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As a result of the modern life, after school time, children in cities are lack of space, and childhood friends to play together. While parents are busy with their business, the children are kept inside 4 concrete walls and entertained themselves with watching television, talked to their toys or playing video games.

However, these traditional folk games still have very strong and magical attraction to every kid. They might not play it very often as I and over generations did, but the stories about these folk games will still be told in every family. And thanks to the Museum of Ethnology for their effort to preserve these invaluable cultural heritage. If you are planning to travel to Vietnam during Tet, mark your agenda for a visit to visit The Museum of Ethnology, may be treats and range of folk games are still available.

Don’t miss this fabulous opportunity to discover a great fun and findings with Vietnamese culture through these folk games and arts.

Traditional folk games of Vietnamese

The most favorite folk games must be listed are: “Rong ran len may” (the game of Dragon and Snake), “Meo duoi chuot” (The game of Cat and Mouse), “Ban Bi” (Marble game in Vietnamese style), “O an quan” (Mandarin Square Capturing), “Tron tim” (Hide and Seek)… More than fun, these folk games improve the smart and observe ability in children.

Cat and mouse game (Meo duoi chuot)


Each game requires between seven and ten people. They stand in a circle, hold hands and raise their hands above their heads. Then they start singing the song above. One person is chosen as the cal and another as the mouse.

Please come over here

Hand in hand

Stand in a large circle

The mouse will run through the hole

The cat will run after it

The mouse tries to run as fast as possible

But it can't escape

Then the mouse will act as the cat and chase the cat, which is now the mouse.
Traditional folk games of Vietnamese

How to play the game:
Each game requires between seven and ten people. They stand in a circle, hold hands and raise their hands above their heads. Then they start singing the song above. One person is chosen as the cal and another as the mouse. These two stand in the middle of the circle and lean against each other. When the others sing the last sentence, the mouse starts to run, and the cat must run after it. However, the cat must run in exactly the same route and manner as the mouse. The cat wins the game when it catches the mouse. Then the two exchange roles. If the cal runs into the wrong hole, it will be dismissed from that round.

If it fails to catch the mouse in a certain period of time (usually from three to five minutes for kindergarten-age children) it will exchange its role with the mouse. The game will then continue

Bamboo jacks (Choi chuyen)

This girls' game (chơi chuyen) includes ten thin, well-sharpened, round bamboo sticks and a ball, which traditionally is a fig, a miniature variety of eggplant, a small rock or a clod of clay.
This girls' game (chơi chuyen) includes ten thin, well-sharpened, round bamboo sticks and a ball, which traditionally is a fig, a miniature variety of eggplant, a small rock or a clod of clay.

These days, tennis balls are becoming more popular as a substitute. The player tosses the ball into the air. While the ball is in the air, she must quickly pick up the sticks and then catch the ball.
Traditional folk games of Vietnamese

Players often recite a singsong nonsense rhyme: "Cai mot... Cai mai... Cai co… So mang... Thang chang... Con chit... Ngam nga... Ngam nguyt... Chuot chit... Sang ban doi…"

In the first round, the player picks up the slicks one by one. Next, she gathers two sticks at a time, and so forth up to ten. In these stages she plays with only one hand. The girl picks up sticks and catches the ball while reciting the rhyme. Meanwhile, her face reddens and her eyes become intense as she performs in front of her friends.

The peak of the game is the last, most animated stage with all ten sticks in a bundle. During this stage, the player losses the ball and then transfers (chuyen) the pack of sticks from one hand to the other. She must successively switch the bundle, first once, then twice, then three or even more times before catching the ball. The hands of a girl playing chuyen open and close like small, nimble butterflies. If a player's hands are not swift or if her eyes are not sharp, or if she fails to coordinate the two, she will lose her turn. The game will pass to the next girl. Playing chuyen warms up the body and creates a lot of fun. During summer or autumn, small girls play it everywhere, from the shade of a village banyan tree to a deserted market stall.

Spinning tops (Con Quay/Chơi Cù)


The folk pastime of top spinning still charms city children despite the popularity of modern games such as bowling, skateboarding, billiards and video games.

The folk pastime of top spinning still charms city children despite the popularity of modern games such as bowling, skateboarding, billiards and video games.
Traditional folk games of Vietnamese

Spinning tops - Vietnamese folk gamesIn the countryside, most children make their own tops out of guava, jackfruit, or longan wood. Sometimes they fashion tops from buffalo horn, though there tops are rare because horns are harder to obtain and more difficult to shape. City children frequently use wood scraps left from making furniture to fashion their tops. To Tich Street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter is famous for trading tops. A top has three parts: the head, body and nail. The head is shaped into a cylinder. The body is a sphere; the string is wound around its upper part. The nail must be accurately fixed into the bottom point of the top. Children in the countryside make strings from dry maize leaves; Hanoi children often use parachute string or cord.

