The Cultural Space of Gong in the Central Highlands
Specific values of the cultural space of the Central Highlands gong which is a part of Vietnam's cultural heritage and quintessence has been recognised by the international community. On 25th November 2005, the UNESCO decided to recognize “The cultural space of gong in the Central Highlands” of Vietnam as “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.
Throughout the Central Highlands of Viet Nam, Gong ensembles are parts of various ceremonies and closely linked to the communities’ daily life and the cycle of the seasons. The instruments, measuring 25 to 80 centimetres, are played by men as well as women.
The culture space of the Gongs of central Vietnam is about original musical forms, which are performed against the background of the linguistic and ethnic diversity of the region. Diversity is also found in the compositions and customs of the Gong ensembles, in their performance techniques, in the musical genres and in the ritual functions of the gongs.
In the realm of Vietnam’s musical instruments, the gongs are very well-known for their outstanding value and regarded as the privileged language bridging humanity and the supernatural world. The gongs are made from a mixture of bronze and silver, with some distinctive features. The peoples living in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam possess many sets of gongs, which would be performed differently. A set of gongs consists of two to twenty units.
The most outstanding value of gong culture showcases masterpieces of human creativity. The masters of gong culture are the ethnic people of the Central Highlands. Although they can not cast gongs themselves, they raise the value of a product into an excellent musical instrument with their sensitive ears and musical soul. In the hands of talented folk artistants, each gong plays the role of a musical note in an orchestra to perform different pieces of gong music.
As for ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands, gongs and gong culture present a means to affirm the community and its cultural identities. As time went by, gongs have become an attractive and appealing symbol of the culture of the Central Highlands. It is an activity associated with cultural and spiritual life, and beliefs of ethnic people when they are born, grown up and return to the soil.
The Central Highlands gong comes from long-standing historical and cultural traditions. In the past, community of people in the Central Highlands knew how to play the gong. Its sound is either deep or strong, moving and combining with the sounds of streams, wind and the hearts of people so that it can live with the heaven, the earth and people in the Central Highlands.
However, different ethnic minority groups arrange different orchestras. Listening to the sound of the gong, people in the Central Highland can know which ethnic group is playing.
Gong players in the majority of ethnic groups in the Central Highlands are male. Only in a minority of ethnic groups in the region, gong players are female.
Visual description of the picture
It is a bright sunny day and a group of seven men are outside playing brown tambourines. Only five of the seven men are clearly visible. Their bodies describe a semi-circle facing the left of the picture. They all wear calm expressions. Each man holds the tambourine in his right hand, hitting it with a short thick piece of wood held in the left. The tambourines all have white characters written on them. All the men are wearing the same costume: a dark-blue long-sleeved shirt with multicoloured cuffs and a red square piece of material with golden buttons down the front. Some of the men wear caps; the first man from left to right wears a yellow cap, the second from right wears a blue cap. In the background we can see a forest with blue sky just visible through the dense foiliage of the trees. Smoke is spiralling upwards from the dirt floor. On the far left of the frame we can see the entrance to a hut.
The Central Highlands’ gongs, together with the epics, the treasure of folklore, folk sculpture and folk knowledge, constitute the unique cultural heritage that have attached to the life of the highlanders for over thousand years.