Nationalities

At present there are 54 different ethnic groups inhabiting Vietnam, in which Kinh (Viet) people make up nearly 90% of the whole population, and 53 other ethnic groups represent over 10%.

People

Long Dress

The Vietnamese nation was formed through a process of two major ancient cultures, the Chinese and the Indian. Thus a peculiar trait of Vietnam’s culture was formed. As far as anthropology is concerned the Vietnamese people have their origin in the Mongolid race, believed to be one of the major or races of the world and often found in northern and eastern Asia.

* 54 different ethnic groups inhabiting Vietnam can divide eight different groups by the Vietnamese language:

– The Viet – Muong Group includes 4 ethnic groups: Chut, Kinh, Muong, Tho.

– The Tay – Thai Group includes 8 ethnic groups: Bo Y, Giay, Lao, Lu, Nung, San Chay, Tay, Thai.

– The Mon – Khmer Group includes 21 ethnic groups: Ba Na, Brau, Bru-Van Kieu, Cho Ro, Co, Co Ho, Co Tu, Gie Trieng, Hre, Khang, Khmer, Kho Mu, Ma, Mang, M’nong, O Du, Ro Mam, Ta Oi, Xinh Mun, Xo Dang, Xtieng.

– The Mong – Dao Group includes 3 groups: Dao, Mong, Pa Then.

– The Kadai Group includes 4 ethnic groups: Co Lao, La Chi, La Ha, Pu Peo.

– The Nam Dao Group includes 5 ethnic groups: Cham, Chu Ru, Ede, Gia Rai, Raglai.

– The Han Group includes 3 ethnic groups: Hoa, Ngai, San Diu.

– The Tang Group includes 6 ethnic groups: Cong, Ha Nhi, La Hu, Lo Lo, Phu La, Si La.

In the core of the history of national development, all these groups of people have been closely attached to one another in sharing the same tasks of fighting against foreign invaders, defending the country’s territory, gaining the right to live and the right to national independence and self-determination. Each group of ethnic people have developed their own language and identity, thus making the Vietnamese culture, long known for its variety, a well blended combination of different cultures.

Ba Na ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Ba Na (To Lo, Krem, Con Kde, Ala Cong, Krang).

Population: 174,456 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Kon Tum Province and the western parts of Binh Dinh and Phu Yen Provinces.

People

Bana People

Customs and habits

The Ba Na lives in houses built on stilts. In each village, there is a communal house called rong which stands out due to its height and beauty. According to matrimonial customs, a young man and woman can take the initiative in marriage, and the parents are only involved to ensure the respect of traditional principles. After the birth of the first child, they are allowed to set up their own family environment. The Ba Na venerates the spirits which relate to human beings.

Culture

The Ba Na language belongs to the Mon Khmer Group. Their musical instruments are very diversified with various combinations of gong sets, t’rung xylophones, bro, klong put, ko ni, khinh khung, and to tiep trumpets. The aesthetics of the Ba Na are expressed in their unique woodcarvings and extraordinary decorative crafts.

Costumes

The men tend to wear loincloths and the women wear sarongs.

Economy

Their main source of income is slash-and-burn agriculture and the rearing of livestock. Almost every village has forges to make metal products. Women also weave cloth to make their families garments and the men practice basketry and mat-making, the Ba Na often barter goods.

Bo Y ethnic group

 Name of ethnic group: Bo Y (Chung Cha, Trong Gia, Tu Di, Tu Din and Pu Na).

Population: 1,864 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Lao Cai, Yen Bai, Ha Giang and Tuyen Quang provinces.

Customs and habits

Ancestor worship is the basis of Bo Y religion. The Bo Y live in houses built on the ground. There is always an extra room in this type of house constructed of wooden boards that rest on the main beams of the house. These rooms serve as the bedroom for unmarried boys and as a granary. The wedding ceremony of the Bo Y is a complicated and expensive endeavor. A unique characteristic of this wedding ceremony is that the groom does not attend the ceremony. Instead, he sends his younger sister to the bride’s family to lead a pink horse during the wedding. When the parents die, the children must practice strict mourning rites, 90 days to mourn their mother and 120 days to mourn their father.

Culture

The Bo Y language belongs to the Tay – Thai Group.

Costumes

Women wear a full skirt, a five-paneled shirt and a bra. Some of the women have adopted the Nung or Han way of dressing.

Economy

The Bo Y practice slash-and-burn agriculture. Every year, when the rainy season arrives, the Bo Y go to the rivers to catch spawn and fish to put in their ponds and submerged fields.

Brau ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Brau (Brao).

Population: 313 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Dak Me Village, Bo Y Commune, Ngoc Hoi District, Kon Tum Province.

Customs and habits

The Brau have a tradition of tattooing their faces and bodies and filing their teeth. Their houses are built on stilts. Young men and women are free to choose their partners. The wedding ceremony is organized by the bride’s family and the groom must live with his wife’s family for several years before bringing his wife and children home.

Culture

The Brau language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group. The Brau like to play gongs and traditional musical instruments. In particular, a set of two gongs called the chieng tha has great value in their culture. Young girls often play Krong Put, a musical instrument that consists of 5-7 bamboo tubes, both long and short, which are joined together. The sound is produced when air is forced into them by the clapping of the hands.

Costumes

Women wear a lot of jewelry around their arms, ankles, and necks. Men often wear loincloths and women wear pagnes.

Economy

The Brau have led a nomadic life for a very long time, but also practice slash-and-burn cultivation in order to grow rice, corn, and cassava using rudimentary tools.

Bru – Van Kieu ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Bru-Van Kieu (Tri, Khua, and Ma-Coong).

Population: 55,559 people (Year 1999).

Locality: The mountain regions of Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Thua Thien-Hue provinces.

People

Bru – Van Kieu

Customs and habits

The Bru – Van Kieu live in small houses on stilts. These villages are usually located near rivers or streams and are always arranged along the water current flows. The houses are arranged in circles around a communal house on flat and expansive terrain. Young Bru – Van Kieu men and women are free to choose their partners. The maternal uncle says the last words at marriage or burial ceremonies for his nephews and nieces. He also has the decision power in house construction. Ancestor worship is the most common religious activity. Also, the Bru – Van Kieu pay veneration to sacred objects such as a sword or a fragment of a bowl, and they especially worship fire and kitchen deities.

Culture

The Bru-Van Kieu language belongs to the Mon-Khmer culture. The Bru – Van Kieu love creative arts and maintain a rich treasury of traditional art and culture. They possess numerous musical instruments such as drums, castanets, knob gongs, wind instruments, and string zithers (including the a-chung and po-kua). Folk singing is popular as is cha chap (sung stories), and sim, an alternating chant between young men and women. Folksongs, proverbs, and old tales make up the rich culture of the Bru – Van Kieu.

Costumes

Both men and women wear like Tay Nguyen costumes.

Economy

The Bru – Van Kieu live on rice cultivation, through slash and burn agriculture and submerging their fields. They also hunt, fish and rear cattle. Basketry and palm mat-making are their sideline occupations.

Cham ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Cham (Cham, Chiem Thanh, and Hroi).

Population: 132,873 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Concentrated populations live in Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan provinces. The Cham also live in An Giang, Tay Ninh, Dong Nai provinces, and Ho Chi Minh City.

Customs and habits

The Cham follow Islam and Brahmanism. Brahmanism’s doctrines draw about three-fifths of the Cham population in Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan Provinces. Matriarchy still exists in Cham society as daughters carry the family name of their mothers. A woman’s family marries the groom for their daughter. After marriage, the groom comes to live with his wife’s household. The right of inheritance is reserved for daughters only. The youngest daughter, however, must care for her aging parents.

Culture

The Cham language belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian Group. These people enjoy singing and dancing. Cham dances are well-known through the nation.

Economy

The main economic activity of the Cham is rice farming in submerged fields. Pottery making and cotton cloth weaving are two other sideline occupations.

Cho Ro ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Cho Ro (Do Ro, Chau Ro).

Population: 22,567 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Dong Nai, Binh Thuan, Binh Phuoc and Binh Duong provinces.

