"Cheo" is a traditional stage art originating from the Red River Delta, dating back to the "Ly" dynasty between the 11th and 13th century (1010-1225).  It is a kind of narration which allows a close link between performers and spectators.  During celebrations and commune festival days, groups of folk actors and actresses gave performances on mats spread over the yard of the Communal House (nh) in the village.   Spectators could watch performances from three sides of the stage.  They fit in and chime in with the actors and actresses.

        "Cheo" includes dancing, singing, music and literature.  The drum is an indispensible element of a "Cheo" drama.  It has a magic power to attract spectators from all corners of the village.


        Generally the buffon role makes the best use of satire and humor.   "Cheo" performance carries a high form of conditioning.   "Cheo" literature is deeply steeped in the lyrism of folk songs and proverbs, brims with optimism and intelligent satire of the peasants.  Also humanism is obvious in this communal art.  "Cheo" also champions human rights, praises the gods and castigates evil in a tradtional oriental manner.

         The language used in "Cheo" is usually in verse comprised of 6 to 8 words or 5 to 7 words based on 5 musical notes.   The beating set with its ploymorphic and complex rhythem is one of the marked characteristics of "Cheo" music.


        Humanity and justice will triumph over Evil.   Laughter and satire are used to redicule oppression and injustices in the society.   The lyric characters in melody combined with dance is very fine and attractive and filled with Vietnamese color.

        Typical characters: Honorable man, negative and positive characters, the buffon.

        Content of the program May 8, 1997.

        1. "Betel nuts offering" - Quan Ho folk song.

        "Quan Ho" folksong originates from Kinh Bac (Bac Ninh Province) from the early 11th Century.  Quan Ho has 36 rhythms.   During the "Lim Festival" (from the 10 to 13 of the 1st Lunar month), this kind of beautiful sentimental folksong is sung by boys and girls to celebrate the festival while strolling about in the large open ground, on the hill or by the river, in the yard of the pagoda or temple.

        In this song "Betel nuts offering", you will observe a Vietnamese custom to offer guests and friends a betel (a piece of betel leaf with areca nut) to chew upon your visit to your home.

        2. Thi Mau Len Chua (Miss Mau goes to Pagoda):

        Thi Mau is a beautiful young girl born into a rich family.  According to the then cultural setting and values, she has to marry a man to be arranged by her parents.  Twice a month, on the 1st and 15th day (Lunar month), she goes to pagoda to pray to Buddha.

        She meets a young monk named "Thi Kinh" who disguised herself as a man.  She forgets the prayers and falls in love with the "Monk".

        This part is an extract from the play "Quan Am Thi Kinh".

        3. Giao duyen (Folk song in the Red River Delta)

        4. Tam Cam (Extract): Tam is the name of a beautiful girl who has a bitter life as her mother died when she was a little girl.  Her father got married again with with a very cruel woman who later has  a daughter Cam is her name.  The step-mothr and her daughter treat Tam very badly.  Tam is a very good girl and she loves people and animals.  In her family, she has to work hard from early morning till late at night but the step-mother has no love for her and Tam does not have enough food to eat while Cam does not do anything and has plenty of time going out and buying expensive clothes.

        Tam has a step-mother and sister...Cam is... The whole play is more or less similar to "Cinderalla".

        5. Hat n (The flying cranes)


        "VAN" means "a piece of prose" or "a piece of literature".  "HAT VAN" is therefore "singing a piece of prose or literature".  Van singing is often conducted for a stage of "spiritual" world in such scared places as communal houses or pagodas, temples or inner worship places where people are often very respectful and strict.  Those pieces of prose are usually good in literature, lyrical and meaning... It is about the herioc deeds of people in their fight against invaders to defend their Mother Land as well as the super behavior/noble conducts, talents, or good virtues and chastity... of a real person or hero/heroine in history (Ex: Tran Hung Dao, Trung Sisters...).  Sometimes, the character/hero is an ideal person/image in the mind of folk people.  All those kinds of people will become gods to whom people often worship and show their respect at the places where he had done great deeds.  They carry the hero's picture, statue or urn of burning incences from other localities to their village or the neareast location which make it more convenient for them to care for and worship the god (especially on the days of birth and dealth of that "god")... The contents of HAT VAN (proses) also remind people (through the sayings/teachings of the gods) of good ways of living, humanity, doing good deeds and avoiding the evil.  When you live well, you will be endowed with good luck.  On the other hand, the gods also warn all people that "If one lies and cheats people; if one loves the rich, but maltreats the poor, and exploits them, he/she will be punished by the gods."

        HAT CHAU is a highly valued performing art with a mixture of dancing, singing and physical gestures.  This is an opportunity to enjoy a unique kind of Vietnamese folk art. 




(Well-known American Artist in Vietnamese songs)
(One of the top ten Artists among the young Vietnamese generation.  Please click on
Toi Van Nho # 51)