The simplest way to spin a top is to “drop” it. The player uses his or her ring finger and little finger to press the cord or string against the nail at the knot. He or she holds the top firmly with the thumb and two remaining fingers so that its nail points upwards. Then he or she “drops” the top in three rapid steps: first, pushing the top forward while turning the wrist to point the nail downwards, then releasing the top; and rapidly pulling the string.

Once the top is spinning, players can use the string to move the top in the desired direction. When the top wavers, the player runs the string against the nail and pulls powerfully in the direction the top is turning. This keeps the top spinning longer.

Although tops are among the simplest of toys, excited children spinning tops create one of Hanoi’s most vivid and boisterous games.

The game of squares (O an quan)


Either boys or girls, usually age’s seven to ten, play the two-person game of O an quan (literally "Mandarin's Box"). They draw a rectangle on the ground and divide it into ten small squares called "rice fields" or "fish ponds.

Either boys or girls, usually age’s seven to ten, play the two-person game of O an quan (literally "Mandarin's Box"). They draw a rectangle on the ground and divide it into ten small squares called "rice fields" or "fish ponds.
Traditional folk games of Vietnamese

"They also draw two additional semi-circular boxes at the two ends of the rectangle, which are called"mandarin's boxes," hence the game's name. Each person has 25 small pebbles and a bigger stone.

Each player places the stone in one of the mandarin's boxes and five small pebbles in each of the other squares (see diagram above). Then the game begins. The first player takes up the contents of one square on his or her side of the board (but not a mandarin's box) and distributes the pebbles one by one, starting with the next square in either direction. (Since each square contains five pebbles at the beginning, the first move will distribute five pebbles to the left or right).

After the last pebble is distributed, the player takes the contents of the following square and repeats the distribution process. But if the following square is one of the mandarin's boxes, the turn ends and passes to the other player.

If the last pebble falls into a square that precedes one empty square, the player wins all the contents of the square following the empty square and removes these pebbles from the board. If this square is followed by another empty square, the player wins the contents of the square after that, and so on. However, if there are two or more empty squares in a row, the player loses his or her turn.

Once a player has taken pebbles from the board, the turn is handed to the other player. If all five squares on one player's side of the board are emptied at any time, that player must place one pebble he or she has aside back in each of the five squares so that the game can resume.

The game continues until the two mandarins' boxes have both been taken. At the end of the game, the player with more pebbles wins, with each of the large stones counting as ten points. If each player retrieves an equal number of points, then the game is a tie. O an quan remains deservedly popular among older children since it requires good counting skills and forethought in order to win.

The game of dragon-snake (Tro Rong ran len may)


At this, the doctor flies into a rage and attempts lo catch the child who represents the tail of the dragon-snake. The head of the line stretches his or her arms to bar the doctor while the dragon-snake tries to make a circle.

The dragon-snake approaches the doctor. The following dialogue occurs between the doctor and the head of the line:
Traditional folk games of Vietnamese

 Where are you going, dragon-snake?

- I’m searching for medicine for my son.

- How old is he, your son?

- He is one year old. - The doctor is not well.

- He is (two, three, four, five... repeated each time) years old. - The doctor is not well.

The dialogue continues until the dragon-snake says:

-          He is ten years old.

-          Then the doctor answers:

-          All right, the doctor is well.

-          With this, the doctor stands up and says:

-          Give me your head

-          Nothing but the bones

-          Responds the dragon-snake

-          Give me the body.

-          Nothing but the blood.

-          Give me the tail.

-          Pursue at will!

At this, the doctor flies into a rage and attempts lo catch the child who represents the tail of the dragon-snake. The head of the line stretches his or her arms to bar the doctor while the dragon-snake tries to make a circle. If the dragon-snake succeeds in rolling into a circle before the physician can touch the tail, it wins. On the contrary, if the doctor catches the tail of the dragon-snake, the entire group loses the game. All losers must stretch out their hands, palms downwards, to the winner, who slaps them one after another.

SOME OTHER GAMES:
Traditional folk games of Vietnamese
Tug of war: Kéo co

Traditional folk games of Vietnamese
Bag jumping: Nhảy bao bố
Traditional folk games of Vietnamese
Stilt walking: Đi cà keo
Cock fighting/Buffalo fighting: Chọi gà/trâu

Flying kite: Thả diều

Rice cooking competition: Cuộc thi thổi cơm

Traditional folk games of Vietnamese
Racing boat: Đua thuyền

Traditional folk games of Vietnamese
Mud banger: Pháo đất

Traditional folk games of Vietnamese
Bamboo dancing: Nhảy sạp

Traditional folk games of Vietnamese
Blind man’s buff: Bịt mắt bắt dê

Traditional folk games of Vietnamese
Cat & mouse game: Mèo đuổi chuột

Traditional folk games of Vietnamese
Chanting while sawing wood: Kéo cưa lừa x

Traditional folk games of Vietnamese
Nu Na Nu Nong- Girls’ chanting  games

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