Customs and habits

The Cho Ro lives in houses built on stilts and on the ground. Both patriarchal and matriarchal customs have significance in the family life of the Cho Ro. The Cho Ro believes that all things have souls and spirits. These spirits have an invisible control over humans which forces them to become involved in worshipping rituals and puts special taboos on them. The most important worshipping ritual is the one that pays respect to the souls of the forest and the rice plant.

Culture

Cho Ro language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group and has close ties to the Ma and the Xtieng languages. Their musical instruments are comprised of a set of seven-pattern gongs, string instruments with a bamboo sound-box, and alternating songs.

Costumes

The Cho Ro has adopted the Kinh style of dress. The women wear necklaces and bracelets made of copper, silver, or beads.

Economy

The main economic activity practiced is slash-and-burn cultivation. In certain places, rice cultivation in submerged fields has been developed. Animal husbandry, hunting, gathering, fishing, basketry, and wood carving are other sideline occupations.

Chu Ru ethnic group

 Name of ethnic group: Chu Ru (Cho Ru and Ru).

Population: 14,978 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Don Duong District in Lam Dong Province and Binh Thuan Province.

Customs and habits

The Chu Ru worship their ancestors and these rituals are carried out in the cemetery. Each family in the Chu Ru clan consists of three to four matrilineal generations, and monogamy is observed in Chu Ru society. Young women choose their husbands and initiate the process of marriage. The husband then lives with his wife’s family.

Culture

The Chu Ru language belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian group. They have adopted a sedentary life and have developed a rich oral literature composed of popular songs, folk songs, and proverbs. The “play” (village) contains many family lineages, and other ethnic groups may reside in the same village. “Poplay” (village chiefs) are elected by the inhabitants of the village and a sorcerer.

Economy

The Chu Ru developed farming practices very early in the culture. They also developed agriculture, raised cattle, made bamboo and rattan articles, and sculpted pottery. Hunting and gathering have now become sideline occupations in every family.

Chut ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Chut (Ruc, Sach, Arem, May, Ma Lieng, Tu Vang, Pa Leng, Xe Lang, To Hung, Cha Cu, Tac Cuc, Ymo, and Xa La Vang).

Population: 3,829 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Minh Hoa and Tuyen Hoa districts of Quang Binh Province.

Customs and habits

Though most Chut live a sedentary life, their villages are quite separated and their houses are temporary. Each lineage has its leader and an altar to worship their common ancestors. Among the leaders of the lineages, those who can win the highest prestige will be proclaimed village chief. Matrimony is still practiced. The Chut have very simple funerals.

Culture

The Chut language belongs to the Viet-Muong Group. The Chut have inherited a rich folk art and culture. The folk songs are called Ka-tum and Ka-lenh, and are very popular among many people. The ancient tales of the Chut are diverse and have various themes. The Chut play pan-pipes and six-hole flutes.

Economy

The Chut are primarily involved in agriculture and they practice slash and burn cultivation. They also practice hunting, gathering, fishing, and animal husbandry. Carpentry and basketry are another means of income generation.

Co ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Co (Cor, Col, Cua and Trau).

Population: 27,766 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Bac Tra My and Nam Tra My districts of Quang Nam Province; Tra Bong District of Quang Ngai Province.

Customs and habits

The Co believes that all things have souls, and they worship the souls of rice grains. In former days, the Co lived in long houses built on stilts. Recently, the Co has built shorter houses that are level with the ground. The village chief is chosen on the basis of knowledge, experience in production, behavior, and the trust of villagers. In the past, no Co lineage had an individual name; they all took the family name of Dinh. Now, they have taken the family name of Ho, after President Ho Chi Minh.

Culture

The Co language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group. The Co like to sing, dance, beat drums, and gongs. Folksongs such as the Xru, Klu and Agioi are very popular.

Costumes

Men leave their upper torsos naked and cover their lower torsos with loincloths. Women wear a skirt, bra and shirt with short sleeves. Women often tie colourful beaded strings around their waists. In winter, they cover themselves with blankets.

Economy

The Co lives mainly from slash-and-burn agriculture. They grow rice, maize, cassava, cinnamon, and other plants.

Cong ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Cong (Xam Khong, Mang Nhe, and Xa Xeng).

Population: 1,676 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Muong Te District in Lai Chau province and along the Da River.

Customs and habits

The Cong live in houses built on stilts. Each Cong lineage has a leader, its own social taboos, and its own manner of worshipping their ancestors at the altar. According to customs, young men and women can each take initiative in marriage. People of direct relations can only get married to their seventh generation relative. The man’s family actively proposes marriage. After the betrothal, the man lives with his future wife’s family for several years. Women wear their hair knotted in a chignon on top of their heads which shows that they are married. The wedding is often celebrated once the couple has had children. The man must then offer pieces of silver money to his wife’s parents. The woman’s family must prepare a dowry for the bride to bring to her husband’s house. Every year, each Cong Village holds a communal ceremony where several rites are performed to pray for bumper crops.

Culture

The Cong language belongs to the Tibet-Burman Group. The Cong folk arts are diverse. Their songs are characteristically composed of smooth melodies with alternating songs that are sung at communal ceremonies.

Economy

The Cong use a slash and burn method of cultivation. The Cong grow cotton which is used to barter for other cloth. Other handicraft activities include basketry and, particularly, red dyed rattan mat making.

Co Ho ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Co Ho (Xre, Nop, Co lon, Chil, Lat and Tring).

Population: 128,723 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Di Linh Plateau of Lam Dong Province.

Customs and habits

The young Co Ho women play an active role in marriage. Monogamy is practiced in Co Ho society. After the wedding, the groom comes to live with his wife’s family. The Co Ho believes in the existence of many deities including the sun, moon, mountain, river, earth, and rice.

Culture

Co Ho language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group. The Co Ho possesses an abundant wealth of folklore and culture. The verses of their lyrical poems, called Tampla, sound very romantic. They have many traditional dances to perform at festivals and ceremonies. Their instruments include gongs, dear-skin drums, bamboo flutes, box pan-pipes, lip organs, and six-stringed zithers.

Economy

The Co Ho cultivates rice through burning the land and submerging their fields.

Co Lao ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Co Lao (Ke Lao).

Population: 1,865 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Dong Van and Hoang Su Phi districts in Ha Giang Province.

Customs and habits

Each village has about 15 to 20 households. The Co Lao houses are built level with the ground. A patriarchal system has been adopted. During pregnancy, Co Lao women observe strict abstinence to facilitate delivery and to give healthy babies. In Dong Van District, people incinerate the placentas of new born babies. Three days and nights after their birth, male babies are baptized by their parents.

Culture

The Co Lao language belongs to the Kadai Group. Ceremonies and festivals are held on the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month, the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, the 15th day of the 7th lunar month, and the 9th day of the 9th lunar month. The Lunar New Year Festival is the biggest festival of the year.

Costumes

Men wear trousers like many other ethnic groups around the northern borders. Women also wear trousers and a five-panel dress running below the knees. The dress buttons under the left armpit and is decorated with bands of different coloured cloth that are attached to the chest from the middle to the right armpit along a fringed slit.

Economy

The Co Lao practice terraced farming and grow maize in mountain rock hollows. Basketry and woodwork are popular handicrafts that are produced by this group. The Co Lao are also known for their bamboo mats, lattices, large winnowing baskets, panniers, tables, chairs, and horse saddles.

Co Tu ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Co Tu (Gao, Ha, Phuong, and Ca Tang).

Population: 50,458 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Tay Giang, Dong Giang and Nam Giang districts in Quang Nam Province; A Luoi and Phu Loc districts in Thua Thien-Hue Province.

Customs and habits

The Co Tu believes in and worships Giang (Genie). The houses are set out in the form of an ellipse. In the middle of the village is the Rong (Communal House), a large and beautiful building used for the reception of guests, to hold meetings, rituals and cultural performances. Patriarchy prevails among the Co Tu as the children take the family name of their father. The right of inheritance is reserved only for sons. Marriage dowries are also a common practice.

Culture

Co Tu language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group.

