Exhibition a unique collection called “Betel and Areca Culture of Vietnamese people”

With the view to help tourists and visitors have a better understanding of Betel and Areca Culture of Viet Nam, accepted by Ho Chi Minh city Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Ca Mau Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism. On June 10th 2016, Ca Mau Museum coordinating with Southern Women’s Museum, Ca Mau Antiquity Group organized the exhibition on the theme of Vietnamese Culture of Betel and Areca at the museum showroom – Ca Mau Library, located at Number 05, Luu Tan Tai street, Ward 5, Ca Mau city.

The exhibition introduces to the public over 150 typical objects, documents and photos of  Betel and Areca Culture of Vietnamese people such as boxes spittoons, lime pots, pots of slaked lime, cylindrical lime holders, betel-trays, knives (used to cut and split the areca nuts),…with diversity shapes and materials of the objections. In addtion, the event also exhibit some sets of book introducing a beautiful traditional culture and custom of Vietnamese people, including Vietnamese women.

tuc an trau camautourismThe picture guides how to turn the betel and areca at the exhibition – Photo: Kieu Trang

In the spiritual life of the Vietnamese people, chewing betel is not only a habit and a custom but also an element of the traditional culture values. Legend has it that the custom of chewing betel in Vietnam has existed since the reign of the Hung Kings and associated with the “Legend of Betel and Areca”. With “Betel leaves and areca nuts were offed as a first conversation starter to guests” Vietnames people chewing Betel and Areca during conversations, offering rituals, funerals and burials, especially chewing betel oftens appearing in the engagements and weddings party with the meaning of the faithfulness of a wife for her husband and the love between two siblings.

According to the custom of chewing betel in Vietnam, when guest vistit someone’s house, the host should take a cup of water combining with spoon in order to guest gargling in advance. Then, betel tray is used to invite guests for eating by the host. On the betel tray has handkerchiefs to contain the betel and areca, lime pots, boxes spittoons, knifes,… in combination with a little spatula and mortar to pound the betel and arace under the foot.

Depending on each circumstance, situation that some people can prepare the betel roll in varied forms, for example, in phoenix wing form, in flying dragon form, in sword form,…looking into the betel which is made with different styles helps the chewers  not only understand more details about the feelling of invitor, but also evaluate a clever with one’s hand. Beside that, the way you prepare the betel quid, especially the way you roll the betel roll and the way you husk and split the areca nut shows your social class, education level, personal experience, temperament and aesthetic sense as well.

In order to make a beautiful betel quid, it is necessary for the chewers to be skilful, roll the betel quid in square shape. If visitor is a young people, they can directly chew the betel quid and enjoy its aromatic flavour and a spicy taste. For elderly people with weak teeth, the betel cud will be put into cylindrical lime holders and used spoon to make its softly and chewed immediately.

Nowadays, the custom of chewing betel is not widely practiced like in generations past and gradually fall into oblivion. but the betel and areca is still a indispensable part of Vietnamese people’s daily life such weddings, engagements, funerals and burials,… because of  its special and typical culture of Vietnamese people. The materials using for the chewing betel, now, has become a cultural heritage of a beautiful characteristic of Vietnam’s traditional culture. Therefore, the exhibition on a unique collection called “Betel and Areca Culture of Vietnamese people” have a meaningful action, contrubuting on keeping spiritual values  and bringing into play the traditional culture heritage, having a deep respect for beautiful traditional folk and culture values. At the same time, the exhibition also maintain and reserve its material and nonmaterial values of the old Vietnamese people’s spiritual life.


Writer and photo: Kieu Trang

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