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"Behind The Mask" exhibition offers a glimpse at the art of Tuong

Behind The Mask exhibition, which is the first permanent exhibition about the art of Tuong in Vietnam, is taking place at Vietnam Tuong Theatre. A part of the series of activities celebrating Vietnam Tuong Theatre's 60th anniversary, the exhibition aims to raise local awareness and introduce foreign tourists to the art of Tuong, a feature of Vietnamese culture that is gradually losing its popularity in modern society.

The art of facial makeup may be the most characteristic and outstanding feature of Tuong, but it is not everything. Behind The Mask exhibition, therefore, invites the audience to look beyond the colors and lines to find other distinctive aspects of this long-established performing art. With a history of approximately 800 years, Tuong has steadily developed and enhanced its different parts from facial makeup to costume to music. Throughout such process, Vietnam Tuong Theatre has been making significant contributions in an effort to preserve and sustain this Vietnamese traditional art form.

Behind The Mask Exhibition Trailer

In order to give the audience a glimpse at the art of Tuong, the exhibition is divided into four main displays. On the ground floor, the history room provides a brief introduction about the long history of Tuong, including the “founding fathers" of the art form and the ancient scripts written in Nom characters. The make-up section showcases more than 30 hand-drawn masks portraying different characters in classical Tuong plays, such as Trieu Khuong Dan in Nu tuong Dao Tam Xuan or Khuong Linh Ta in Son Hau.

Mask try on section

The exhibition continues onto the first floor with displays of performing costumes and musical instruments. Eight costumes from eight characters in two plays Ngheu So Oc Hen and Nu tuong Dao Tam Xuan are placed opposite to each other, allowing the audience to compare and contrast two main genres of Tuong, folk and classical.  The juxtaposed section highlights more than ten instruments commonly found in contemporary Tuong performances.

Costumes in Ngheu So Oc Hen

Behind The Mask Exhibition

Location: Vietnam Tuong Theatre, 51A Duong Thanh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

Opening: 9 AM - 6 PM every day

Free Entrance

The guided tour operated by Lune Production in English will take place on certain days of the week, starting from 5 PM. For more information, please contact hotline +84 918573030.

Guided Tour Schedule from December 2019 to February 2020

Tour guide introducing about the exhibition



Tuong is a form of Vietnamese theatre based on folk performances and written literature. Though its origin is still a subject of controversy, some argue that Tuong emerged around the 13th and 14th century and reached its peak in the 18th and 19th century when the Nguyen Dynasty regarded it as the national theatre.

Performances can be divided into two types: classical, which revolves around heroism and imperial politics; and folk, which tells tales about commoners’ daily life. Regardless of the content, the art of Tuong is in essence theatrical symbolism.

Vietnam Tuong Theatre

Vietnam Tuong Theatre, a successor of Northern Tuong Troupe, was founded in 1959. Throughout sixty years of development, the Theatre has cultivated and trained many generations of artists and artisans. With unceasing dedication in the effort to preserve and promote the traditional art of Tuong, Vietnam Tuong Theatre has been awarded Second-class and Third-class Independence Orders, as well as First-class, Second-class, and Third-class Labor Orders.

Facial makeup

Rather than putting on masks, Tuong performers paint directly on their faces. The colors and details of the make-up reveal the personality of the characters: a red face with a long beard and upward slanting eyebrows belong to a candid and heroic general, while a white face with a big nose and an unruly beard guarantee flattery and betrayal.

Tuong artist doing his facial makeup


Costume is an important feature in Tuong performances. In classical Tuong plays that revolve around the royal family and royal court, each character has their own sets of costume with complicated patterns and tactful designs. On the contrary, the costumes in folk Tuong performances are much simpler: rather than tailor-made for specific characters, folk Tuong costumes are designed for character groups, such as peasants, soldiers, officials, monks, etc…

Costumes in Nu tuong Dao Tam Xuan

Musical instruments

Music is indispensable to Tuong performance. The number of musical instruments used in a performance varies based on each performance script, but these three are must-haves: Ken (a single-reed woodwind instrument), Dan Nhi (a two-string bow instrument) and drums. The use of each instrument is specific to each play; normally Ken and drums build up tension for a fighting scene while Dan Nhi signifies a monologue.

Musical instruments section

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