Costumes

Men wear loincloths and leave their upper torsos naked. Women wear skirts and short vests. In winter they wear a piece of cloth to keep them warm. Popular ornaments consist of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.

Economy

The Co Tu practice a slash and burn cultivation, often dig holes to plant seeds, practice animal husbandry, weave cloth and baskets, gather, hunt, and fish. The exchange of products is carried out by bartering.

 Dao ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Dao (“Dao Quan Trang” (Dao with white trousers), “Dao Quan Chet” (Dao with tight trousers), “Dao Tien” (Dao with coins), “Dao Thanh Y” (Dao with blue dress), “Dao Do” (Red Dao), Man, Dong, Trai, Xa, Diu Mien, Lim Mien, Lu Giang, Lan Ten, Dai Ban, Tieu Ban, Col Ngang, Col Mua and Son Dau).

Population: 620,538 people (Year 1999).

Locality: The Dao live along the Sino-Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Lao borders and in some midland provinces and provinces along the coastline of northern Vietnam.

People

Dzao People

Customs and habits

The Dao worship their ancestors called Ban Ho. Two forms of matrilocals exist, a temporary matrilocal and permanent matrilocal. Their funerals reflect many ancient customs. In some regions, dead people from 12 years old and older are cremated. The houses are built either on stilts, level with the ground, or half on stilts and half on beaten earth.

Culture

Dao language belongs to the Mong-Dao Group. The Dao have long used Chinese writings (but pronounced in the Dao way) called Nom Dao (Dao Demotic Script).

Costumes

The attire of the Dao men consists of trousers and short vests. Women’s attire is more diversified and is often decorated with many traditional motifs.

Economy

The Dao mainly live off of rice cultivation and by growing subsidiary crops. Sideline occupations include weaving, carpentering, blacksmithing, papermaking and vegetable oil production.

E De ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: E De (Rade, De, Kpa Adham, Krung, Ktul, Dlie Rue, Bio, Epan, Mdhur and Bich).

Population: 270,348 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Concentrated in Dak Lak Province, southern Gia Lai Province, and western parts of Khanh Hoa and Phu Yen provinces.

Customs and habits

The E De live in houses built on stilts. These houses are generally elongated. The interior of the house is divided into two parts. The main part, called the Gah, is reserved for receiving guests. The rest of the house (called the Ok) is divided into compartments for a kitchen and for living quarters. At each side of the house there is a floor yard. The yard lying in front of the entrance is called the guest yard. Matriarchy prevails in E De society. Women are the heads of their families. The children take the family name of the mother. The right of inheritance is reserved only for daughters. The husband comes to live at his wife’s house after marriage. If the wife dies and nobody among the wife’s relatives replaces her position, the man then returns to his home and lives with his sisters. The E De practice a polytheistic religion.

Culture

E De language belongs to the Malay-Polynesian Group. The E De have a rich and unique treasury of oral literature including myths, legends, lyrical songs, proverbs, and particularly well-known khan (epics). Their musical instruments are comprised of gongs, drums, flutes, pan pipes and string instruments. The Ding Nam is a very popular musical instrument of the E De which is much liked by many people.

Costumes

Women wear a skirt and vest with colourful motifs. Men simply wear loincloths. The E De like to wear copper, silver, and beaded ornaments.

Economy

The E De practice slash-and-burn agriculture and cultivate rice in submerged fields. Besides cultivating, the E De also practice animal husbandry, hunting, gathering, fishing, basketry, and weaving.

Giay ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Giay (Nhang, Dang, Pau Thin, Pu Na, Cui Chu and Xa).

Population: 49,098 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Concentrated in Bat Xat, Bao Thang and Muong Khuong districts (Lao Cai Province); Yen Minh and Dong Van districts (Ha Giang Province); Phong Tho and Muong Te districts (Lai Chau Province); and Cao Bang Province.

Customs and habits

The Giay worship not only their ancestors but also the genies of the heaven, the earth, and the kitchen, including the Goddess of Childbirth. The Giay villages are very crowded, containing hundreds of households. Houses are built on stilts or on level ground. The central bay of the house serves as a place for receiving guests and for the ancestor altar.

Patriarchal customs rule Giay families. The children take on the family name of their father. The family of a young man usually seeks a marriage for their son. During pregnancy, Giay women must obey certain taboos and a special altar is set up for the delivery.

Culture

Giay language belongs to the Tay-Thai Group. The cultural heritage of the Giay is rich including many ancient tales, poems, proverbs, puzzles, and alternating songs.

Costumes

Men wear trousers, short vests and wind a turban around their heads. Women wear a five-paneled vest open at the side, which buttons under the right armpit, and trousers. They wear their hair wound around their head or wind it in a turban.

Economy

The Giay practice rice cultivation in submerged fields and rear animals to provides for additional income. The Giay also rear plenty of horses as pack animals and for transport.

Gia Rai ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Gia Rai (Gio Rai, To Buan, Hobau, Hdrung and Chor).

Population: 317,557 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Concentrated in Gia Lai Province, parts of Kon Tum Province and northern Dak Lak Province.

Customs and habits

The Gia Rai believe in the existence of Giang (Genies) and hold many rituals connected to their genies. They live in separate villages called ploi or bon. Houses are built on stilts. The village chief and the elders have great prestige in Gia Rai society and play a role in running collective activities. Each village has a communal house called a Rong. A matriarchal system has been adopted. Women are free to choose their lovers and decide who they marry. The husband lives with his wife’s family and has no rights to inheritance. The daughter, after marriage, no longer lives with her parents and inherits from them. The children take the family name of the mother.

Culture

Gia Rai language belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian Group. Long epics and old tales such as “Dam Di Di San” (Dam Di Goes Hunting) and “Xinh Nha” are very popular in Gia Rai society. Musical instruments include gongs, T’rung, To-Nung, and Krong-Put.

Costumes

The Gia Rai garments resemble Tay Nguyen’s garments.

Economy

The Gia Rai live on slash-and-burn cultivation and terraced fields. Rice is their staple food. They also breed elephants. The men are very skillful in basketry, and the women in cloth weaving. Hunting, gathering, and fishing are other sideline occupations.

Gie Trieng ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Gie Trieng (Dgich, Tareh, Giang Ray, Pin, Trieng, Treng Ta Lieng, Ve, La Ve, and Bnoong).

Population: 30,243 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Kon Tum Province and the mountainous areas of Quang Ninh Province.

Customs and habits

The Gie Trieng lives in long houses built on stilts. Houses in the village are arranged in a circle around the Rong (communal house). Young woman decide when they will marry according to their own initiative. The Gie Trieng believes that all beings have a “soul” and a “spirit”. Therefore ritual ceremonies and the watching of good and bad omens have prevailed. The sacrifice of buffaloes is a common ritual ceremony.

Culture

The Gie Trieng language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group.

Costumes

Men usually wear loincloths. Women wear skirts long enough to cover their chests and some have adapted to wearing a bra sewn into their skirts.

Economy

The Gie Trieng lives mainly on the cultivation of the land, hunting, fishing, and gathering.

Ha Nhi ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Ha Nhi (U Ni and Xa U Ni).

Population: 17,535 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Lai Chau and Lao Cai provinces.

 

Customs and habits

The Ha Nhi have adopted a sedentary lifestyle. Every year during Tet (New Year’s Day), the people of the same lineage get together to listen to an elderly man speak about their ancestors. Young men and women are free to choose their partners. Each marriage goes through two stages. In the first stage, young men and women become husband and wife and take the family name of the husband. The second stage is organized when the couple becomes established and has a child. When a person dies, the bedroom partition of the deceased is dismantled, as well as the altar for their ancestors. The dead body is placed on a bed in the kitchen and a good hour and day must be chosen for the burial ceremony.

Culture

The Ha Nhi language belongs to the Tibet-Burman Group. The Ha Nhi possess many ancient tales and long versed stories. Young men and women enjoy dancing. Young couples express their love by playing leaf panpipes, lip organs and a vertical flute. Young girls like to play “am ba” and “met du” and young boys like to play “la khu”. There are many types of songs in Ha Nhi society such as lullabies, duet songs, wedding songs, mourning songs, songs reserved for new houses, receiving guests, and welcoming Tet holidays.

