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ISSN 2227-6017 (ONLINE), ISSN 2303-9868 (PRINT), DOI: 10.18454/IRJ.2227-6017
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Pham Tiet Khanh, "COLLECTION AND RECOGNITION OF FOLK RIDDLES OF KHMER CULTURE IN VIETNAM". Meždunarodnyj naučno-issledovatel’skij žurnal (International Research Journal) № 8 (110) Part 3, (2021): 203. Fri. 23. Jul. 2021.
Pham, Tiet Khanh (2021). SBOR I PRIZNANIE KHMERSKIH NARODNYH ZAGADOK VO VYETNAME [COLLECTION AND RECOGNITION OF FOLK RIDDLES OF KHMER CULTURE IN VIETNAM]. Meždunarodnyj naučno-issledovatel’skij žurnal, № 8 (110) Part 3, 203-208.
Pham Tiet. Khanh. COLLECTION AND RECOGNITION OF FOLK RIDDLES OF KHMER CULTURE IN VIETNAM / Tiet. Khanh. Pham // Mezhdunarodnyj nauchno-issledovatel'skij zhurnal. — 2021. — № 8 (110) Part 3. — С. 203—208. doi: 10.23670/IRJ.2021.110.8.001




Научная статья

Фам Тиет Кхан*

Университет Тра Винь, Тра Винь, Вьетнам

* Корреспондирующий автор (ptkhanhtv2000[at]


Кхмерские народные загадки во Вьетнаме долгое время считались уникальным жанром фольклора, поскольку они содержат в себе типичные черты загадки, а именно интеллектуальность, лиричность и юмор. Кроме того, кхмерские загадки воплощают особенности исполнения, источник знаний и народное искусство с уникальными региональными особенностями. В статье представлены результаты авторского сбора и обобщения кхмерских загадок в разных населённых пунктах Тра Виня с большим количеством кхмеров на Юге, согласно документам, опубликованным во Вьетнаме. В свете этих данных, а также процесса наблюдения и практики кхмерских загадок в жизни людей автор делает выводы об основных культурных ценностях этого жанра. Данная статья является первым исследованием во Вьетнаме, посвященным загадкам кхмеров Вьетнама.

Ключевые слова: кхмерские народные загадки, народная культура, фольклор, кхмерский народ, Вьетнам, Южный регион.


Research article

Pham Tiet Khanh*

Tra Vinh University, Tra Vinh, Vietnam

* Corresponding author (ptkhanhtv2000[at]


Folk riddles of Khmer ethnic group in Vietnam has long been considered a unique genre of folklore since it inherently contains the typical features of riddle namely intellectuality, lyricalness and humor. Additionally, Khmer riddles embody features of performance, knowledge source and folklore with unique regional imprints. The article presents the results of the author’s collection and summarization of Khmer riddles in Tra Vinh other localities with a huge number of Khmer people in the South through documents published in Vietnam. In light of this data source and the process of observing and practicing Khmer riddles in people’s life, the author generalizes the basic cultural values of this genre. This article comes as the first study in Vietnam on the riddles of the Khmer residents in Vietnam.

Keywords: Khmer folk riddles, folk culture, folklore, Khmer people, Vietnam, Southern region.

  1. Problem statement and aim of the study

Research on Khmer ethnic folklore in Vietnam has been currently paid greater attention by the academic community, especially the study of Khmer folklore genres from a cultural perspective; however, there goes just few studies on Khmer riddles. In this article, the author briefly introduces the source of materials collected by the authors and others which have been already published in Vietnam. Although this corpus may not fully reflect the richness of Khmer treasure of folk riddles existing in the cultural life of the Khmer people, in regard of the size of the corpus, the richness associated with the content, the form of expression, the corpus hold a certain sufficiency for the author to generalize and describe the colorful cultural space, natural scenery and all species through the Khmer’s perspective from the riddles.

