Among the many festivities taking place during the lunar new year or Hue Festival, human chess in Thuong Bac communal house always attracts many spectators because it is lively and entertaining. The game involves the cunning of the two players and the performance of traditional martial arts students.
Human chess follows the general rules of Chinese chess, however, the pieces are all people: 32 people in all. The two players sit on high platforms behind their respective chessmen.
Each chessman holding his own weapon takes position according to the players “moves”. Each piece has its special strength and is used strategically by the players.
The special feature of human chess is the balance between the “intelligence” of Chinese chess and “bravery” of traditional martial arts. Along with a resounding drumbeat, the players try to direct the pieces. Though there is much shouting and screaming during the game, they play for amusement more than competition.
There is a large ground in the middle of the temple for spectators to gather. Whoever wins, regardless of it’s the blue or red team, the spectators shout and cheer for the victor. The chessman in the position of the King may be the most pitiable piece on the board; he just stands in the narrow square and watches his guards move about. He only moves a few steps and waits to see whether he or his counterpart is knocked down.
Human chess differs among regions in Vietnam . In the north, one team consists of 16 boys and the other of 16 girls. The two players stand on the ground and direct each piece to move while someone beats adrum next to them. The player who has their king checkmated will lose.
In the centre and south, people in the chessboard are young martial arts students. Accordingly, each team wears a different colour and holds a weapon. The chessboard is marked by paint on a large carpet on an open field. A pawn can move by traditional kickboxing or by weapons followed by the sound of drums. When a piece is take, the chessmen perform beautiful martial arts. The party that has the king taken will lose.
The differences of human chess among regions reflect the diversified culture. Along with other folk games, human chess contributes to preserve and develop the traditional cultural values of Vietnam .
The students performing martial arts at Thuong Bac communal house belong to the traditional martial sect Vo Kinh which was created by Thoai Dinh Hau Nguyen Huu Canh under the reign of King Gia Long. This martial sect was originally passed to the soldiers and officers in the citadel of the Nguyen dynasty. Vo Kinh is one of the two
remaining sects of traditional Vietnamese martial arts (the other sect is Binh Dinh martial arts). During festivals the Vo Kinh martial arts performances always attract a lot of tourists. In the Hue festival in 2008, Vo Kinh was examined to add to the package tour: Cham tower Phat Tich village – Vo Kinh by travel agents.
Vo Kinh martial arts have its unique characteristic. A fabric fan is used as a weapon only in Vo Kinh martial arts. The students manipulate the fan skillfully. The fans opens, closes, flashes forward and backward, slashes up and down with opening and closing snaps.
The basic aspect of Vo Kinh martial arts is the spirit of Vo Kinh. It’s different from Chinese kung fu. But Vo Kinh and Binh Dinh martial arts don’t use a series of moves to attack their rivals and to imperil them. They just use each separate move aimed at unprotected points to prevent their rivals from hurting them.
To see the beautiful moves of Vo Kinh martial arts, visit Thuong Bac communal house to watch the human chess. The martial arts students will perform whenever the player moves a chess piece.
How to get Hue City?
There are many convenient means of transportation to travel from Hanoi and HCMC to Hue city. You can go by air, train or car. Book a tour to Hue and then visit Thuong Bac communal house at 150 Nguyen Trai, Tay Loc Ward, Hue City .
If you like to study Vo Kinh martial arts, visit Vo Kinh Van An Club at 7/106 Hai Trieu, Hue City.
Read more: Top things to do in Hue