Costumes

The women of Lai Chau wear a decorated dress in various raw colours. This is different from the dress of the Lao Cai women which is only indigo in colour.

Economy

The Ha Nhi use a slash-and-burn method of cultivation and plant on terraced fields. Animal husbandry is well developed as well as weaving cloth and basketry articles.

Hoa ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Hoa (Han).

Population: 862,371 people (Year 1999).

Locality: The Hoa live in all parts of Vietnam from north to south, in both urban centres and rural regions.

People

Hoa People

Customs and habits

They build houses usually with three rooms and live close together. The families of the same lineage always reside together. In a Hoa family, the husband is the head of the household. The right of inheritance is reserved for the sons only. The eldest son always gets the greater part of the property. Parents decide the marriage arrangement of their children, and early marriages are common. The choices of a husband or a wife are often based on the desires of the family to have equal social standing or are dictated by business considerations.

According to customs, funerals must go through several rituals. The cycle starts with informing others of the mourning process, wearing mourning clothes, wrapping the corpse, opening the road for the dead soul, burying the dead, bringing their soul to the “country of Buddha in the west”, and the last rite is the completion of the mourning process. Since respect for the dead is very important, in all villages and hamlets, there are temples, pagodas, and shrines built for veneration of the dead.

Culture

The Hoa language belongs to the Han Group.

Costumes

Hoa men have adopted a dress similar to the Nung, Giay, Mong, and Dao. Hoa women’s garments consist of a pair of trousers, a five-panelled vest which falls to mid-thigh, and a short sleeve shirt with five-panels.

Economy

The Hoa practice various occupations including agriculture, handicrafts, trading, fishing, and salt-making. Hoa farmers have a long tradition of cultivating submerged fields. They also work as laborers, teachers, cadres, and other professionals.

Hre ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Hre (Cham Re, Chom Kre and Luy).

Population: 113,111 people (Year 1999).

Locality: The western parts of Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh provinces.

Customs and habits

The Hre are atheists. The small-sized nuclear family unit is very common among the Hre. They live in stilt houses and the village chief is considered to have high prestige and plays an important role in village life.

Culture

The Hre language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group and has close ties to the Xo-Dang and Ba Na languages. The Hre often hold buffalo-stabbing ceremonies which are accompanied by verses and songs. The Ka choi and Ka leu are two very popular tunes. Their musical instruments include the Brook, Ching Ka la, Ling Ia (traversal flute), and Ta lia (longitudinal flute).

Costumes

Men wear loincloths and waist-deep vests. They may also remain bare chested and wear turbans as headgear.

Economy

The Hre grow wet rice and farm. Basketry and weaving are other forms of income generation.

Khang ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Khang (Xa Khao, Xa Xua, Xa Don, Xa Dang, Xa Hoc, Xa Ai, Xa Bung, and Quang Lam).

Population: 10,272 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Son La and Lai Chau provinces.

Customs and habits

The Khang live in houses built on stilts, with three rooms. Each house has two kitchens, one kitchen is used to cook daily meals and the other is used to warm and cook meals which are offered to worship dead parents. Khang marriage ceremonies go through three steps. First, a marriage proposal is made. Next, parental approval is sought; and finally the wedding occurs. The first stage is held for the groom’s family and the second stage is held in order to accompany the bride to her husband’s home.

Culture

Khang language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group.

Costumes

Khang women dye their teeth black and chew betel like the Thai.

Economy

The Khang mainly practice slash-and-burn cultivation using traditional techniques such as digging holes and planting seeds in these holes. They grow sticky rice which serves as their food staple. Their weaving products include chairs, baskets, flat baskets, suitcases, packs, and wooden boats. The Khang also grow cotton and exchange it for cloth and garments.

Khmer ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Khmer (The Viet is of Mien origin and Khmer Krom).

Population: 1,055,174 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Soc Trang, Tra Vinh, Can Tho, Kien Giang and An Giang provinces.

Customs and habits

The Khmer mainly practice Brahmanism and Hinayana Buddhism. Before reaching adulthood, young Khmer people often go to pagodas to study and improve their virtues and knowledge.

Culture

The Khmer have managed to preserve their own language and writings. They usually live with the Kinh and Hoa in “soc” (villages), and “phum” or “ap” (hamlets). The houses are simply built with thatched or tiled roofs. Major Khmer festivals include “Chon Cho Nam Tho May” (New Year Festival), Buddha’s Birthday, “Don Ta” (Forgive the Crimes of the Dead), and “Ooc Om Bok” (Moon Worship).

Economy

The Khmer have a long tradition in wet rice cultivation. Animal husbandry, weaving, pottery and sugar making from the “Thot Not” Tree are other forms of economic activity.

Kho Mu ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Kho Mu (Xa Cau, Mun Xen, Pu Thenh, Tenh, and Tay Hay).

Population: 56,542 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Nghe An, Lai Chau, Son La, Thanh Hoa, and Yen Bai provinces.

Customs and habits

The Kho Mu still live a nomadic lifestyle. Their houses are built with temporary and rudimentary materials and have very little furniture. The husband must live with his wife’s family for one year after marriage. Marriage between the same lineages is strictly forbidden. The Kho Mu believe in the existence of spirits. The heavens, the sound of thunder, the earth, the forests, and the field are all assisted by spirits. The worshipping of spirits of the village and of ancestors is very common. They also pray for bumper harvests and good annual production.

Culture

The Kho Mu language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group. A rich heritage of tradition and culture can be found in this ethnic group.

Costumes

The garments of the Kho Mu resemble the Thai group, but the women’s ornaments are unique to this group.

Economy

The Kho Mu live on slash-and-burn cultivation, hunting, and gathering. Basketry is also a very developed skill among the members of this group.

Viet (Kinh) ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Kinh (Viet).

Population: About 65.8 million people (Year 1999).

Locality: These people live in all provinces but are densely clustered in the delta areas and urban centres.

People

Viet People

Customs and habits

The Kinh ancient villages are usually surrounded by bamboo groves. The communal house is a place for meeting and conducting common ritual ceremonies. The Kinh also live in mud houses. They enjoy the habits of chewing betel, smoking water pipes and cigarettes, drinking tea, and eating ordinary rice.

The husband is considered the head of the family. Children take the family name of their father. The eldest son is responsible for the worship of dead parents and grandparents. Each family lineage has a temple for their forefathers and the head of the family lineage handles all common affairs.

Monogamy is observed during marriage. The family of the man approves the marriage and organizes the wedding for him. After the wedding party, the bride goes to live with her husband’s family. The Kinh attach much importance to fidelity and the virtues of the bride.

They worship their ancestors and also practice Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism or Christianity to various extents.

Culture

The Kinh have a rich collection of literature which includes old tales, folk ballads, and proverbs. The written literature takes many forms such as poems, writings, books, and edicts. Song, music, sculpture, painting, dance and performance are also well developed and popular.

Costumes

The traditional attire of the Kinh in the north is a brown pajama set for men. A four paneled robe, bra, and trousers for women, also in brown, are usually worn. In the southern delta plains, both men and women wear black pajamas. At present, the Kinh’s costumes resemble western clothing.

Economy

Rice cultivation in submerged fields is the main economic activity of the Kinh. They also erect dykes and dig canals which help in the growing of wet rice, gardening, and sericulture. They also raise cattle and poultry. Pottery production has been very developed for a long time.

La chi ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: La Chi (Cu Te and La Qua).

Population: 10,765 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Xin Man District in Ha Giang Province, and Muong Khuong and Bac Ha districts in Lao Cai Province.

Customs and habits

The typical La Chi house is built on stilts has three apartments and an ancestral altar in the largest apartment. Each household has its own drums and gongs which are used in ritual ceremonies conducted by the head of the family lineage. Children take the family name of their fathers. As part of the wedding presents, the groom’s family has to offer the amount of money that was needed to pay for the bride’s upbringing. The 7th Lunar Month Festival is the largest and merriest activity of the La Chi culture.

