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Costumes as warlords for Tuồng (Hát Bội) in Huế in 1874
Costumes as warlords for Tuồng (Hát Bội) in Huế in 1874
Theatre actors from Nam Dinh in 19th century Vietnam.
Theatre actors from Nam Dinh in 19th century Vietnam.
The make-up of an actor can reveal the character's personalities.
The make-up of an actor can reveal the character's personalities.
For the Vietnamese fermented soybean paste, see Tương.

Hát tuồng (Hanoi: [háːt tûəŋ]) or hát bội (Saigon: [háːk ɓôjˀ])[1] is a form of Vietnamese theatre. Hát tuồng is often referred to as classical "Vietnamese opera" influenced by Chinese opera.[2] [3]

Tuồng is distinct from the older hát chèo genre of Vietnamese theatre which combines dance, song and poetry, and the more modern cải lương folk musical.


The origin of tuồng is still unclear. It is believed that it was imported from China around the 13th century when Vietnam was warring against the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. A famous actor named Lý Nguyên Cát (李元吉) was imprisoned by the Vietnamese. The imperial court asked him to spread his knowledge of Chinese theatre to the children of the elite, thus explaining how tuồng had first had its beginnings in Vietnam in the royal court.[4] Later on, it was adapted to travelling troupes who entertained commoners and peasants.

However, the first one to lay the foundation for the art of tuồng in Vietnam is Dao Duy Tu.[5] Under the Nguyen dynasty which he served for, tuồng reached its highest point and was favored by Nguyen kings. Many great playwrights including Đào Tấn were also in this time.

Along with Hát chèo, tuồng was one of the highly popular art forms for commoners until 20th century. With the arrival of Cai Luong and modern theatrics, tuong gradually lost its position.


Stories in the opera tend to be ostensibly historical and frequently focus on the rules of social decorum, and can include legends from either the history of China or Vietnam.


Tuồng employs the use of stock characters who are recognizable from their make-up and costumes, which are typically very elaborate and extravagant.

Usually, a character's personalities can be revealed through three features: the color of the face, the eyebrows, and the beard.

Color of the face

  • Red: dignified, outspoken, and courageous characters.
  • White: characters with a beautiful look, usually calm and good-natured.
  • Blue: haughty characters - can be applied to both antagonists and protagonists.
  • Green: disloyal characters.
  • Golden/Metallic: immortals, fairies, supernatural characters.
  • Bone white/light pink/grey: adulators.
  • Peach cheeks: loyal characters.
  • Black and white striped: hot-tempered characters.
  • Striped lines with parts painted in red: devils and monsters.


  • White eyebrows: elders and fairies.
  • Soft, simple eyebrows: good-natured characters.
  • Long, curving eyebrows: haughty, arrogant characters.
  • Straight eyebrows: hot-tempered characters.
  • Short eyebrows: antagonists in general.
  • Scowling eyebrows: pessimistic and gloomy characters.


  • Long, green/black beard: scholar-bureaucrats.
  • Long, white/grey beard: military generals.
  • Red beard: foreign generals.
  • Curly, black beard: hot-tempered characters.
  • Anchor beard: farmers, woodsmen, and supporting characters.
  • Painted beard: glamour boys.


  1. ^ Transnationalism and Society: An Introduction - Page 267 Michael C. Howard - 2011 "Vietnamese Opera The Vietnamese have a variant of Chinese opera known as hat tuong in northern dialect and hat boi in southern dialect.
  2. ^ Bobbie Kalman Vietnam: The Culture 2002 Page 8 "Hat tuong is classical Vietnamese opera."
  3. ^ "Tuong or Hat Boi". vietnam-culture.
  4. ^ Theater & Art - Hat boi- 100
  5. ^ "Đào Duy Từ với công cuộc phát triển hát tuồng, hát bội". Retrieved 2017-11-18.
This page was last edited on 22 February 2021, at 20:42
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