Up, up and away

February 08, 2019 - 19:00
One player manages to touch the flag at this year’s game on the fourth day of Tết . — VNS Photo Phước Bửu
Viet Nam News

Phước Bửu

THỪA THIÊN-HUẾ — Eyes up, eyes down. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope, it’s a bouncing bamboo chair.

This is a traditional Tết game played in Gia Viên, a village on the outskirts of Huế City in the central province of Thừa Thiên-Huế.

A five metre high bamboo tower is built leaving space for a swinging chair, also made from bamboo. High in the sky is a flag which contestants have to touch by building up momentum on the swing. 

The flag gets higher and higher to determine the winner.

Rules of the game and the techniques used have stayed the same for centuries, passed down from generation to generation. 

“Only players change year after year," Bùi Vạn, a master player of the game, said. "We are glad that young generation are still eager at the game every Tết.

“The significance of the game is not who wins it but to entertain the crowd. Those people are helping keep the Tết tradition alive in the context of modern life,” said Trần Đức Thiện, chairman of Phong Hiền Commune, which includes the village.

The swinging chair game, which is called đu tiên in the Vietnamese language, is one of the attractions at this rural village, which is located 22km from the city centre. Thiện said the game offers recreation not only for the villagers but also visitors in the province as well as Huế natives living in localities around the country.

It is held on the fourth day of a lunar new year. Elderly villagers said the bamboo trees were selected and brought to the site some 10 days ahead of Tết, for installation. Those who erect the swing are experts and ensure the safety of the people taking part.

According to the elderly, the game helps keep players fit and healthy while promoting the craftsmanship at the same time.

All athletes playing the game are dressed in the áo dài – the Vietnamese traditional costume – and the fluttering of the dress as it flaps in the air adds to the unique charm. 

“My eyes stuck on the chair and the flying áo dài sent me back to my childhood memories,” said Trương Văn Thìn, a village native living in HCM City.

Each swing of the chair is accompanied with cheers from the crowd, resulting in a happy and joyful mood during Tết. — VNS