Culture

The La Chi language belongs to the Kadai Group. Young boys and girls like to sing “nica” songs. The traditional musical instruments of this group include drums, gongs, three-stringed zithers (dan tinh), and lip-organs made from tree leaves. Popular games played at festivals are con throwing, top spinning, and swinging.

Costumes

Men wear five-panelled shirts that fall below their knees (nowadays these shirts are shorter), wide trousers, and head turbans. The women usually wear a four-panelled dress with a belt, a bra, and a long turban, along with a pair of trousers or a skirt.

Economy

The La Chi grow wet rice in terraced fields. La Chi women have a tradition of weaving and indigo dyeing. The La Chi live a sedentary life that revolves around villages.

La Ha ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: La Ha (Phlao, Xa Khan and Khla).

Population: 5,686 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Son La and Lao Cai provinces.

Customs and habits

The La Ha house is built on stilts with two entrances and ladders at both ends. Young boys and girls are free to seek their love. A young boy will visit a young girl at her house playing a flute or a two-string violin to try to engage her in normal conversation. After the marriage proposal, the bridegroom lives in the bride’s family house for four to eight years before the wedding actually takes place. The bride then joins her husband’s family and takes his family name.

Old customs require that a dead person be buried along with their money and a rice paddy. The La Ha believe there are many supernatural forces including spirits of the forest, the water, the mist, and the house. In each family, only the soul of the father, which will turn into the spirit of the house after his death, is worshipped. Every year, when the ban flowers blossom, a celebration is held by every family to honour their parents.

Culture

The La Ha language belongs to the Kadai Group.

Costumes

The La Ha dress the same as the Black Thai.

Economy

The La Ha live on slash-and-burn farming. Nowadays, many villages cultivate rice in submerged fields and build embankments to protect the soil from erosion. The La Ha grow cotton but do not weave.

La Hu ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: La Hu (Xa La Vang, Co Rung, Khu Sung, and Kha Quy).

Population: 6,874 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Muong Te District of Lai Chau Province.

Customs and habits

The La Hu live in villages built on mountain slopes. These houses are level with the ground and divided by bamboo partitions. The altar for the ancestors and the kitchen are always placed at the bay of the house, which is used for the family sleeping quarters. The right of inheritance is only reserved for sons. Young men and women are free to choose their partners. After the wedding, the groom has to live with his wife’s family for several years, but then takes his wife to his family house.

La Hu women usually give birth in their bedroom. Three days later, the baby is given its name. If an unexpected guest comes during this time, he or she is given the honour of naming the newborn. The worship of the ancestors is reserved for the dead parents. Every year the La Hu hold ceremonies to worship the spirits of the earth and to pray for peace. They conjure up the souls of the corn and the rice spirits after the sowing and harvesting duties have been completed.

Culture

La Hu language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman Group. There are a dozen “khen” (pan-pipe) dances in La Hu culture. The songs are sung in the Ha Nhi language, but the La Hu have kept their own rhythms. The La Hu have a rich heritage of ancient tales, and they even maintain their own calendar in which the days are defined corresponding to twelve animals, including the tiger, rabbit, dragon, mouse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig, squirrel, snake and buffalo.

Costumes

Women wear trousers and a long-lap shirt that falls to their ankles. They also wear a short vest during festive days. The collar, chest stripes, and sleeves are either embroidered or sewn with colourful pieces of cloth, silver, tin coins, or red fringes.

Economy

The La Hu live on slash-and-burn cultivation and hunting. La Hu men are very skilled at blacksmithing and making rattan chairs, trays, mats.

Lao ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Lao (Lao Boc and Lao Noi).

Population: 11,611 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Concentrated in Dien Bien City (Dien Bien Province); Phong Tho and Than Uyen districts (Lai Chau Province); Song Ma District (Son La Province).

Customs and habits

The Lao worship their ancestors and are influenced by Buddhism. The Lao often take the family names of Lo, Luong, or Vi. Children take the family name of their father. When a person dies, a funeral ceremony and burial is carefully organized. Cremation occurs only if the deceased is the chief of a “muong” or a “ban” (village).

Culture

The Lao language belongs to the Tay-Thai Group. The “mo lam” (sorcerers) of Lao culture are very good at writing and narrating ancient tales and folksongs. Lao folklore and its legacy is heavily influenced by Thai culture. The “lam vong” (Lao folk dance) are always performed during festivals and ceremonies.

Costumes

Women wear black skirts that are knotted at the front and come up to their chests. The hems are usually decorated with two bands of embroidered motifs in different colors. Lao men used to have a Han script and an animal tattooed on their wrist and thighs.

Economy

The Lao primarily grow rice in submerged fields using advanced techniques such as ploughing, harrowing, and irrigating. Additional family income is generated through weaving, blacksmithing, pottery, and silver production.

Lo Lo ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Lo Lo (Mun Di, Lo Lo Hoa and Lo Lo Den).

Population: 3,307 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Dong Van and Meo Vac districts of Ha Giang Province, Bao Lac District of Cao Bang Province and Muong Khuong District of Lao Cai Province.

Customs and habits

The Lo Lo mainly worship their ancestors. Their villages are located on mountain slopes close to sources of water. They live in grouped villages, each village having 20 to 25 houses. These houses are built either on stilts, half on stilts and half on the ground, or level with the ground. People of the same lineage live in the same village. The leader of the lineage is called the Thau Chu. This leader is responsible for ritual ceremonies and the preservation of the customs of that lineage. The Lo Lo practice monogamy and the wife comes to live in her husband’s house after marriage. The Lo Lo use bronze drums for special occasions, but bury these drums in the earth for maintenance, and unearth them only for usage. The head of each family lineage is the keeper of the bronze drums. These drums are only used at funerals or to keep time during dances.

Culture

The Lo Lo language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman Group. Their written language used pictographic scripts which are no longer in use. The calendar of the Lo Lo divides the year into 11 months, each corresponding to the name of an animal. The folklore culture of the Lo Lo is diverse. It is expressed particularly well in dances, songs, and old tales. The Lo Lo people have a high level of education, as many are university graduates or they have finished secondary education.

Costumes

The Lo Lo Hoa women often wear a low-neck vest and a pair of trousers underneath a short skirt. Lo Lo Den men wear pajama-style trousers and a square necked vest pulled over their heads. Colourful designs are incorporated into their turbans, vests, skirts, and trousers.

Economy

The Lo Lo depend mainly on maize and rice as forms of income generation.

Lu ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Lu (Nhuon and Duon).

Population: 4,964 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Phong Tho and Sin Ho Districts of Lai Chau Province.

Customs and habits

The Lu practice Buddhism. After their dead is buried, the family hold a rite which brings the dead’s soul to the pagoda. The Lu lives in houses built on stilts with two roofs and the entrance to their homes faces the northwest.

Young men and women are free to choose their partners. Their parents’ approval must be sought first, however, before the marriage can take place. The couple must then consult a fortune-teller for an age examination. If the fortune-teller finds that the ages of the couple are compatible, they can then prepare for marriage. The children take the father’s family name after birth. Boys have a common middle name, “Ba”, and girls, “Y”. The Lu are a very friendly and faithful group of people. Divorce rarely takes place in Lu society.The Lu enjoys eating sticky rice with chilly and drinking tea.

Culture

The Lu language belongs to the Tay-Thai Group. The Lu like to sing “khap” (song verses), tell old stories, proverbs, recite poems, play flutes, two-string violins, and drums.

Costumes

Lu men wear trousers and women wear skirts. Their garments are decorated with colourful motifs on dark indigo cloths.

Economy

The Lu has been engaged in farming for a long time. The Lu also utilize slash-and-burn land to grow corn, cassava, groundnut, indigo, and cotton.

Ma ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Ma (Chau Ma, Ma Xop, Ma To, Ma Krung, and Ma Ngan).

Population: 33,338 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Lam Dong Province.

