Enter a magical place where aspects of modern day life in Vietnam interweave with centuries-old folktales. Created by the Children's Museum of Houston, Dragons & Fairies: Exploring Viet Nam Through Folktales provides a profusion of hands-on, interactive experiences about the culture of people in Vietnam.
Dragons & Fairies: Exploring Viet Nam Through Folktales uses four traditional Vietnamese folktales as engaging vehicles to engage in conversations, activities and resources related to learning more about Vietnam’s people and heritage. The idea is to deepen the connection between the folktale and the enduring values and traditions they represent. These values include: the belief that most beautiful results come from simple means, respect for family and teachers, and the need to elevate the group over the individual.
The exhibit plays a significant role in Houston, since according to the U.S. Census the city holds the second largest Vietnamese community in the country. In the Census American Community Survey, 2005-2007, Asians represent 5 percent of Houston’s population, with 28 percent (the majority) being of Vietnamese descent.
The key goals of the exhibit are to share with children the rich cultural heritage and practices of the Vietnamese people by increasing appreciation of the culture, encouraging curiosity and openness about people who are different from them, revealing that different cultures have strengths others might discover and want to emulate, and assisting in unmasking the rich culture of Vietnam.
There are four interactive "folktale theatres" where families view multi-media presentations of popular Vietnamese folktales. These theaters draw on centuries-old stories which define the origins, geography and celebrations of Vietnam and highlight the values and traditions of Vietnamese people. The facades of the theatres are thematically a part of three distinct regions. In one, visitors explore what life is like in rural areas of Vietnam. In another, visitors experience the “streets” of a city and take part in preparations for Tet Trung Thu (Mid-Autumn Festival). In a third, visitors enter a houseboat and house like those found in Viet Nam’s urban and riverside regions and take part in preparations for Tet Nguyen Dan (Lunar New Year). Traditions include wedding ceremonies, ancestral worship practices, cultural dances and the Vietnamese bonds to their land and water.
- The Story of One Hundred Eggs is a creation story that speaks of the king Lac Long Quan, who descended from a line of dragons, and his wedding to the fairy Au Co. Au Co then bears 100 eggs from which 100 sons are born. These sons are the ancestors of the Vietnamese people, who then populate Vietnam’s mountains and coastal regions. This legend forms the central theme of the exhibit.
- The Legend of the Rice Cake describes a contest in which a young prince named Tiet Lieu, and his wife, please the Emperor Hung Vuong by creating two forms of rice cakes – a round cake which symbolizes Heaven and a square cake which represents Earth.
- The Legend of Chu Cuoi tells a tale of a young man named Chu Cuoi who accidentally discovers a Banyan Tree possessing magical healing powers. Chu Cuoi’s wife mistakenly pours dirty water on the tree which then flies to the Moon, dragging Chu Cuoi in its wake. Legend holds that Chu Cuoi can now be seen sitting at the foot of the tree during the Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month.
- An Tiem and the Watermelons explains how a hardworking and resourceful orphan prospers after being tested by the King who adopted him.