  1. Research object and methodology

Vietnam is a united country with 54 ethnic groups. As of 2019, out of a total of more than 96.2 million people, Vietnam has over 14.1 million people belonging to 53 ethnic minorities, accounting for 14.7% of Vietnam’s population, distributing mainly in mountainous areas, especially the Northwest, Central Highlands and Southwest regions [1, P. 53]. The ethnic groups in Vietnam share a tradition of solidarity and mutual assistance in the fight against foreign invasion, nature control and national construction. Each ethnic group encompasses its own cultural identity, creating the diversity and richness of Vietnamese culture. Of the 6 ethnic minorities in Vietnam with a population of over 1 million, the Khmer (about more than 1,319,652 million people – Central Steering Committee of Population and Housing Census, 2019, 160) are the early occupants of the Southwest region (Soc Trang: about 31,68%, Tra Vinh: about 25,45%, Kien Giang: about 16,43%; An Giang: about 7,03%, Bac Lieu: about 5,5% of the total – Khmer people in Vietnam) [9]. Therefore, when the research object is the Khmer riddles of the Khmer people in Vietnam, it should be considered in terms of the historical aspects of ethnic formation and residential area, Khmer riddles collected in Tra Vinh, Soc Trang, Kien Giang, An Giang,… are representative of the Khmer ethnic group in general and Khmer riddles in Vietnam in particular.

In regard of Khmer riddles in published materials in Vietnam:

In these days, the corpus of Khmer riddles in Vietnam is the attainment of collection activities done by various researchers. The author utilizes the statistical method to synthesize this huge data source. This statistical result not only demonstrates the scientific value, but also contributes to the source of Khmer riddles in terms of materials and simultaneously provides a comparative perspective on the classification and size of the data source of Khmer riddles documented in Vietnam. Specifically, currently in Vietnam, there exists a number of works on Khmer riddles as follows:

Soc Trang folklore: 256 riddles [2, P. 435-460]

Bac Lieu folklore: 40 riddles [3, P. 541-545]

Khmer – Vietnamese idioms, proverbs and riddles includes: 112 riddles [8]

Unlike the publication of Khmer – Vietnamese idioms, proverbs and riddles released in original Khmer language, the two others contain only Vietnamese language. Therefore, despite accommodating a large number of Khmer riddles, the first two publications are not highly appreciated owing to their unsuitability for this research in particular and studies on Khmer folklore in general. These units fail to reflect the typical values of contents and poetics, as well as points of language, culture, mindset… of Khmer people. Nevertheless, these works hold certain significance in terms of number of Khmer riddle units and taxonomic values. This becomes a ground to affirm the richness and diversity of the treasure of Khmer riddles in Vietnam.

In the publication Khmer – Vietnamese idioms, proverbs and riddles (2010), with 112 riddles clustered in Southern provinces, the authors has filtered Khmer riddles sharing the same meaning with Vietnamese ones in contribution to preserve and promote the traditional folklore of the Khmer people in the South, especially the riddle that seems to have been forgotten for a long time” [8]. The work has initially made significant contributions in respect of materials to the science researching Khmer folklore in general, and Khmer riddles in particular.

In regard of Khmer riddles congregated in Tra Vinh:

Within 7 months (January 2019 to July 2019), the authors travelled to most of the areas in Tra Vinh province to note and observe the folklore activities of the Khmer people. And the works of Khmer folklore noted are those being currently circulated in the Khmer people’s life in Tra Vinh at the given time. Aiming at noting and recording Khmer folklore works of Tra Vinh, the researchers made their presence to various areas in order for the meeting with Khmer artisans and people aged from 30 to 70 years old. For this research method, the authors focus on the instruments: Participatory Observation and In-depth Interview. In each district, they choose communes and hamlets with a large number of Khmer people living and especially those with Achars (who are knowledgeable with time of Buddhism study, and former members of the temple executive board), reputative Khmer intellectuals in the region and places containing Khmer temples for collection. This activity roots in the role and meaning of Theravada Buddhism in the spiritual and cultural life of the Khmer people in Vietnam. Theravada Buddhism was transmitted to Vietnam by the way of missionaries from India, traveling by sea to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand to the Mekong River region (Cambodia) and into the southern provinces of Vietnam. It is accepted by most dwellers, especially the Khmer and then became the main religion of the Khmer people. Since then it has been called Khmer Theravada Buddhism. Khmer Theravada Buddhism not only plays an important role in educating and forming the personality and morality of the Khmer ethnic community, but also actively contributes to the improvement of people’s knowledge and preservation of ethnic cultural treasure. In 2019, as reported by the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, 454 Khmer Theravada temples in Vietnam; 8,574 Khmer Theravada monks are counted within Vietnam territory [5, P. 4].

