Background Info Vietnam

Architecture: The most impressive examples of Vietnamese architecture are the Imperial palaces and the tombs, temples and pagodas. Constructed from wood and stone, they are often beautifully decorated with sculptures. Due to the tropical climate, some of the sculptures have often required restoration work, although many have been left untended. There are relatively few old buildings in Vietnam, due for the most part on the climate and numerous wars. Several stone monuments from the Cham period (7th-12th century) remain in places such as Nha Trang, Phan Rang and My Son. Vietnamese architecture blossomed during the Ly-dynasty (1010-1225). Remnants of this period can be found in Hanoi, in particular the One Pillar Pagoda and the Temple of Literature. The Citadel and the remains of the Imperial City and Forbidden Purple City (Nguyen-dynasty, 1802-1945) are in the city of Hué. Outside Hué there are many historic pagodas, such as the Thien Mu pagoda and the beautiful tombs of many Nguyen sovereigns (Tu Duc, Khai Dinh and Minh Mang to name but a few) accompanied by pavilions, pictures and beautiful gardens.

Music: The main forms of traditional Vietnamese music are classical and folk music. Classical music was the traditional music of the royal court, and disappeared with the fall of the Imperial order. Vietnamese folk music includes a broad repertoire of work songs, love songs, children’s songs and funereal dirges. Every region has its own particular style of music. Over 100 different instruments are used, most would not normally be known in Britain. Modern music in Vietnam is a mix of Vietnamese, Western and Asian pop music, and these would be what you would hear in restaurants, discos etc.

Traditional Art: Wood painting is an ancient Vietnamese art. Vietnamese painting (son mai) is considered amongst the best in the world. Paintings, dishes, vases, canvasses and boxes are highly popular souvenirs. Earthenware is produced in the pottery region of Bat Trang in Hanoi, both for display and everyday use.

Water Puppetry: Vietnam has a form of puppetry that is not found anywhere else in the world: M-a Roi Nuóc, puppetry in water. The stage for this unusual and ten-century-old form of puppetry is the surface of the water. The puppeteers hide behind a screen, up to their chests in water, and move the puppets with long bamboo sticks to a backing of voices, singing and music. In the past, a performance would be held in the open air, in a fishpond or on flooded land. These days there are special theatres, for example in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.