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Traditional Vietnamese music is extremely diverse, consisting of many different styles varying from region to region. Some of the most widely known genres include:
Quan họ: A type of improvisational music, it is sung acappella and has a longstanding tradition in Vietnam, used in courtship rituals.
Imperial Court music: Music performed in the Vietnamese court during feudalistic times. When referring specifically to the "Nhã nhạc" form it includes court music from the Trần Dynasty on to the Nguyễn Dynasty. It features an array of instruments, featuring musicians and dancers adorned in elaborate garb.
Ca trù: An ancient form of chamber music which originated in the imperial court. It gradually came to be associated with a geisha-type of entertainment where talented female musicians entertained rich and powerful men, often scholars and bureaucrats who most enjoyed the genre. It was condemned in the 20th century by the government, being tied falsely with prostitution, but recently it has seen a revival as appreciation for its cultural significance has grown. Vietnam has completed documents to have Ca tru recognized by UNESCO as a potential Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Vietnam has 54 different ethnics, each with their own traditional dance. Among the ethnic Vietnamese majority, there are several traditional dances performed widely at festivals and other special occasions, such as the lion dance.
In the imperial court there also developed throughout the centuries a series of complex court dances which require great skill. Some of the more widely known are the imperial lantern dance, fan dance, and platter dance, among others.
Water puppetry is a distinct Vietnamese art which had its origins in the 12th century. In water puppetry, a split-bamboo screen obscures puppets which stand in water and are manipulated using long poles hidden beneath the water. Epic storylines are played out with many different characters, often depicting traditional scenes of Vietnamese life. Despite nearly dying out in the 20th century, it has been saved by efforts of preservation and is now largely seen by tourists to Vietnam.
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