Bai choi singing has become familiarwithnot only people in Hoi An City, Quang Nam province but visitors far and wide.
Bai choi is a popular genre of folk impromptu art in central Vietnam. No one knows exactly when bai choi appeared. It is said this game was played around 400 years ago. Then bai choi lost its popularity and was almost forgotten, until the ancient town of Hoi An was accredited the World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, authorities of Quang Nam Province and Hoi An City, and particularly the Hoi An Culture and Sports Centre, restored the cultural playground to preserve and develop the national cultural identity and introduce to domestic and international visitors.
In bai choi, players sit inside makeshift thatched huts (choi) located around a tower, on which a hieu (speaker) stands. The speaker reads or sings lyrics to guide the play. Each bai choi comprises of 30 chess pieces with different names, assigned to 10 types of cards. On each card is written the names of three chess pieces and players will select the type of card they want to buy. After the nha cai (banker) gives out the cards, a bamboo stick, on which the name of a chess piece is written, is drawn to start the game. Then the speaker leads the game with lyrics about the piece’s name. If players hear the name of any of their pieces, they must shout “yes” and exchange the piece for a yellow flag. Whoever gains three consecutive yellow flags gets a red flag and wins.