Customs and habits

The Ma live in bons (villages). Each bon is comprised of five to ten elongated houses. The chief of a bon is called the quang bon. The family of a young man proposes marriage, but after the wedding the groom comes to live in his wife’s house. Only when he has enough wedding presents to hand over to the bride’s family can he take his wife to his house. The Ma believe in the existence of spirits in the river, the mountains, and the rice field.

Culture

The Ma language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group. They possess a rich folklore including many ancient tales, myths, and legends. Their musical instruments consist of gongs, drums, pan-pipes with bamboo-boxes, horns, bamboo string zithers, and three-holed bamboo flutes.

Costumes

The women wear skirts that fall below their knees and the men wear loincloths. They also file their teeth, stretch their earlobes, and wear a lot of ornaments.

Economy

The Ma cultivate rice, corn, and cotton. Ma women are very skilled at cloth making. They are also very skillful at forging.

Mang ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Mang (Mang U and Xa La Vang).

Population: 2,663 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Sin Ho, Muong Te, Phong Tho districts of Lai Chau Province; and Muong Cha District of Dien Bien Province.

Customs and habits

The chief of the village, together with the council of the oldest men, takes responsibility for the affairs of his village. The houses are built on stilts. Young Mang men and women are free to choose their own partners. According to customs, the two families are made to struggle for the bride on the wedding day as the bride is brought from the house of her family to worship the heavens.

Culture

The Mang language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group. Chin tattooing is considered a rite for young men to mature into adulthood.

Costumes

Men wear garments consisting of a short vest open at the front and trousers. Women wear a long skirt, a short vest open at the front, and a piece of white cloth decorated with various motifs.

Economy

The Mang practice slash-and-burn cultivation techniques with rudimentary home-made tools. The Mang cultivate rice in terraced fields similar to the Tha and practice basketry.

Mong (H’Mong) ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Mong (H’Mong): (Mong Do, White Mong, Mong Lenh (Variety Mong), Mong Si (Red Mong), Mong Du (Black Mong) and Mong Sua (Man Mong).

Population: 787,604 people (Year 1999).

Locality: The Mong are concentrated in Ha Giang, Tuyen Quang, Lao Cai, Yen Bai, Lai Chau, Son La, Cao Bang and Nghe An provinces.

People

H’mong People

Customs and habits

Each lineage lives within a group setting. The head of the village assumes the common affairs for the lineage. Young Mong men and women are free to choose their partners. Marriages are absolutely forbidden between men and women of the same lineage. Matrimonial life of the Mong is very harmonious and divorce is very rare.

Culture

Mong language belongs to the Mong-Dao Group. The Traditional Tet (New Year’s Day) of the Mong is organized every December. They refrain from eating green vegetables during the three days of the Tet Holiday. The musical instruments of the Mong include various kinds of “khen” (pan-pipes) and lip organs. After a hard working day and to celebrate spring, the young men and women often play “khen” and lip organs to express their feelings for their partners.

Costumes

The Mong make their clothes from linen. Women’s attire consists of a skirt, a blouse that opens at the front and has embroidery on the back, an apron to cover the skirt at the front, and leggings.

Economy

The Mong live mainly on slash-and-burn cultivation. They also grow rice and corn on terraced fields. Their principal food plants are corn, rice, and rye. Apart from these crops, they also grow medicinal plants and linen plants to supply the fibers for cloth weaving.

M’Nong ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: M’Nong (Bru Dang, Preh, Ger, Nong, Prang, PJam, Kuyenh, Chil Bu Nor, and M’Nong Bu Dang).

Population: 92,451 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Concentrated in the southern parts of Dak Lak and Dak Nong provinces, and parts of Lam Dong and Binh Phuoc provinces.

Customs and habits

The M’Nong live in houses built on stilts or level with the ground. Each village usually has dozens of households. The village chief plays a major role in village life. They like to drink alcohol from jars with pipes and smoke tobacco threads rolled in leaves. Matriarchy is observed and the children take the family name of their mother. The wife holds the key position in the household. The M’Nong like to have many children, especially daughters. One year after the birth of a child, the baby is given a name. At funerals, people sing, and beat gongs and drums at the side of the coffin. After placing the coffin in the grave, they cover it with plants, tree boughs, and leaves before filling the grave with earth. After seven days, the family holds a rite which completes the mourning process. The M’Nong believe in the existence of many spirits which are related to their life. One such spirit is Mother Rice who has a special role.

Culture

M’Nong language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group.

Costumes

Men generally wear loincloths and leave their upper torsos naked. Women wear skirts which fall to their ankles. Dark indigo loincloths, skirts, and vests are decorated with red-coloured designs.

Economy

The M’Nong use the slash-and-burn method of farming. The M’Nong in Ban Don are well known for their elephant hunting and domestication. Women handle the weaving of cotton cloth, while the men work on basketry.

Muong ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Muong (Moi, Mual, Moi, Moi Bi, Au Ta and Ao Ta).

Population: More than 1,137,515 people (Year 1999).

Locality: The largest population is concentrated in Hoa Binh Province and the mountainous districts of Thanh Hoa Province.

People

Muong People

Customs and habits

In former days, the “lang dao” system characterized Muong society. The “lang dao” ruled the Muong regions. A head of a “muong” was a “lang cun”, “lang xom”, or “dao xom”.

Muong marriage customs are similar to the Kinh. When a woman is giving birth to a child, her family surrounds the main ladder to the house with a bamboo fence. The child will be given a name when it is one year old. The Muong hold funerals with strict rules. Muong practice a polytheistic religion and ancestor worship.

Culture

The Muong language belongs to the Viet-Muong group. The popular literature and arts of the Muong are rich and include long poems, “mo” (ceremonial songs), folksongs, dialogue duets, proverbs, lullabies, and children’s songs. The gong is a favorite musical instrument of the Muong, as are the two stringed violins, flutes, drums and pan pipes.

The Muong hold many ceremonies year round such as the Going to the Fields Ceremony (“Khuong Mua”), Praying-for-Rain Ceremony (during the fourth lunar month), Washing Rice Leaves Ceremony (during the seventh and eighth lunar months), and the New Rice Ritual.

Costumes

Men dress in indigo pajamas. Women wear white rectangular scarves, bras, long skirts, and short vests that are open at the front (or at the shoulders) without buttons. The skirt is complemented by a very large silk belt embroidered with various motifs such as flowers, figures, dragons, phoenixes, deer, and birds.

Economy

The Muong have practiced farming for a long time. Wet rice is their main food staple. Other family income is generated through the exploitation of forest products including mushrooms, dried fungus, ammonium, and sticklac. Muong handicrafts include weaving, basketry, and silk spinning. Muong women are known to be very skilled at loom weaving.

Ngai ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Ngai (Ngai Hac Ca, Lau Man, He, Sin, Dan, and Le).

Population: 4,841 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Quang Ninh, Bac Giang, Bac Ninh Lang Son, Cao Bang, Bac Kan and Thai Nguyen provinces.

Customs and habits

A typical Ngai house consists of three rooms. All families have ancestor altars, and all hamlets have temples and pagodas built to honour the dead. The Ngai have great respect for their ancestors, as well as souls and spirits. Young women do not receive their inheritance after their parents die. Young Ngai people must obey their parents’ wishes. Marriage is comprised of two steps: a wedding and a nuptial rite.

Culture

The Ngai language belongs to the Han group. The Ngai maintain a love duet called the “Suong Co” that exemplifies their rich cultural heritage. Other forms of entertainment include a lion dance, a stick dance and a follow-the-leader game.

Costumes

The Ngai wear garments similar to the Hoa (or Han).

Economy

The Ngai live mainly on rice cultivation and fishing. They have a very elaborate system of water irrigation as a result of digging canals, building dams and water reservoirs, and reinforcing sea dykes. They are also good at mat-making, bamboo screen making, blacksmithing, carpentry, and lime, tile and brick-baking.

Nung ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Nung (Xuong, Giang, Nung An, Nung Coi, Phan Sinh, Nung Chao, Nung Inh, Qui Rin, Nung Din, and Khen Lai).

Population: 856,412 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Lang Son, Cao Bang, Bac Thai, Bac Giang, Bac Ninh and Tuyen Quang provinces.

