Immerse yourself in the rich heritage of Vietnam through a captivating exploration of traditional games. From Đánh bài to Bắn cá, uncover the excitement and cultural significance of these time-honoured pastimes. Join us as we delve into the locations, rules, and captivating stories behind each game, offering a unique glimpse into Vietnamese traditions. Whether you’re an enthusiast or simply curious, our blog takes you on a thrilling journey through the diverse array of traditional games played across the country. Unleash your spirit of adventure and discover the joy, camaraderie, and strategic brilliance that define these beloved games.
Discover 25 Unique Traditional Vietnamese Games
Đánh bài (Vietnamese Card Games)
Played throughout Vietnam.
Vietnamese card games such as Tiến lên (Forward) and Phỏm (Tiling) are popular among locals. These games are often played during social gatherings and family get-togethers, providing a fun way to pass the time and engage in friendly competition.
Ô ăn quan (Mandarin Square Capturing)
Common in Hanoi.
Ô ăn quan is a traditional board game played on a wooden or bamboo board. It requires strategic thinking and quick calculations. Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, is known for its numerous Ô ăn Quan clubs where enthusiasts gather to play and improve their skills.
Bắn cá (Fish Shooting Game)
Popular in coastal regions.
Found in coastal regions such as Nha Trang and Phan Thiet, Bắn cá is an arcade-style game where players shoot at mechanical fish swimming on a screen. It’s a favourite pastime for locals and tourists, especially in beachside amusement arcades.
Bầu cua cá cọp (Gourd-crab-fish-tiger Game)
Played in festivals nationwide.
Bầu cua cá cọp is a traditional Vietnamese gambling game commonly played during festivals and special occasions. Participants bet on which symbol (gourd, crab, fish, or tiger) will appear face-up when a set of six dice are rolled. The game adds excitement to cultural festivals throughout the country.
Đánh cờ tướng (Chinese Chess)
Popular in Ho Chi Minh City.
Đánh cờ tướng, or Chinese Chess, is a strategic board game with similarities to international chess. In Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), chess enthusiasts gather at parks, such as Tao Đàn Park and Le Van Tam Park, to challenge each other’s skills and engage in friendly matches.
Cờ tướng (Vietnamese Chess)
Popular in Huế.
Cờ tướng is a variant of Chinese chess, deeply ingrained in Vietnamese culture. Huế, the former imperial capital, is known for its chess-playing community. Locals gather in parks, such as Gia Hội Park, to engage in intense matches and showcase their strategic skills.
Bò cạp đánh nhau (Scorpion Fighting)
Common in rural areas.
Scorpion Fighting is a unique game played in rural areas, particularly in the Mekong Delta region. Participants place two scorpions in a container and watch them fight until one retreats. The game reflects the region’s agricultural heritage and fosters a sense of excitement and camaraderie among spectators.
Chọi trâu (Buffalo Fighting)
Practiced in Đồng Tháp.
Đồng Tháp province, located in the Mekong Delta, is renowned for buffalo fighting tournaments. This traditional sport involves two buffalos locking horns in a controlled arena. The spectacle draws large crowds, particularly during festivals and special events.
Đá gà (Cockfighting)
Popular in rural regions.
Cockfighting has a long history in Vietnam and remains a popular pastime, particularly in rural areas. Roosters are bred and trained for combat, and spectators place bets on the outcome of the fights. However, it’s important to note that animal rights concerns have led to restrictions on this practice in recent years.
Diều hâu (Kite Flying)
Enthusiasts in Vũng Tàu.
Vũng Tàu, a coastal city in southern Vietnam, is known for its kite-flying culture. The wide beaches and consistent winds make it an ideal location for kite enthusiasts. Visitors can witness colourful kites soaring through the sky during festivals and kite-flying events.
Bắn bi (Marbles)
Marbles, known as “bi” in Vietnamese, are small glass or clay spheres used in various games. Children and adults alike play marbles in communities across Vietnam, showcasing their accuracy and strategic skills while enjoying friendly competition.
Nhảy sạp (Bamboo Stick Jumping)
Practiced in Huế.
Nhảy sạp, or Bamboo Stick Jumping, is a traditional game popular in Huế. Participants leap over bamboo poles, which are raised and lowered in rhythmic patterns. This game requires agility, balance, and precise timing, and it often takes place during festivals and cultural events in the city.
Đánh lô tô (Vietnamese Lottery)
Đánh lô tô, the Vietnamese lottery, is a popular form of gambling across the country. Players choose a set of numbers and place bets, with various prize tiers depending on the matching numbers. The lottery has become deeply ingrained in Vietnamese culture and is a source of excitement and anticipation.
Nhảy dây (Jump Rope)
Common in schoolyards
Nhảy dây, or jump rope, is a classic playground game enjoyed by Vietnamese children. It can be played individually or in groups, and various techniques and rhymes accompany the rhythmic skipping. Jump rope is often seen in schoolyards and parks, providing a fun and active pastime for kids.
