 3 units, a set of Chimes with 6 units, a set of Chimes with 11 or 12 units including 3 Gongs and 8-9 Chimes.

The Central Highlands Gong Cultural Space was recognized UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2005. Three years later, UNESCO added the Space of Gong Culture in Central Highlands in the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The preservation of Gong music melodies and sets of Gongs has been continuously carried out over the past years. Many training courses on Gong playing have been held in order to transfer passion to young generations and promote the space of Gong culture.

The 2022 Central Highlands Gong Culture Festival held in Gia Lai from November 18-20 was such an activity that was expected to help popularize and preserve the distinctive culture.

A wide range of activities took place during the festival, including a street festival, Gong exchanges and performances, and recreations of traditional festivals of local ethnic groups, with the participation of nearly 1,300 artisans and amateur artists.

There were also showcases of traditional crafts of Gong casting, wood carving, knitting, and brocade weaving, exhibitions and performances of Vietnamese ethnic musical instruments, and a photo exhibition of Gong culture in the Central Highlands.