With 50 sites and in-depth interviews with 300 Khmer people, over 400 documents were obtained, the researchers input Khmer data on the basis of comparing handwritten and audio recordings; after checking the accuracy (literary value, style, …) of the Khmer versions, documents in Khmer language were delivered to the experts for final appraisal. The Khmer text underwent through a process of editing, then being rendered into Vietnamese and finalized by classifying by specific genres. With the riddle genre, after processing, the authors gained 65 units. The main areas of currently circulating Khmer riddles in Tra Vinh are the districts of Duyen Hai, Cau Ke, Chau Thanh, Tra Cu and Tra Vinh city. This indicates the ancient and long-standing residence of the Khmer in Tra Vinh in particular and the South in general. And now, these are also crowded places, preserving many traditional cultural values of the Khmer people in Vietnam. In the article, the given corpus assists the author in generalizing the appearance and step-by-step clarifying the genre characteristics of the Khmer riddles in Vietnam.

The results of this collection illustrate the differences from the Khmer riddle documents already published in Vietnam as outlined above as follows:

– The riddle corpus is noted from the original Khmer language provided by the Khmer people, which facilitates the author to generalize the characteristics of the genre, especially keep almost intact the images of matters and the cognitive language of the Khmer in the riddles. It is undoubtfully different from the Khmer riddles written in Chu’s Folklore of Soc Trang (2002) and Bac Lieu Folklore (2005) (editor), whose works only contain text in Vietnamese.

– The corpus obtained in Tra Vinh is noted with specific places of dissemination, which is not only essential to confirm the truthfulness and scientificity of the research, but also a vital ground for this research; thus, subsequent studies may find the basis to determine the performance and existing environment, the folk activities associated with the Khmer riddles in Vietnam. This is not presented in the publication KhmerVietnamese Idioms, Proverbs and Riddles (2010). Furthermore, the above study focuses on riddles with similar meanings to Vietnamese ones, so Khmer riddles with their own colors are not collected.

Hence, with the corpus of 473 Khmer riddles from multiple sources, the genre features summarized by the authors in this study are absolutely scientific and reliable.

  1. Research findings

3.1. Definition of Khmer riddles

Riddles made it presence since the early stage of mankind’s folklore history and became an indispensable part of folklore treasure of all nations. The Dictionary of Literary Terms (2007) posits the riddle concept: “A genre of folklore whose main function is to reflect the characteristics of matters or phenomena by means of anonymity and art perturbation transformation (transforming one thing into another) is used by people in collective activities to test their guessing skills, test their understanding for entertainment [4]. Trieu (2007), in his work Vietnamese Quizzes about Nature, voices his attention to the structure of the riddles: “Riddle is a genre of folklore, consisting of two parts: question and the solution; the question part uses rhythms to describe the riddle in a realistic and reasonable way, but also transfigure to complicate the guessing; The solution denotes the common matters and phenomena that have been perceived by everyone”.

In which, standing as a kind of folklore creation, riddles are not simply a linguistic phenomenon and not a work to be comprehended in the sense of an artistic structure, but each riddle encompasses a complete content which expressed in a particular artistic language.

In Khmer – Vietnamese Idioms, Proverbs and Riddles (2010), the authors assume: “Riddles are also a part of folklore, which is very close to all ages. The form and content of the riddle are diverse: unique, intelligent, humorous, witty… and intriguing”.

Thus, Khmer riddle can be conceptualized as short, quick, circumventive, and concise tricky questions which easily mislead the respondents; it is also the art of asking skillfully, requiring the respondents to “brainstorm” and fully comprehend the question before answering. Khmer riddles, in addition to challenging functions, also bring laughter and joyfulness to honest dwellers of the Phum and Soc (villages and hamlets) community. Studying Khmer folk riddles is not only learning the language, culture, literature, … but also digging into the cognitive characteristics of Khmer people in Vietnam territory with wealthiness in cultural traditions.

