The Museum of Folk Culture is one of 6 museums located in the Ancient Town area of Hoi An in Vietnam. This museum, like the other 5 nearby museums, is focused on local life during the period when Hoi An was a busy and important trading port.
- Opening hours: 07:00 to 21:30 (Daily)
- Entrance fee: You need to pay a 120,000 VND fee which allows you to visit 5 attractions, including the Museum of Folk Culture.
About the Museum of Folk Culture
The Museum of Folk Culture is located right in the centre of Hoi An Ancient Town, with entrances on two streets: one on the riverside Bach Dang Street and the other on the busy Nguyen Thai Hoc Street.
One of the points of interest in visiting museums in Hoi An Ancient Town is the buildings in which the museums are located. The streets of Ancient Town are lined with distinctive and very old buildings. The architecture is heavily influenced by Chinese design ideas, with distinctive Vietnamese elements making them unique.
The building in which the Museum of Folk Culture housed is one of the largest residential buildings in the Ancient Town, measuring 57 metres long by 9 metres wide. This would have been a significant property at a time when the port of Hoi An was a thriving commercial centre.
The exact date when the building housing the Museum of Folk Culture was constructed is the subject of debate among local historians. The greater likelihood is that it was constructed around the same time as the building which now houses the Museum of Trade Ceramics, which was in the middle of the 19th Century.
Like many of the nearby buildings, the building which houses the Museum of Folk Culture has two levels, with a courtyard in the centre of the property. This central courtyard is a common feature in ancient Chinese buildings. The courtyard acts both as a source of natural lighting, it also has a cooling effect on the interior of the property.
The other distinctive feature of the building is the extensive use of wood inside the building. The stairs, balustrades, window coverings and even the partition wall are made of wood. Not many building like this survive for so long. Houses made largely of wood are very vulnerable to fire, insects, and damage during wet weather.
There are around 500 artefacts on display at the Museum of Folk Culture. Most of these are located on the upper floor of the building. The ground floor of the building is where the largest of the artefacts, the weaving looms, are displayed, and there is also a side room where visitors can take classes in calligraphy from a local teacher.
The upper level of the Museum of Folk Culture is where most of the artefacts are displayed. There are lots of these, from different time periods, and related to a wide range of different aspects of local life in times gone by. The museum’s curators have sought to introduce some structure to this very diverse collection by organising them into 4 groups, which overlap: folk art, folk performance, traditional villages and traditional lifestyle.
The emphasis of the museum is on local culture as expressed in art, song and dance. The collection, however, also includes lots of artefacts relating to traditional manufacturing, agricultural and fishing techniques. There is a connection between the culture of the local people and how they made a living, and showing the two types of artefacts side by side is intended to illustrate this.
Folk Art Exhibition
The Museum of Folk Culture has an impressive range of local artwork. The people living in and around Hoi An expressed themselves in numerous different types of visual artwork including paintings, sculpture, pottery, porcelain reliefs, bronze statues and wood carvings. None of the pieces are as large or exciting as the sculptures in the Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang for instance, but they are nonetheless impressive when you take into account that they were produced by communities living in relatively small villages.
The subject matter of the artwork varies. Some of the artwork is religious, other items reflect different aspects of daily life particularly around the work people did at the time.
Folk Performance Exhibition
As well as producing artwork, local people liked to sing and dance. In a time before television, radio or the internet there was a need to make your own entertainment. Song and dance was also a feature of religious and social celebrations.
The artefacts and dioramas in the museum relate to some of unique performing arts traditions of the area. In particular Ba Dao singing, a group activity popular among fisherman, the colourful Chinese inspired Unicorn dance, and the complex Bai Chai, which combines chanting with a card game.
The traditional villages exhibition at the Museum of Folk Culture is a collection of agricultural and fishing related items. The people around Hoi An had their own special techniques, and intricate machines, suited to the local environment.
One of the interesting aspects of this collection is that different villages specialised in different things. This was largely related to their location. For example, villages near the river would specialise in catching whatever was in abundance in that location. In shallower parts of the river, for example, clams were common.
This section of the Museum of Folk Culture mostly relates to the different types of local manufacturing industries in the area. Some of the local villages were notable for making one articular type of product. Hoi An was an international trading port and goods were mass produced locally for export. In many respects, the area around Hoi An was one of the starting points for Vietnam’s own industrial revolution, albeit one which was stunted and stalled by successive wars.
Among the specialised manufacturing processes covered by the exhibition are:
- silk making
- lantern making
- production of traditional medicines
Some villages still make these items, the pottery village in Thanh Ha being the best example, however, not on the same scale as during the 18th and 19th Centuries. These traditional manufacturing skills are disappearing.
Location of the Museum of Folk Culture
The Museum of Folk Culture is located 30.8 km by road from Da Nang Railway Station.