Reenactment of the changing of the guard ceremony
Performing throughout Tet
During the 2023 Lunar New Year, in addition to visiting the tangible heritage, visitors to the Imperial Citadel also enjoyed the unique intangible heritage of the Nguyen Dynasty. In the early days of the new year, the quiet space of the Royal Palace seemed to come alive with the changing of the guard ceremony, with the music, the singing of art shows and the vibrant atmosphere of the royal games.
During the three days of Tet, when people started the new year by visiting and wishing loved ones a happy new year, the artists of the Hue Royal Traditional Art Theater came to the Imperial Citadel early in the morning to prepare for the changing of the guard ceremony on the first day of the (lunar) year. Formally dressed in ceremonial wardrobes and hats, the changing of the guard ceremony was performed by artists with a solemn ceremony in front of Ngo Mon Gate, helping visitors visualize a part of the ceremony of the Nguyen court.
After the changing of the guard ceremony, the space at the courtyard of Thai Hoa Palace was bustling with drums, guitars, and singing. After visiting the unique architecture of the Nguyen Dynasty, visitors could also enjoy a free but very special art program with royal music concerts, and joyful spring songs from the Hue Royal Traditional Art Theater.
Art performance program at Thai Hoa Palace during Tet holiday by Hue Royal Traditional Art Theater
Although they have to work on the first days of the new year, the artists were very happy to perform for visitors. The singer Thanh Lan said: "I performed in the New Year's Eve art program "Spring in the Homeland" organized by the Hue Monuments Conservation Center and performed on the morning of the 1st day of the New Year in the Imperial Citadel. Although I couldn’t fully celebrate Tet with my family, I am an artist, and being able to perform for the audience is the passion that makes me happy."
The professional characteristic of the artists of the Hue Royal Traditional Art Theater is that when people are resting and traveling, they have to perform. Therefore, despite the holidays, they still sing and play music, bringing a bustling atmosphere to the heritage space.
“An artist's desire is to perform. Therefore, in previous years, it was such a shame having to suspend performances due to the pandemic. Now that the stage is lit up once again, we artists are very excited to perform and give visitors good shows. This is also an opportunity to both introduce and promote the intangible heritage while making the atmosphere of the Royal Palace bustling and attracting more tourists,” said Mr. Hoang Trong Cuong, Deputy Director of the Hue Royal Traditional Art Theater.
Lively relic spaces
Since re-opening after the COVID-19 epidemic around mid-March 2022, Hue Royal Traditional Art Theater has put art performances outside the relic space. In addition to performances at Duyet Thi Duong Theater, Hue Royal Traditional Art Theater has recreated ancient royal rites and activities through art programs, such as: Changing of the Guard ceremony, Palace timbre program and Ancient Hue program, performing Hue-Singing, excerpts of royal tuong... at Ngo Mon, courtyard of Thai Hoa palace, Truong Sanh palace and Nhat Thanh Lau.
Not only performing regularly at the above points, the Hue Royal Traditional Arts Theater also built large art programs to perform in front of Ngo Mon Gate or Thai Hoa Palace. Summer or winter art shows and New Year's Eve art shows always attract thousands of spectators. In addition, the theater also organizes performances on the walking streets of the Imperial Citadel.
The solemn royal palace is now vibrant with programs introducing royal art, and recreating the rituals of the past. That increases the value and attractiveness of the monument. Through excerpts of Hue tuong and songs, concerts with royal influences or grand and minor concerts, the theater promotes the quintessence of the royal artistic heritage. Visitors to the Imperial Citadel not only could visit and admire the scenery but also enjoy free art. Thereby, these events have attracted tourists near and far to the heritage site.
Nguyen Hoang Long, a tourist from Hanoi shared: “Visiting Hue Imperial Citadel, in addition to visiting the palace, we also enjoy royal music. The organization of art performances in this large space is very good. On the way to visit, visitors can stop to enjoy. Free outdoor performances are needed to stimulate tourism demand."
People's Artist Bach Hac, Director of Hue Royal Traditional Art Theater, said that during the days of suspension of performances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, theater artists still practiced excerpts of tuong, royal court songs, and Hue melodies. Since reopening for tourism after the pandemic, the theater has tried to create many activities in the relic area to serve tourists, especially by putting in the program performances of newly staged excerpts and episodes. Currently, the number of tourists visiting the heritage sites is increasing, which makes the artists more excited to perform despite the hot weather or cold rain.
“By determining that the intangible is the soul of the tangible heritages, we try our best to perform to serve and satisfy visitors at the monuments. When visitors come to visit, they can hear the echoes of the zither, dan bau, the singing of Hue-tunes or the performance of grand or minor concerts in this ancient space. The tourists enjoy these performances very much,” said the People's Artist Bach Hac.
Story and photos: Minh Hien