Chơi cờ lăn (Rolling Drum Game)
Found in festivals nationwide.
The Rolling Drum Game is a traditional Vietnamese game commonly played during festivals and celebrations. Participants roll a drum-shaped object to hit a target or achieve a specific distance. It combines skill and precision, adding excitement to cultural events throughout the country.
Đấu võ (Martial Arts Demonstrations)
Notable in Hanoi’s Temple of Literature.
Hanoi’s Temple of Literature, a renowned historical site, occasionally hosts martial arts demonstrations. Skilled practitioners showcase various martial arts styles, such as Vovinam, Bình Định, and traditional Vietnamese wrestling. These demonstrations provide an opportunity to appreciate the country’s rich martial arts heritage.
Bắn pháo hoa (Fireworks)
Spectacles in major cities.
Fireworks displays are significant during festivals and national holidays in Vietnam. Major cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang hold impressive firework shows to celebrate occasions such as Lunar New Year, Reunification Day, and National Day. The vibrant displays light up the night sky, attracting locals and tourists alike.
Đá cầu lông (Shuttlecock Kick)
Popular in Hanoi.
Đá cầu lông, also known as đá cầu or foot shuttlecock, is a traditional game that involves kicking a shuttlecock made of feathers and a rubber base. Hanoi’s parks, including Hoan Kiem Lake and Lenin Park, are popular spots for locals to showcase their skills in this unique game.
Chơi bắn bi (Marble Shooting)
Practised in rural areas.
Marble shooting is a game where players shoot marbles at a target to score points. It is commonly played in rural areas, where children gather in open spaces and compete against each other for accuracy and distance. This simple and enjoyable game fosters camaraderie and friendly competition among participants.
Chạy sắc (Running with a Ball on a Spoon)
Played in festivals nationwide
Chạy sắc, or running with a ball on a spoon, is a traditional game often featured in Vietnamese festivals. Participants balance a ball on a spoon while running through an obstacle course. This game requires concentration, balance, and agility, adding excitement to festive celebrations.
Đánh cầu mây (Cloud Kicking Game)
Traditional game in coastal regions.
Đánh cầu mây is a unique game practiced in coastal regions, such as Vũng Tàu and Nha Trang. It involves kicking a shuttlecock-like object known as “mây” made from a lightweight material like feathers or plastic. Players aim to keep the “mây” aloft using their feet, showcasing their agility and control.
Kéo co (Tug-of-War)
Common in rural communities
Tug-of-War is a popular game played in various rural communities across Vietnam. It involves two teams pulling on opposite ends of a rope, aiming to drag the opposing team over a designated line. Tug-of-War promotes teamwork, strength, and determination, often seen at local festivals and team-building events.
Bắn ném trứng (Egg Throwing)
Traditional game in festivals
Egg Throwing is a traditional game commonly played during festivals and events. Participants stand at a distance and take turns throwing and catching raw eggs. The goal is to catch the egg without breaking it. This game adds a playful and entertaining element to celebrations.
Gắp mồng tơi (Picking Water Spinach)
Found in rural communities
Gắp mồng tơi is a recreational activity found in rural areas where water spinach (mồng tơi) is grown. Participants compete to pick the most water spinach within a given time limit.
Kéo trâu (Buffalo Pulling)
Practised in rural regions.
Kéo trâu, or buffalo pulling, is a traditional game played in rural regions, particularly in agricultural communities. Participants compete to see who can pull a plough or a weighted sledge with the help of a buffalo. This game showcases strength, coordination, and teamwork, reflecting the importance of buffalos in farming traditions.
Delving into the world of traditional Vietnamese games offers a captivating glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of this vibrant nation. From the strategic manoeuvres of Ô ăn quan and the exhilarating buffalo fights in Đồng Tháp to the graceful art of kite flying in Vũng Tàu, these games reflect the traditions, values, and spirit of the Vietnamese people. Beyond mere entertainment, these games foster camaraderie, sharpen strategic thinking, and showcase the unique skills passed down through generations.
Exploring the locations where these games thrive provides an opportunity to witness the deep-rooted connection between the Vietnamese people and their cultural practices. From bustling cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to serene rural communities, traditional games serve as a thread that connects communities and strengthens bonds.
By preserving and celebrating these traditional games, Vietnam ensures that its cultural heritage remains vibrant and alive. These games continue to inspire and captivate both locals and visitors, inviting them to participate and immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of Vietnamese culture.
So, the next time you find yourself in Vietnam, consider venturing beyond the usual tourist attractions and dive into the world of traditional games. Engage with locals, embrace the spirit of competition, and celebrate the legacy of these age-old pastimes. Through the thrill of gameplay, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the customs, values, and rich history that make Vietnam truly unique.
Let the traditional games of Vietnam guide you on an unforgettable journey, where cultural traditions and joyful moments intertwine to create cherished memories that will last a lifetime.