Tug-of-War in Asia
Cooperative projects for safeguarding common living heritage

Living Heritage Series

Tugging Rituals and Games

A Common Element, Diverse Approaches

Chapter 9

Tugging Rituals and Games and ICH Communities in Vietnam

Thuy Do
Prof. Dr., Head of Policy Studies and Cultural Management Division, Vietnam National Institute of Culture and Arts Studies

UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage Convention, which was adopted in 2003 and entered into force in April 2006, highlighted “Recognizing that communities, in particular indigenous communities, groups and, in some case, individuals, play an important role in the production, safeguarding, maintenance and re-creation of the intangible cultural heritage, thus helping to enrich cultural diversity and human creativity.” Articles 1 and 15 on purposes of the Convention make further references to issues relating to the participation of communities, groups, and individuals. By respecting and empowering practicing communities to define, designate their intangible heritage, and engage in protecting ICH, many states have come to acknowledge community as one of the central goals of the convention. In fact, the interrelationship between community and heritage seems to be inseparable. Valdirmar Tr. Hasfstein pointed out that “At closer inspection, intangible cultural heritage is practically synonymous with community” and therefore “the purpose of the convention
is not only to safeguard traditional practice and expressions, but also, and just as importantly, to safeguard communities” (Valdirmar Tr. Hasfstein 2004, p.212) In light of this perspective, my presentation will examine a variety of tugging rituals and games in Vietnam, in the relation to concerned communities who are not only the bearers of the element but also the primary responsible parties for safeguarding the heritage. Particular attention is given to the diverse expressions of tugging rituals and games, recreated by communities’ creativity in their interaction with nature and their history. Moreover, the role and forms of community involvement in safeguarding the tugging rituals and games are also discussed. Although the nature of “community’ has proved to be quite variable, the term “community” applied in this paper means communities-of-place, particularly community of the village or town where the tugging rituals and games are practiced.