3.2. Classification of Khmer riddles

Grounded on different criteria, riddles are classified into separated categories. In terms of creating technique, riddles are divided into: Direct and indirect type; the aspect of form includes the following types: poetic and ordinary speech; pair and dialogue

Considering the classification of Khmer riddles, the existing studies rely on matters to make classification. In Soc Trang folklore [2], Khmer riddles are classified into categories: Natural phenomena (23 units); Human, activities (45 verses); Plants (59 units); Animals (34 units); Objects (88 units); Quiz (07 units). Whereas Chu (2005) in his Bac Lieu folklore, exhibits Khmer riddles including: Natural phenomena (02 units); Human, activities (02 units); Plants (15 units); Animals (04 units); Objects (17 units). Additionally, Khmer riddles presented in Khmer – Vietnamese Idioms, Proverbs and Riddles (2010) are categorized into 6 themes: Human body (08 units); Natural phenomena (10 units); Objects (42 units); Animals (26 units), Plants (19 units) and Traffic (07 units).

With 65 Khmer riddles collected in Tra Vinh, the author also relies on matters to propose classification. The matters are seen as the targets being reflected, mostly the objects and phenomena of the objective world. Basing on matters for classification, it on the one hand shows the richness of the objective world, on the other hand, states the regional and cultural characteristics, … through the perception of generations of Khmer people. Specifically, the author divides the riddles into the following 4 groups: Natural phenomena (02 units); Animals and plants (27 units); Labor and daily living utensils (23 units); Human and human activities (13 units).

3.3. Cultural values of Khmer people via riddles

3.3.1. Base and method of riddle creation

Within the posing and answering riddles, askers and respondents may embrace a knowledge background in common, which derives from history, residential areas… of people and ethnic group. They turn to be the ground for riddle establishment.

Initially settling on the newly accreted land, saline, sparsely populated, the Khmer made their choice to live and cultivate according to the traditional residence of the ethnic group. They live in groups of small neighbors around the temple, called Phum and Soc (villages and hamlets). This form of residence contributes to the Khmer’s practice of farming, living and especially a simple and rustic lifestyle but very sincere and integrated.

The Khmer are mainly farmers so agricultural works dominates most of their cultural and social life, including riddles. According to the results of the national survey on the socio-economic status of 53 ethnic minorities in 2015, the Khmer’s livelihood is highly dependent on agricultural, livestock and fisheries production (accounting for 58,0%) [9]. The long-standing development of rice farming in the traditional Khmer society has facilitated the Khmer people to accumulate tremendous experience, techniques, production practices, etc. (mainly in terms of irrigation, soil preparation, seed selection, rice care, etc.). In addition, the living environment associated with agricultural production has created distinct nuances of agricultural beliefs and rituals in the cultural identity of the Khmer. In particular, Festivals come as the convergence of typical agricultural culture of the Khmer people such as: Chol Chhnamthmay (New Year’s Ceremony), Sel Donta (Grandparents Worship Ceremony), Okombok (Moon Worship Ceremony), etc.

In general, the characteristics of nature, residence, production, culture, … are both the basis and also strongly influence the mechanism of creating Khmer riddles. The aforementioned factors are also the ground ensuring the accuracy and liveliness of the riddle contents. With such that background, riddle givers and repliers regularly conduct quiz activities in any situation.

During the process of making riddles, people find out the characteristics and functions of each object, then reflect through the following methods: realistic description, metaphor, word play and meaning description. Riddle answering is a transition between logical and figurative thinking in which the nature of the riddle is to distract the respondents, and the matter-in-quiz is made peculiar to complicate the guessing.

For instance, when riddling about an oil lamp, the Khmer observe that the oil bulb is associated with a deep pond, with a wick, usually woven with cotton yarn, whose the lower part is dipped in oil to absorb the oil, and the upper part rears from the bulb and is usually adjusted in length by a system of knobs shaped like a dragon, and the top protrudes like a flower: Có một ao sâu/Với một con rồng/Há miệng ngậm hoa? (Deep pond below/Dragon beside/Open mouth holding flowers?). The observation to find similarities between the object (i.e. the solution) and the object-in-description (the riddle) is a constant creative process, which proclaims the close relationship between people and the surrounding environment. The ability to make figuration will depend on the features of the objects being paid most attention to by the creators. Looking at the veil, Khmer people think of legs raised upside down: Giơ chân lên đầu? (Legs raised over head?); but sometimes, the creators rely on the function of the veil to come up with a riddle: Mong ơi là mong, mong cho đến đêm nuốt sống mọi người?(How much it hopes, hope until night to swallows everyone alive?). 

