Asia Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU)
Asia-Pacific Database on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)

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Performing Arts
Viet Nam

Quan Ho

Alternating singing between girls and boys

Groups of Quan ho performers who are friends, sing together in the village or pagoda festivals.

Reasons for selection

Quan ho is a romantic folk song of Kinh Bac area (presently Bac Ninh Province)and also an interesting example of folk performing art of Viet Nam. Linked with the life of Bac Ninh people, its value is helping us to understand the common features of culture in the region. Especially, Quan ho is estimated as a typical artistic form of Vietnam.

Area where performed

In the North Vietnam (in the Hong river delta), about 20 km north-east of Hanoi, Bac Ninh province has 49 Quan ho villages and each village has one or more Quan ho groups. Quan ho song is usually performed in the spring village festival.

Essential elements of the performing art


Detailed explanation

Quan ho is a romantic folk performing art, which is rooted in Kinh Bac area (present Bac Ninh province). There are 49 Quan ho villages in Bac Ninh province and each village has one or more Quan ho man or woman Quan ho groups.

There are 5 to 6 performers who sing well in a group of Quan ho. Leading in each group by chi ca (first sister)or anh ca (first brother). Then, chi hai (second sister)of (second brother)etc. It depends on man or woman groups.
Quan ho is sung by a pair of people without accompaniment. A pair of men and a pair of women sing in same melody but different words. For example, in the same tune, a pair of men sing a four directions word first, then a pair of women sing a four seasons word etc. In the festival, the performers wear Quan ho traditional uniform and perform in order. Firstly, two sides sing Le loi songs or Co songs, then sing Giong vat songs, finally, sing Giong gia ban songs when Quan ho performers say good bye to each other and return home.

Where and when do they perform?
Quan ho is linked to making friends custom, which aims to find a good friend (singing friend only)to perform in the pagoda, temple or village festival, in the wedding, etc.
Quan ho sung in the festivals are called festival songs, and are usually performed in spring.
Quan ho sung in the temple or pagoda is called worship song.
Quan ho sung in watch is called watch song.
Quan ho sung when there is drought or disease is called prayer song.
Quan ho sung between man group who cover their heads with a blanket and stay outside the fence and woman group who stay on the threshold in the evening is called cover-head song.

Up to now, nobody knows exactly when Quan ho was born, but according to a report by some music researchers, Quan ho could have appeared in Ly Dynasty (11th century).

Publication and textual documentation

1997 Dan ca Quan ho
1997 Tim hieu dan ca Quan ho
1996 Dan ca Quan ho

Audio documentation

Tieng hat Quan ho - Con nhen giang mung, Tape.
Tieng hat Quan ho Toi la co gai Quan ho, Tape.

Visual documentation

Nguoi oi nguoi o dung ve video

Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

Quan ho Cultural Centre in Bac Ninh Province.

Data provider

Cat Vau
Head, Music Department
Radio the Voice of Vietnam
Address: 58 Quan Su, Ha Noi, Viet Nam