- Takes note that Viet Nam has nominated Practices of Then by Tày, Nùng and Thái ethnic groups in Viet Nam (No. 01379) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:
Then, an essential ritual practice in the spiritual life of the Tày, Nùng and Thái ethnic groups in Viet Nam, reflects concepts about human beings, the natural world and the universe. Then ceremonies describe a journey in which the Then Master (male or female) controls ghost soldiers travelling from the earth realm to the heaven realm, to offer items of worship and present their prayers for peace, for treating illnesses, good crops, a happy new year, etc. The Then Master starts the journey by singing and plucking a tính lute. Depending on the worshipping purposes, Then masters arrange worship trips to pray to different native Gods. Then masters use various items – such as a demon-expelling sword, a yin and yang rod, a bell, etc. – to perform ceremonies in the believer’s house, outdoors or at the Then alter of the Master’s house. The Master wears ceremonial dress, sings in the language of their ethnic group, plays the tính lute, shakes rattle-bells and waves a fan. Some ceremonies are accompanied by a female dancing group. Then is always transmitted orally while its rituals are conducted, reflecting its succession between the generations, and Then Masters play a key role in passing on the related skills and know-how, with some conducting around 200 ceremonies a year.
- Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:
R.1: Practices of Then in Viet Nam form a fundamental part of the spiritual lives of the Tày, Nùng and Thái ethnic groups, and reflect the relationship between human beings, the natural world and the universe. Then rituals express the cultural identity of these ethnic groups, from customs to musical instruments, dance and music. Thanks to its social and cultural functions, Then contributes to moral education, a humane lifestyle and the safeguarding of customs and cultural traditions in Viet Nam.
R.2: The inscription of the practices of Then by Tày, Nùng and Thái ethnic groups in Viet Nam would highlight its contribution to the preservation of ethnic identities and the consolidation of solidarity among different ethnic groups. It would also draw attention to other elements around the world which include ritual practices, trance and mediums.
R.3: The viability of the element is ensured by individuals, families or communities inviting Then Masters to pray for health, peace and good crops. Since 2001, the government has allocated funds from the national programmes on culture to safeguarding the cultural heritage of Vietnamese ethnic communities, including Then rituals. The proposed safeguarding measures follow the path initiated by these programmes and include the promulgation of national guidelines, policies and laws for safeguarding and promoting the values of intangible cultural heritage; encouraging research activities and establishing suitable conditions in this regard; undertaking inventorying, identification and documentation activities; transmitting the knowledge of the folk artists by incorporating Then singing and tính lute playing into school curricula and producing publications to promote, study and teach Then heritage by motivating and encouraging young people to take an interest in the practice. The communities and artists were actively involved in planning the proposed safeguarding measures.
R.4: The folk artists and communities concerned actively participated in all stages of the preparation of the nomination file through meetings, seminars, conferences and workshops. Communities, groups, various individuals, clubs, Masters and families practising Then provided their voluntary consent in writing and through audio and video recordings, including opinions about their desire to support the preparation of the nomination file as well as their commitments to safeguarding their cultural heritage.
R.5: Then heritage of eleven provinces has been gradually included on the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2012; this was most recently updated in 2017. The Department of Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Viet Nam is the body responsible for maintaining and updating the inventory. Annually, Departments of Culture, Sports and Tourism / Departments of Culture and Sports in provinces where Then practices exist are responsible for cooperating with representatives of the communities and folk artists concerned to update the inventory.