In its ordinary meaning, “Hue Royal Music” is understood as genres of music, including music combined with dance and opera, used in worshiping ceremonies, court affairs and national festivals hosted by the court and entertainment activities of the King and his Royal Family. The name Nha Nhac was used by Vietnamese feudal dynasties from the Ho Dynasty with different meanings: sometimes indicating Royal Music in general and court ritual music in particular, sometimes indicating a music organization, even a concrete orchestra.
The initial foundation of Nha Nhac — the Hue Royal Music began in the 13th century but it only reached the peak at the Hue Court under the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945). It was officially formed along with the enthronement of the Nguyen Dynasty in the early 19th century. In about 1947-1948, Madame Tu Cung (mother of King Bao Dai and wife of King Khai Dinh) gathered some artists from the reign of King Bao Dai. Thanks to this, some genres of court and dance were maintained. In the 1980s, the Hue Hue Royal Music began to attract attention of the Ministry of Culture and local authorities. In the 1990s, it stepped into the renaissance. Since then, this kind of art has been introduced in many places all over the world.
Find more: Schedule of Hue Royal Music
The different genres of the Hue Royal Music include worshiping ritual music, court ritual music, court dances, chamber music and opera (royal classical opera).
Formerly, the Hue Royal Music consisted of various genres: Giao Nhac used in the sacrifice ceremony to the Heaven and the Earth; Mieu Nhac used in worshiping ceremonies at the temples; Ngu Tu Nhac used in worshiping ceremonies for Than Nong (Agricultural Genius), Thanh Hoang (God of a village) and Xa Tac (the State); Dai Trieu Nhac used in great ceremonies or receptions of foreign ambassadors; Thuong Trieu Nhac used in ordinary court ceremonies; Yen Nhac used in great royal banquets; Cung Nhac (or Cung Trung Nhac) used inside the royal palaces.
Read more: Hue Imperial citadel and the royal palaces
Many former Hue court dances were performed on many different occasions. There are now 11 court dances. The pieces still preserved until now are Mg ban nu, Long dang, Long ngam, and Phu luc… Nguyen Dynasty court orchestras were diverse in type, serving rituals and entertainment activities in the court. They include Nha nhac, Huyen nhac, Ti truc to nhac…
The Hue Royal Music succeeded and enhanced the achievements of the Thang Long Royal Music, which was formed many centuries ago, to a new height. This succession and enhancement are shown in such factors as:
- Maintaining some court orchestras of the previous dynasties and creating new diverse variations based on the Le Dynasty’s orchestras; Continuing to use many common musical instruments of the Thang Long Royal Music.
- Maintaining and diversifying some previous court dances, and at the same time creating many new dances; Creating a new type of chamber music (don ca Hue) and enhancing Vietnamese instrumental music to a new level of development both in performance techniques and forms of ensemble.
- Succeeding the “hat boi” or “tuong” (Vietnamese opera) art of Dang ngoai (north Vietnam) and developing it to an extremely flourish level, and simultaneously forming a new specific kind of “tuong”: the “tuong Kinh” (“tuong” of the capital city) in the style of “tuong van”.
- Succeeding the system of tone regulations of the Hong Duc time under the Le Dynasty in the second half of the 15th century and developing music language and theory.
- Continuing the traditions of learning, adopting and Vietnamese music foreign elements that were shaped in Vietnamese music in general and in thee Thang Long Royal Music in particular.
The special traits of Hue Royal Music are the integration, acquirement and modification of the Chinese and Champa cultures and the impacts of the Buddhism and Confucianism. It is closely connected with “tuong” (hat boi) art. It synthesizes the abundance and diversity in the types of art, genres, types of instrument and timbre, repertoires, orchestra organization structure and ensemble forms, the performance environment and melody… So it could satisfy both audition and vision of spectators by providing them with “dishes of different tastes”.
The Hue court music has a large scale and a high professionalism. As the official music of the state, it consists of many large scale orchestras, and many music and dance items, performed by many kinds of instrumentalists, singers and dancers. Moreover, this is the music genre that has high degree of improvisation, variation and scholarship.
At its official meeting in Paris on November 7, 2003, UNESCO named 28 masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritages of humanity for the second time, including Nha Nhac – Hue Royal Music, which Hue has preserved and developed for a long time.
Today, you can see Hue Royal Music show at Hue Imperial citadel.