Customs and habits

The Nung mainly worship their ancestors, spirits, saints, Confucius, and Kwan Yin. Nung villages are often built on hillsides. There is usually a submerged field in front of the house and a garden in the back. The Nung houses are always built on stilts.

Culture

The Nung language resembles the Tay, and belongs to the Tay-Thai Group. The Nung have a written language called Nom Nung (Nung scripts) which has prevailed since the 17th century. The Nung have an abundant wealth of folk arts and cultural activities including folksongs and alternative songs (“sli”). The smooth melodies of the “sli” are harmonious with the natural sounds of the forests and mountains. This type of folksong is a combination of verse and music.

The “Lung Tung” (Going to the Fields) Ceremony is very well known and attracts many people of all ages. This ceremony is always organized on the first month of the lunar year.

Costumes

The Nung mainly wear indigo attire.

Economy

The Nung live on rice and corn. They also grow cash crops and fruit trees, such as tangerines and persimmons, and anise.

O du ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: O Du (Tay Hat).

Population: 301 people (Year 1999).

Locality: The O Du live in the villages of Kim Hoa and Xop Pot in Kim Da Commune, and the rest live in nearby villages in Tuong Duong District, Nghe An Province.

Customs and habits

The O Du live in small families. After marriage, the bridegroom lives at his wife’s house for some time before returning to his house with his children and his wife. For the O Du, the New Year begins on the day when the thunder rolls for the first time in early spring. They believe that people have souls which, after death, become the soul of the house, watching over every activity of the living.

Culture

O Du language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group and is now no longer used. They do use the Thai and Kho Mu languages, however. As a result, their cultural identity is obscured by the influences of the Thai and the Kho Mu.

Economy

The O Du live off of farming on slash-and-burnt plots, rearing animals, gathering, and hunting. Weaving is also a sideline family occupation.

Pa Then ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Pa Then (Pa Hung and Tong).

Population: 5,569 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Concentrated in communes of Ha Giang and Tuyen Quang provinces.

Customs and habits

Pa Then houses are built either on stilts, level with the ground, or half on stilts and half on the earth. Marriage is strictly forbidden within the same lineage. According to customs, after marriage the husband lives with his wife’s family for a certain amount of time. If the wife has no brothers, the husband will live with his wife’s family forever, and he has to worship the spirits of his wife’s family. Half of the children take the family name of their father, and the rest takes the family name of their mother. The Pa Then worship their ancestors at home. They worship the spirits of the soil and the new rice crop, pray for the rain, and worship the souls of the dead.

Culture

The Pa Then language belongs to the Mong-Dao Group. The Pa Then have managed to preserve a rich heritage of folk culture through legends, folk songs, lullabies, and dances. They also have a lot of musical instruments such as panpipes, string instruments called the “tay nhay”, and bamboo flutes.

Costumes

The Pa Then costumes look very colourful. Men wear shirts, long indigo trousers, and cover themselves with a long scarf. Women wear long skirts, a bra and a shirt. They like to wear their hair wound up in a turban which is trimmed with colourful motifs.

Economy

The Pa Then live mainly on slash-and-burn cultivation. Rice and corn are their food staple.

Phu La ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Phu La (Xa Pho, Bo Kho Pa, Mu Di Pa, Pho, Va Xo and La Dun Dang).

Population: 9,046 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Lai Chau, Son La, Lao Cai, and Ha Giang provinces. The largest settlements are in Lao Cai Province.

Customs and habits

The Phu La worship their ancestors and believe in animism. They live in various villages, each village containing about 10-15 households. The house is built very simply with three rooms and a thatched roof. The oldest men, the village chiefs, and the lineage heads play a significant role in managing public affairs. The young people are not forced to marry. After an engagement the bride comes to live with her husband’s family; the wedding, however, may be held one or two years later.

Culture

The Pu La language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman Group.

Costumes

Men’s garments have unique characteristic such as an open shirt with many glass beads and figures that are arranged in a cross shape. Women’s dresses are embroidered with many colourful motifs. The women often wear square aprons that are embroidered with motifs and attached with glass beads sewn in parallel lines or in an eight tipped star pattern.

Economy

The Phu La depend on farming using the slash-and-burn method and planting on terraced fields. They rear buffaloes, horses, and pigs. Basketry is another form of income and they are well known for their beautifully decorated bamboo and rattan articles. The Phu La often sell or barter articles for other commodity goods from other ethnic groups.

Pu Peo ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Pu Peo (Ka Beo, Penti, and Lo Lo).

Population: 705 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Concentrated along the Sino-Vietnamese border in Dong Van, Yen Minh, and Meo Vac districts of Ha Giang Province.

Customs and habits

Houses are usually built on the ground in tiny clusters be side a Hoa or H’Mong village. Each family lineage has its own system of middle names. Pu Peo society follows a patriarchal system, as the father or husband has the right to own the house. The Pu Peo attach great importance to ancestral worship. Small earthen jars, each symbolizing a generation, are often placed on their altar.

Culture

The Pu Peo language resembles that of the Co Lao, La Chi and La Ha, and belongs to the Kadai Group. The Pu Peo hold ceremonies to pray for peace and the beginning of the new working season. This particular ceremony is held during the New Year in the first half of the first lunar month, and continues to the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. The Pu Peo are one of few ethnic groups still using bronze drums. In Pu Peo custom, male and female drums sets exist.

Costumes

The attire of Pu Peo women still maintain their vibrant colours as pieces of different coloured cloths are sewn to make colourful designs. They wear scarves, skirts, vests, and aprons. The men, however, dress like other ethnic groups in the region.

Economy

The Pu Peo farm on burned land and terraced fields, growing maize, rice, rye, and beans. Their farm tools include ploughs and harrows. They use buffaloes and oxen to serve as draught animals. Their staple food is steam cooked corn flour.

Ra Glai ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Ra Glai (Ra Glay, Krai, Orang Glai, No-Ana, and La Vang).

Population: 96,931 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Mainly in the southern regions of Khanh Hoa and Ninh Thuan provinces.

Customs and habits

The Ra Glai believe there is a spiritual world known as “Giang” that includes good and evil forces. They traditionally live in stilted houses. The pa-lay is headed by a po pa-lay (a village chief who is generally the first landowner). Matriarchy remains in existence in Ra Glai society, as the children take the family name of their mother. If a young woman wants to marry a young man, she will first ask her parents if they can prepare the wedding ceremony. During the marriage process, the bride’s younger brother has a fairly important say in the decision making.

Culture

The Ra Glai language belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian Group. After the harvest season, all villagers gather to pay thanks to Giang and to enjoy the new rice harvest.

Economy

Formerly the Ra Glai simply grew rice and maize using slash-and-burn farming techniques. They also developed wet rice agriculture. Hunting, picking, gathering, and making handicrafts are other forms on income generation.

Ro mam ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Ro Mam.

Population: 301 people (Year 1999).

Locality: The Ro Mam live in Le Village, Mo Rai Commune, Sa Thay District of Kon Tum Province.

Customs and habits

The village of the Ro Mam is called a “de”. It is headed by an old chief. Each family is comprised of 10-20 people of various generations who have blood ties and who live under the same roof. Each nuclear family forms its own economic unit. The Ro Mam’s matrimonial rites are performed in two steps, the engagement phase and wedding phase. Several days after the wedding, a young couple may divorce. However, once they have lived together for a long time they are not allowed to divorce. When a person dies, their body is placed in the cemetery. The cemetery is always located at the west end of the village.

Culture

The Ro Mam language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group Rituals and ceremonies are usually held during the production cycle from the start of the slashing of the field until the land is set on fire, and eventually when the rice is brought to the house. These communal village activities have been preserved to the present day.

Costumes

Women wear skirts and short sleeved shirts. The skirts are made from coarse cloth without decorations, and they fall down below their knees. Men wear loincloths, where the front flap hangs over their knees and the back flap falls below their shins. Women like to wear earrings, bracelets, and necklaces made from glass beads.

Economy

The Ro Mam survive mainly from slash-and-burn cultivation, hunting, and gathering. Sticky rice is their staple food.

