Hoa Binh province has over 63% of its population being Muong ethnic people, who have created and upheld a diverse culture for generations. In that culture, Mo Muong is an outstanding and unique identity holding profound human values. Over the past years, the province has carried out a number of concrete and practical activities to preserve and promote values of this cultural heritage. The Government has submitted a dossier to UNESCO to seek the inscription of Mo Muong into the list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity in need of urgent safeguarding.

 Bui Van Lung, a Mo shaman in Luy Ai hamlet of Phong Phu commune (Tan Lac district), performs a ritual at the 2024 "Khai ha” Festival of the Muong ethnic group in Hoa Binh province.

Mo Muong is a great invention of the Muong people and forms the essence of almost all the values constituting the Muong culture in terms of history, literature, society, arts, belief, and daily life. It clearly reflects Muong people’s worldview and outlook on life that need to be treasured and preserved. Some also considered Mo Muong as a folk encyclopedia about the Muong people that hasn’t been fully studied or understood.

Mo Muong in Hoa Binh consists of rituals, prayers, and performances practiced by Mo shamans. At present, people in various Muong-inhabited areas in the province mainly practice five folk melodies, namely O hoi, Da de, Ham mo, Da doong, and Heu keu.

Mo Muong was created a long time ago, and no one knows exactly when it dates back to.

Meritorious Artisan Bui Huy Vong, a folk culture researcher in Huong Nhuong commune of Lac Son district, said each area has a different legend about the origin of Mo shamans. Mo Muong is a job that came into being when social stratification took place in the Muong society. The shamans are believed to possess extraordinary capacity helping connect the living and the dead. They are also reputable persons in communities.

Mo is closely associated with the life cycle of a person. When a baby was born, Mo is practiced to wish the child eat well and grow well. When a person reaches adulthood, a Mo shaman holds rituals at his/her wedding, housewarming celebrations, or ceremonies praying for good health and safety. At village festivals, locals practice Mo to pray for good weather and bumper crops. Besides, when a person passes away, a shaman acts as a bridge helping the soul of the deceased reach the afterlife.

However, Mo used to be considered a superstition and banned for a long time. Meanwhile, Mo artisans decreased and the young were also not interested in this heritage. That led to degradation of many of its traditional values.

At present, Mo Muong has undergone many big and positive changes. Domestic and international scholars have conducted many cultural, literature, and anthropological studies to shed light on its values, thus further enhancing this heritage’s vitality in the life of the Muong ethnic group.

As one of the first eight people in Hoa Binh to be granted the Meritorious Artisan title (in 2015), Bui Van Lung, a Mo shaman in Phong Phu commune of Tan Lac district, has long been dedicated to the popularisation of Mo Muong. He was born in 1957 to a clan whose members have served as Mo shamans for nine generations.

Lung said he loved listening to Mo even when he was small, but it was not until the age of 25 did he officially start to learn the work of a shaman, and he began doing this job at the age of 27. The shaman added that he has visited various places to use Mo Muong to pray for people’s happiness, give advice about the daily life to them, and perform rituals at weddings, funerals, housing building ceremonies, local festivals, as well as large events of the province.

After centuries, Mo Muong is still maintained in the life of Muong people as well as other ethnic groups in Hoa Binh province at present. Generations of the Muong people have preserved, orally passed down to younger generations, and sustainably promoted Mo Muong’s values, thereby fostering the vitality and strong ripple effect of this extremely valuable intangible cultural heritage.


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