Chhoung ( )

Chaol Chhoung or Boss Chhoung means to throw the Chhoung - a piece of scarf rolled into a ball of the size of a bare coconut and tied at the end to form a tail used for holding and throwing. The game is also known as Chhoung.

This game is the most popular game out of all the traditional games played during the New Year [PHE04C] because it showcases poetic conversation in the form of songs. The lyrics can be funny, direct, or can show passionate feelings between young men and women. As a tradition, the New Year is an opportunity for boys and girls to meet each other. This game gives an opportunity for them to tease each other and show their feelings for one another.

The general meaning of this game can be found in the following folktale. [PHE04C]


Once upon a time there was a warlord born from a doe. His father was a Brahman. This warlord was so powerful that he decided to cause drought in the Karsey kingdom. Even when the king continually prayed for rain, there was no rain. One day, a supreme being (Indra) came to tell the king that if he wanted rain he must destroy the warlord's power by sending his daughter, the princess Nealinika, to seduce him. When she arrived, the warlord was not home, so she decided to play Chhoung for fun with her entourage. When the warlord returned home, he saw her and fell in love with her. He subsequently lost his power and rain fails normally over the Karsey kingdom once more.

Chhoung is believed to create passion and attraction between the men and women who play the game. In an earlier tradition in the southern part of India, before a couple gets married, they need to play Chhoung every night. This custom became a practice of recreation as men and women sing in duet format. [PHE04C]

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The Game

The game is played by two teams of boys and girls, usually 10 to 20 people per team. Each team stands about 30 feet apart. There are two styles of play, Chhoung Jreang and Chhoung Louss. However, there is a third style that I used to play as a young boy.

Style 1: Chhoung Jreang (Singing Chhoung) ( )

This style can be related to the Khmer classic song "Bos Chhoung Chnam Tmey" ( ) where the singing begins after the Chhoung is tossed and caught by a team member. This song can be used as rhythm for the actual singing in the game.

The game begins after they agree which team to toss first. A member of this team will hold the Chhoung.

  1. The team with the Chhoung (the tossing team) will say the phrase "Chhoung Eiy Chhoung" () and then toss the Chhoung in a high arch to the opposite team.
  2. If the opposite team did not catch the Chhoung, this team will begin step 1.
  3. If the opposite team caught the Chhoung, this team (the throwing team) will throw at a member of the other team to try to hit this person. It is preferred that you aim at a person you are interested in.
    1. If the Chhoung hit the other team member, they will sing and dance to give the Chhoung back to the throwing team. This process is called Jreang Roam Joun Chhoung ( ) (Sing and dance to return the Chhoung). The process is led by the person who got hit by the Chhoung, carrying it with him/her as he/she dances and is followed by the team members. When reaching the other team, the Chhoung is returned to the throwing team. Now the throwing team will start step 1.

      For the girl's team, the lead person will sing in the form: "Ohn jab chhoung ban Chhoung baek chea bourn, proleung pros snguon totuorl Chhoung tov" ( ) [I caught the Chhoung and it break into four. My love, please take the Chhoung]. Then it is followed by the rest of the team members repeating: "Oah na keo na, keo pe-ah, keo eiy ei earng eiy.().

      For the boy's team, the lead person will start with: "Borng jab chhoung ban, borng bei trokorng, proleung meas borng toturol choung tov () [I caught the Chhoung in my hand and caress it, my sweetheart, please take the Chhoung.] The rest of the team will repeat the same words as the girl’s team in the repeat section.

    2. If the Chhoung did not hit anyone, the throwing team will get the Chhoung back and will start the first step.
  4. This game repeats until they agree to quit.

Style 2: Chhoung Lous (Free-Your-Partner Chhoung[KI05]) ( )

This style begins with a song called BrobThai( ). The lyrics are different depending on the region. The popular lyric is: "Borng boss Chhoung Tov ohn ey kompung Jung dong (repeat) kromom cho jrong ohn ey totourl choung borng" () (I toss the Chhoung, it went as high as the coconut tree, and many girls standing there caught my Chhoung). For the girl's lyrics, it goes: "Ohn bos choung tov borng eiy kompus jung Sla (repeat) Pros Chor Treaptra, Borng Eiy totuorl Chhoung ohn" () (I toss the Chhoung up and it went as high as the betel plant, all the guys standing around receive my Chhoung). [PHE04C]

The game starts with the following as suggested by [PHE04C]:

  1. The team with the Chhoung begins the game by singing BorbKhai song with one of the lyrics above that applies to them.
  2. This team, called the tossing team, will say the phrase, "Chhoung Ey Chhoung" () and then toss the Chhoung in a high arc to the other team to catch.
  3. If the opposite team did not catch the Chhoung, that team will go to step 2.
  4. If the opposite team caught the Chhoung, that team, now called the throwing team, will throw the Chhoung attempting to hit a person in the tossing team. a.If the Chhoung hits a tossing team member, the throwing team will win one person. When a team wins a person, that team can do one of the following that apply: i.If that team lost any of its members to another team, the winning team can take one of their team members back. ii.If they did not loose any of their members, this team will take the person they just hit as a prisoner. The prisoners are to stay in the front line of the winning team to help protect the team from being hit when the other team is throwing. They sometimes blindfold the prisoners. b.If it does not hit any of the tossing team members, the throwing team will get the Chhoung and go to step 2.
  5. The cycle repeats until one team wins all of the members from the opposite team. When a team wins, the round is over and the other team that did not begin the game last time will begin the game with step 1.
  6. The game is over until the teams agree to quit.

Note that for a fast game, the team can choose to skip step 1.

Style 3:

  1. The team that agreed to start will hustle together to decide on the lyrics. They will start by singing a short phrase of a song in the form of (I throw the Chhoung and the Chhoung landed on top of [something], the girl/guy [with certain features] prepares to catch my Chhoung.) This is the best part of the game where it allows the players to tease the other team. The play on words can be funny, direct, or passionate depending on the players. There are other variations of stress in the beat. The beat can follow Samouth Sin and Sothear Ros's song which can be downloaded from here: [].
  2. As the song ends, they will follow with the phrase: "Chhoung Eiy Chhoung". At the end of the phrase, one player who holds the Chhoung by the tail will swing and let it fly up to the other team. This toss is supposed to be in a high arc landing around the area of where the other team stands. If it lands too far away, the other team can request a re-throw. Just repeat step 2 for the re-throw.
  3. If the other team was not able to catch it and it touches the ground, that team will start from the first step.
  4. If a player catches the Chhoung, that player will run up a few steps to the line marker and throw the Chhoung to try to hit the other player without giving the other player a chance to catch it. If the Chhoung hits the player and lands to the ground, this round is over and proceeds to the penalty phase.
  5. If the Chhoung is caught instead by the other player, that player can throw back to the other team. This continues until it falls to the ground.

The game repeats until the teams decide to quit.


The penalty in this style is called Roam Jours (). The loosing team has to sing any Roam Vong (circle dancing) song and clap their hands to the beat while the winning team dances across the field toward losing team to Jours. The Jours begins when the members of the losing team put out one of their hands forward and open the palm. Then the people from the winning team use their hand to slap the palm. Each person from the winning team gets to Jours every member of the loosing team.

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