3.3.2. Contents and description in riddles

The riddles’ reflected contents are always attached with practical matters including visionable and audible things close to daily life, etc. Especially for agricultural residents like the Khmer, their lives are closely related to their environment namely the natural environment, the vast fields, the products of the countryside, the tools for the daily life of ordinary farmers: Tre một bụi ở giữa biển? (A bush of bamboo in the middle of the sea?The fishing-tackle); Thân bằng cái chày/Trái bằng cái nôm/Ai mà không nghĩ/Bẻ không được ăn? (The body is as big as a pestle/The fruit is as big as a fishing-tackle /Who knows/Breakable but uneatable?Caryota mitis); Nước một vũng con cò kiếm không thấy? A water pool without seeing a stork? – Coconut); Thân hình không tốt mặc áo giáp/Con mắt lòi ra/Chân thì có nhiều với hai cái càng/Làm nhà dưới đất để ẩn náo?Weak body wearing armor/Eyes sticking out/ Legs a lot with two claws/Build a underground house to hide?Crab); etc. Through Khmer riddles, a simple and rustic life of people inherently pertain to the fields appears to calm the soul of people today.

In addition, via Khmer riddles, multiple significances and practical knowledge drawn in the process of contacting and observing matters and phenomena in the objective world remain intact. For instance: Con gì túc ta túc tác thân không vú nuôi sống bầy con? (Which animal without nanny still feed offspring?Hen); Ngó đi hướng Nam thấy động voi ngóng kêu em gái xem sao bay là gì? (Looking to movement in the South, the elephant waits for the sister to see the flying star? Release the wind lantern); … In the meantime, due to the close connection with real life, the riddle topics are of enormousness and diversity, which roots in the endless observation and exploration of the natural and social world around people. These are themes related to phenomena in nature and the universe: Chim bay chẳng đậu, nghe khóc nhưng chẳng từng thấy thân (Birds fly without landing, hear crying but never see the bodyClouds, the sky sound); Cây cao thẳng đứng – chẳng nhọn, chim kêu thánh thót chẳng nhìn thấy đâu (The tree is tall and upright – not sharp, birds chirping can’t be seenHeaven rumble). Or plants and animals: Chàng là tên loài chim, thân chàng ở đó đây, chàng thích nghi đồng trống, dù người già hay trẻ nhỏ, dù thanh nam hay thiếu nữ, ai cũng kêu chàng là Ta (He has the name of a bird, his body is somewhere, he adapts to the open field, people at all age and gender call him Me – Flamingo); Tên anh là loài dây leo, hay phô trương hình dáng, muốn chọi với loài đá, tuy nhỏ lạ nhưng lớn gan, luôn có ý đọa sức với đá, chẳng sợ chết thân cây (He has the name of a vine species, likes flaunting his shape, wanting to fight with rocks, although small, but big, always intending to fight with rocks, not afraid of dying tree trunksMarsilea quadrifolia);… Or artificial items and tools such as:

Ban ngày tắm rửa sạch sẽ, buổi tối nằm phào ôm nhau đến sáng (Clean up during the day, lie down and hug each other until the morning – The cup); Pô thi có nhánh có tàn, ra hoa kết trái – giữa đàn Pô thi, như người ta khắc – như người ta giũa, ở giữa Pô thi – kiểu cọ hoa văn (Pothi has branches and withers, flowers and fruits – in the middle of Pothi, as people engrave and file, in the middle of Pothi – patterned brush – Fan); Nàng Ni có miệng – có cả lưỡi trong bụng đầy ấp, chẳng gan chẳng mật cũng chẳng hơi thở, có nhánh sương kia kề cận bên trong (Ms Ni has a mouth – has a tongue in her belly full of brood, neither liver nor bile nor breath, has the other branch of dew nearbyLime jar);… The riddles also theme on human and human activities: Hai ao nhắm mở – bờ mọc đầy cỏ, nước trong giữa vòng (Two ponds open – grassy banks, clear water in the middle of the ring – Eyes); 10 chân nhưng lại thua 1 chân, 6 mắt trông nhìn, hăm he la hét, như kẻ xỉn say, không ai mắng chửi, hồ hào mình ên (10 legs but lost 1, 6 eyes watching, screaming, like a drunk, no one scolded, exhorting oneselfPlow the field); Lom khom cúi xuống, như bơi chống xuồng, như luồn hang cua, như người bắt được cái, như má bồng con thơ (Bending like swimming against a canoe, like reeving a crab burrow, like a person catching a fish, like a mother carrying a babyPlant seedling); Bò đen chạy vào rừng sâu, bò trắng chạy tháp tùng, máu chảy dính cả sừng (The black cow ran into the deep forest, the white cow ran along with and the blood covered their hornsCatch and kill lice); Bốn chân chống trời bốn chân chống đất ba đầu một đuôi (Four legs against the sky, four legs against the ground, three heads and one tailPig-weighing butcher);…

