Vietnam Time

5/14/2018 8:41:34 AM

First woman leads xoan guild in 4,000 years

The ancient rules of Xoan singing state that only a man can hold the position of trum phuong xoan (head of xoan singing guild). But after more than 50 years of enthusiastically and professionally performing xoan, not to mention training the next generation of singers, Nguyen Thi Lich, from Phuong Lau Commune, Viet Tri City in the northern province of Phu Tho has become the first female folk artist to lead the provincial xoan guild.

Nguyen Thi Lich is the first female folk artist to lead the provincial xoan guild. (Photo:

She is the first woman to hold such a position in the thousands-year history of xoan singing in Phu Tho— one of the unique traditional cultural music arts recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as intangible cultural heritage.

Vu Ha Hung, an elderly member of the An Thai Xoan singing guild in Phu Tho Province, revealed that besides Lich’s high qualification in ancient xoan singing, her family history led the guild’s elders to choose her for the position.

Lich’s father was folk artist Nguyen Tat Thang, the head of a famous xoan singing guild in Phu Tho, regarded as the ancestral land of the Vietnamese.

Hung said all locals knew about her family’s story. Before passing away, Lich’s father gave her a notebook containing 31 ancient xoan songs. His last wish was that the daughter would protect and develop the family tradition.

At five years old, Lich needed support from her paternal grandfather, who taught her how to sing the songs.

At the age of 13, Lich was able to perform all the songs in the notebook left by her father, according to Hung.

Xoan performances then became an indispensable part of her life. In 1979, Lich became an adult and opened the first class teaching folk songs for children in her commune.

Her classes were all free and still run today. Lich has students from all parts of Phu Tho and other neighbouring provinces including Vinh Phuc and Yen Bai. Among her excellent students, folk artist Nguyen Thi Nga was also selected as the second female head of a xoan singing guild in Phu Tho./.

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