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An experience we will never forget
March 24, 2012

Hue refined royal music

Among famous cities in Vietnam, Hue is unique. It is a beautiful, quiet and relaxing city, rich in nature, architecture and art. This ancient city was the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), the final feudal regime of Vietnam, thus Hue is well known not only for its historic monuments but also for intangible treasure: Royal Fined Music - Nha Nhac Cung Dinh which was recognized as Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2003.        

The Royal Refined Music was first introduced in the 13th century, but only reached its peak under the Nguyen Dynasty. At that time it had a system of hundreds of programs which were compiled by the Ministry of Rites to suit each ceremony of the court. For instance, the Nam Giao liturgy had 10 musical programs bearing the script “Thanh” (success); the Xa Tac Ritual had seven programs with the script “Phong” (Good harvest); the Mieu Ritual had nine programs with “Hoa” (harmony); the Dai Trieu Ceremony had five programs with “Binh” (peace); the Van Tho Ceremony had seven programs with “Tho” (longevity); and the Dai Yen (great banquet) had five programs with “Phuc” (happiness).



The Royal Refined Music performances formerly featured numerous singers, dancers and musicians dressed in sumptuous costumes. Large-scale orchestras included a prominent drum section and many other types of percussion instruments as well as a variety of wind and string instruments. All performers had to maintain a high level of concentration since they were expected to follow each step of the ritual meticulously.

The Royal Refined Music had long enjoyed a preference as an official form of royal music. It was recognized as the symbol of a powerful and long-lasting monarchy and as an indispensable part of all ceremonies. Varied in its themes, the Royal Refined Music is considered a means of communication to express the respect to gods and kings.

In the late middle of 19th century the events that shook Vietnam is  the invasion of French colonialism in 1859 – especially the fall of the monarchy and the decades of war – seriously threatened the survival of Royal Refined Music. Deprived of its court context, this musical tradition lost its original function. Nevertheless, the few surviving former court musicians continued to work to keep the tradition alive. Certain forms of Nha Nhac have been maintained in popular formalities and religious ceremonies and serve as a source of inspiration for contemporary Vietnamese music.

Although Vietnam has many kind of traditional music only the Royal music could be deserving of national stature due to its sophistication and elegance.

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