Hence, it is obvious that in terms of topic and content, Khmer riddles rarely theme on abstract concepts such as morality and religion, … Neither of these topics are found in both the riddles and the solutions within the results of the author’s collection of 65 riddles in Tra Vinh. The explanation for this phenomenon can be interpreted from the perspective of genre poetics: The vivid visual elements always have a stronger impact on human thinking. Besides, the riddles of specific objects target a wider range of solvers since they are familiar, consistent with the way of thinking, reasoning and referring of more people. However, as mentioned above, the religious life of the Khmer is exceptionally active, mainly Theravada Buddhism, despite a small number, there goes several Khmer riddles and solutions utilizing this element to describe objects and reflect reality, such as: Một người ngồi tụng kinh, giăng buồm trên khô, chống sào về trước (One person sits and chants sutras, sails in the dry, leaning forwardMonk and fan); Có gì thơm ngược gió?/Cái gì thúi cũng ngược gió? (What smells both good and bad against the wind? Ethical people and unethical people); Bốn người bất ngờ gặp nhau/Cùng vào trong chánh điện/Va ít ít, ra nhiều nhiều/Máu đổ xuống nền (Four people suddenly meet/Go into the main hall/collide less, shed more/Blood spills on the groundEating betel nut);…

In respect of the form, Khmer riddles have a concise expression and reflect matters and phenomena by means of circumventive speech, anonymity, and interference in order to “swap the concept”, which hinders the solvers from naming the correct object. The respondents must utilize their entire judgment, deduction and life experience to figure them out.

In addition to the characteristics of rhyme, catchiness, use of the rhetoric of personification, metaphor and symbolic images of folk riddles in general, Khmer riddles often embodies a structure of one sentence, two sides, three sides, … or two/three sentences, etc. For instance: Đầu là sắt, đuôi là gỗ/Không có nó, củi không thành (The head is iron, the tail is wood/Without it, no lumberHammer cuts firewood); Chuông không phải chuông/Khánh không phải khánh/Đánh không phải đánh/Khổ không phải khổ/Mà cứ chĩa mỏ dìa môi (A bell is not a bell/A chime is not a chime/Hitting is not a hit/Suffering is not a pain/But keep pointing your beak and lipsMortar for betel nut);… The one-sided sentence structure is not found in the Khmer riddle genre.

Regarding the art of depiction in Khmer riddles, it reflects the process of observing matters and phenomena in life along with the selection and description in a special speech style of the riddle. The description is, sometimes affiliated with inherent characteristics of matters (such as shape, color, properties), or with the external characteristics of other phenomena and matters; sometimes fails to match with the subject being quizzed, but it actually holds a close and interesting relationship that few people would expect. For example: Nàng ơi nàng, thiếu nữ ngồi tận trên núi xõa tóc chơi? (Hey girl, the young lady sitting on the mountain playing with her hair?Corn); Cây trên cạn, trái dưới nước. (Plants on land, fruit in waterFishing rod).

Furthermore, Khmer riddles in Vietnam have a section using obscene riddle for elegance teaching. The object being quizzed is proper, but the language-in-use for riddle creation is vulgar: Vặn đít lòi cu nếu em muốn đẹp vừa ngặm vừa núp (Twist the ass if you want to be beautiful while shutting and hiding? – Lipstick); Nàng ơi nàng No cái miệng mở to cái lưỡi màu đỏ có 3 cái vú được chồng nâng niu ân ái sớm chiều cho ở trong mát (Hey girl, mouth wide opened, a red tongue with 3 breasts, and is treasured by the husband to stay in the cool all dayThe oven); Cây gì có trái như bồng/Khi cần lột áo nhổ long mới dùng Which plant has fruit like crag/It needs to peel off the shirt to and epilate the hair before useCorn).

