Ha Giang promotes cultural identities towards boosting sustainable development of tourism

Ha Giang is the northernmost province of the country and is home to 19 ethnic groups who still preserve their traditional cultural identities with the aim to turn them into attractive and unique tourism products for both domestic and foreign visitors.

The community-based culture and tourism village in Pa Vi Ha Hamlet, Pa Vi Commune, Meo Vac District. (Photo: NDO)
The community-based culture and tourism village in Pa Vi Ha Hamlet, Pa Vi Commune, Meo Vac District. (Photo: NDO)

In recent years, Ha Giang has focused on preservation of cultural identities of ethnic groups. Accordingly, many programmes and policies have been carried out, such as a programme of cultural development associated with tourism; the policy to encourage tourism development; a plan on training human resources for tourism; and a project to preserve and promote the values of community-based culture and tourism villages in association with tourism development.

In 2020, the province implemented the project on “preserving traditional culture and improving the quality of services in community-based culture and tourism villages” during the 2020-2025 period. Under the project, comprehensive support has been given towards the conservation, exploitation and promotion of cultural values including the preservation of traditional housing architecture; the development of folk arts troupes; the collection of folk songs, dances, instruments and festivals; and the production of traditional crafts. They will contribute to tourism development.

In addition, the local authorities have paid great attention to the establishment of folk artisans’ associations, which are considered the core force in preserving and promoting traditional cultural values. There are now nearly 190 communal-level folk artisans’ associations with over 9,000 members. They have attracted the participation of village patriarchs, reputable people and those who are knowledgeable about the customs and practices of their ethnic groups. They will directly preserve and pass the traditional values down to young generations as well as play a very important role in mobilising locals to abolish superstitions and backward customs.

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The locals are dancing with 'khen' (panpipe) at a rural market in Ha Giang. (Photo: NDO)

Coming to community-based culture and tourism village of Nam Dam, in Quan Ba Commune, in the district of the same name, visitors will be delighted to enjoy traditional art performances performed by the local Dao ethnic minority people. Their traditional songs, dances and 'Cap Sac' ritual (an indispensable proceeding in the life of every Dao male as it helps him earn the recognition of being mature enough to join in the community’s major activities) have always left a deep impression on visitors.

Ha Giang Province has also proactively and actively brought traditional culture into extracurricular activities at schools from primary to high levels in the locality. Tran Duc Quy, Vice Chairman of Ha Giang Provincial People's Committee said: “This is necessary and meaningful work to preserve and promote the traditional cultural values of ethnic minority groups. To improve the quality and effectiveness of this activity, the province has developed and carried out a project on educating life skills and traditional culture of ethnic minorities for students during 2016-2020 period”.

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A traditional festival of Dao ethnic minority people in Hoang Su Phi District. (Photo: NDO)

The teaching of traditional culture has been regularly and continuously promoted in many forms. The educational sector has coordinated with the cultural sector to compile educational materials on life skills and traditional culture for primary, secondary and high schools.

The above efforts have helped to restore and develop many traditional festivals, intangible values and traditional customs and practices of ethnic minority groups in Ha Giang. Some festivals have been restored and are now recognised as national intangible cultural heritages, such as the‘Cap sac’ ritual of the Dao ethnic group and the fire dancing festival of the Pa Then ethnic group in Quang Binh District.

The province’s traditional culture has become well-known through the performance of activities to serve both domestic and foreign visitors at total 35 community-based culture and tourism villages, including those in Nam Dan Hamlet which has been developed in accordance with ASEAN standard, in Nam Hong Hamlet (Thong Nguyen Commune, Hoang Su Phi District) which was built as a high-quality community resort, and in Pa Vi Ha Hamlet (in Pa Vi Commune, Meo Vac District.

The preserved traditional cultural values have become a typical tourism product at the culture and tourism village. The locals have not only directedly participated in the conservation of traditional values but also gained additional income.

Trieu Menh Kinh, director of a community-based tourism cooperative in Nam Hong Hamlet, Thong Nguyen Commune, Hoang Su Phi District, said: “Tourists were very interested in the majestic and poetic scenery of terraced fields and eager to learn about Dao people’s lives imbued with traditional identity. Therefore, the authorities had hired Dao folk artisans to teach and guide local people in traditional performances to serve guests”.

Thanks to tourism, Nam Hong villagers have raised their awareness of preserving and restoring cultural identities of their ethnic group. Their lives have been improved significantly.

Deputy Director of Ha Giang Provincial Culture, Sports and Tourism Trieu Thi Tinh said that Ha Giang provincial authorities and people have always thoroughly grasped the motto of “developing tourism based on culture and preserving cultural values based on tourism”. As a result, the preservation of traditional cultural identity has been promoted effectively while unique, attractive and highly competitive tourism products have helped the locals in improving their income.

Translated by NDO