3.3.3. Riddling activities

Riddling is a communication activity among the participants. Therefore, it requires at least 2 people taking part in the performance: one questioner, one respondent. Thus, any communication environment is able to turn into the acting environment of the riddle. In other words, riddling activities can take place in various circumstances, different spaces and times. Bui (2009), in her thesis Vietnamese folk riddles from a linguistic perspective, states that the context of using riddles is classified into two categories: organized and unorganized.

For the Khmer, the cohesive Phum, Soc environment and varied festival life have created favorable conditions for riddles and riddle singing with a multifarious performance environment. Moreover, with the nature of making an ardent atmosphere, the performance form of the riddles can change upon the environment, object, context, etc. Hence, in daily life, festivals and workspace of today’s Khmer society, riddles still seize many favorable conditions to exist, to promote their value to the perception and emotions of Khmer youth.

Unorganized riddling activity is viewed as the type of unfixed in terms of quantity, space, time,… Khmer people in their spare time after the harvest season, under the shaded tree or in front of the porch under the moonlight night, young people often gather to hold the “ask – answer” performance. In another space, during the idle seasons, grandparents often actively call their children to the front yard, spread the mats to sit around, and then the narrators put the “reward” quizzes. If the respondents unfortunately fail to give the correct answers, they will be “penalized” in numerous humorous forms. Besides, in classes at the temple school, the Achars often integrate some riddles closely related to the study of monks and children of the religion. Or in the lecture or on the occasion of the sermon, the senior monks also regularly mention educational riddles on personality formation, life philosophy, etc., for good men and women to cultivate and apply in their life.

As for organized riddling activities, dancing and singing forms such as A-day dialogue, Chom-reing Chapay, and Du Ke stage are the unique performance spaces of Khmer riddles. On the Du Ke stage, riddles are scripted by the director or the person in charge of the staging to remove some difficult segments to act through the role of a “clown” or some “followers – soldiers”. The riddles are meant to burgeon the audience’s further comprehension of the educational values of the play. In that way, the riddle is “theatricalized” in a selective, methodical way and is well received and familiarized by the audience as their own offspring.

  1. Conclusion

The world of Khmer riddles is as diverse as the lives of its people. It embraces such a wealth of unique knowledge and opens up tremendous exhilarating discoveries about how the world around is perceived. Thereby, the Khmer’s understanding of the objective world of the present and the past is preserved vividly and sustainably. In addition, riddling is a long-standing form of folklore activities, a healthy entertainment environment, helping to train community members’ thinking.

However, like most other forms of Khmer folklore, the scope and living environment of the riddle is gradually narrowing down. With constant attempts given by scientists to study, collect and translate, from only existing in memory and circulating through oral dissemination, Khmer riddles in Vietnam are gradually raising its presence to people’s awareness and being widely popularized. This is the apparent evidence for the richness of the genre of local Khmer folklore, exhibiting the depth of the intellectual and spiritual beauty of the Khmer people. The author’s great concern when studying this subject in Vietnam is the limited number of research and the survival and development space of Khmer riddle in folklife today, which intensely affects the conservation and promotion of literary and cultural values of this genre in the present and in the future.

It is not of ease to preserve the cultural identity of the Khmer people through preserving folklore treasure in the trend of economic integration. This is a problem faced by not only Khmer people but also artisans, folklorists, management agencies, etc. This humble study would like to contribute a small part in terms of theory, topic, methodology, … for the study of Khmer folklore in general and Khmer folk riddles in particular in the coming time. 

Конфликт интересов

Не указан.

Conflict of Interest

None declared.

Список литературы / References

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Список литературы на английском языке / References in English

  1. Ban Chỉ đạo Tổng điều tra dân số và nhà ở Trung ương [Central Steering Committee of Population and Housing Census], 2019, Results of the population and housing census at 0:00 on April 1, 2019, Statistics Publisher, Hanoi. [in Vietnamese]
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