San Chay ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: San Chay (Cao Lan, San Chi, Man Cao Lan, and Hon Ban).

Population: 147,315 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Concentrated in Tuyen Quang, Thai Nguyen, and Bac Giang provinces. Communities of San Chay are also found scattered in Quang Ninh, Yen Bai, Lang Son, and Vinh Phuc provinces.

Customs and habits

Ancestral worship is widely practiced but is influenced by Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Houses are usually built level to the ground. The San Chay house is said to resemble the “Buffalo Genie”, the four pillars of the house symbolize the four legs of the buffalo, the paths around the house represent the ribs, and the roof represents the backbone. One of the two corners of the penthouse is usually used as the altar for the ancestors and is regarded as the holiest section of the house.

The San Chay inhabitants belong to various family lineages, each lineage having several branches. The father is the head of the family. After a wedding, the wife lives with her parents and she settles permanently at the husband’s house only after her first childbirth.

Culture

The language of the San Chay is classified with the Tay-Thai Group. The San Chay have many old tales, folksongs, proverbs, and sayings. A particularly popular cultural activity is the “sinh ca”, an alternating love song chant. Their musical instruments include castanets, small copper bells, cymbals, wind instruments, and drums.

Costumes

The modern attire of the San Chay tends to resemble the Kinh or Tay.

Economy

The San Chay cultivates wet rice and agriculture, which plays an important role in their livelihood.

San Diu ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: San Diu (San Deo, Trai, Trai Dat, and “Man Quan Coc” (Man in Shorts)).

Population: 126,237 people (Year 1999).

Locality: The San Diu live in the midlands of Quang Ninh, Hai Duong, Bac Giang, Bac Ninh, Vinh Phu, Thai Nguyen, and Tuyen Quang provinces.

Customs and habits

The San Diu house is built level with the ground. The roof is usually covered with thatch or tile, the walls are built of bricks, and the houses are clustered closely together in each village. The husband (father) is the head of the family. The children take the family name of the father and only sons have the right of inheritance. The parents also decide when their children should marry. The funeral ceremony of the San Diu has many rites. The San Diu worship their ancestors and the God of the Kitchen. They hold many annual ceremonies usually before crop planting, after crop planting, after the new rice matures, and when they need to pray for rain.

Culture

The San Diu language belongs to the Han Group. The San Diu sing alternating songs (soong co) during cultural activities and at festivals. They have many musical instruments such as horns, clarinets, drums, flutes, cymbals, and castanets. They also like to play many games such as walking on sticks, a game involving sticks, badminton in the San Diu way, and tug-of-war.

Costumes

The San Diu have gradually adopted the Kinh style of dress.

Economy

The San Diu engage in rice farming practices through submerging their fields, animal and forest exploitation, fishing, fish breeding, tile and brick making, blacksmithing, and basketry. The San Diu also manufacture the no-wheel “quet” cart drawn by a buffalo to transport goods.

Si La ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Si La (Cu De Xu, Kha Pe).

Population: 840 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Lai Chau Province.

Customs and habits

The Si La live in houses built level to the ground. The kitchen is usually placed at the centre of the house. Relationships between the members of a lineage are very close. The head of a lineage is usually the oldest man who plays an important role in the village. He also acts as a leader in charge of internal affairs, and especially during worship. The “mo” (sorcerers) is well respected. The Si La wedding ceremony is celebrated in two stages with one year passing in between the stages. The family of the groom must hand wedding presents to the bride’s family prior to meeting the bride and bringing her home.

The burial ground of the dead occupies a plot at the end of the village. Graves of members of the same lineages are grouped together. The Si La often build the funeral house for the dead first, then dig the grave for the house. The coffin is made from a hollowed tree trunk. When a person dies, the Si La organize different kinds of ceremonies. They never clean the graves or exhume the dead’s remains, but they maintain the custom of mourning their parents for three years. The Si La also worship their ancestors and the spirits of the village.

Culture

The Si La language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman Group.

Costumes

The attire of women is quite unique. The upper parts of their dresses are different colors and decorated with silver and tin coins. Their headgear varies according to age. When travelling, they always carry a woven handbag with red fringes attached to the hems of the handbag. In the past, men have painted their teeth red and women have painted theirs black. This custom is no longer observed by the young people.

Economy

The main forms of income are rice and corn cultivation. Hunting and gathering are also a significant part of the life of the Si La.

Tay ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Tay (Tho, Ngan, Phen, Thu Lao, and Pa Di).

Population: 1,477,514 people (Year 1999).

Locality: The Tay lives along the valleys and the lower slopes of the mountains in Cao Bang, Lang Son, Bac Kan, and Quang Ninh provinces, and in some regions of Bac Giang and Bac Ninh provinces.

People

Tay People

Customs and habits

Ancestor worship is a religious rite of the Tay. The altars for the ancestors are placed in a central location in the house. The altar room is such a sacred place that guests is not allowed to sit on the bed in front of the altar. After giving birth, women are also not allowed to sit on the bed in front of the altar.

Tay villages are always built at the foot of a mountain and are often named after a mountain, field, or river. Each village contains about 15-20 households.

Culture

The Tay language belongs to Tay-Thai Group. There is a rich traditional folklore with all kinds of poems, songs, dances, and music. Tay songs include the “Hat Luon” (a kind of duet between lovers), wedding songs, and lullabies.

Costumes

Tay women wear knee-length dresses, which are split at the right side with five buttons along the armpit, and narrow sleeves.

Economy

The Tay has developed agricultural practices quite well and are able to cultivate all kinds of plants including rice, maize, and sweet potato.

 Ta Oi ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Ta Oi (Toi Oi, Pa Co, Ba Hy, and Ba Ghy).

Population: 34,960 people (Year 1999).

Locality: A Luoi District of Thua Thien-Hue Province and Huong Hoa District of Quang Tri Province.

Customs and habits

The communal house of the Ta Oi is called the Rong. It is built at the centre of the village and is a fairly elongated house. The children take the family name of the father and only sons have the right to inherit the family estate. The head of a lineage plays an important role in village affairs. Young Ta Oi men and women are free to choose their partners. They believe in animism and organize many ceremonies for Giang. Several years after the burial of a deceased person, the dead’s lineage organizes a ceremony to exhume the dead’s remains and build a funeral house with sophisticated decoration and statues around the fence of the funeral house.

Culture

The Ta Oi language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group and is close to the Bru-Van Kieu and Co Tu languages. The Ta Oi have managed to preserve many of their proverbs, folk songs, puzzles, and stories. Popular folk songs include Ka loi, Ba boih, Ro in, and especially the romantic Cha Chap song. Gongs, string zithers, flutes, trumpets, drums, and pan-pipes are popular musical instruments of the Ta Oi.

Costumes

Women wear shirts and skirts, but the skirt is usually knotted up to cover their chests. Men wear loincloths and short vests, or leave their upper torsos naked. Ornaments made from copper, silver, glass beads, and ivory are also popular.

Economy

The Ta Oi practice a slash-and-burn method of cultivation and grow wet rice through this process. They are also good at horticulture and fish rearing in artificial ponds.

Thai ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Thai (Tay, Tay Dam, Tay Khao, Tay Muoi, Tay Thanh, Hang Tong, and Pu Thay).

Population: 1,328,725 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Lai Chau, Dien Bien, Son La, Hoa Binh, and Nghe An provinces.

People

Thai People

Customs and habits

The Thai worship their ancestors, the heavens, the earth, ban, and “muong”. They also hold rituals to pray for good crops.The Thai live in houses built on stilts. Among the Black Thai, they prefer roofs that are shaped like a tortoise carapace with decorations called “khau cuts” at each ridge. A Thai man first lives with his wife’s family for several years until the couple has a child; they then move to the house of the husband’s family. The Thai organize funerals as a farewell party to see off the dead to the other world.

Culture

The Thai language belongs to the Tay-Thai Group. They have a valuable legacy of myths, legends, ancient tales, versed stories, and folksongs. They like to sing and recite the “khap” along with the accompaniment of string instruments and a dance performance. Their folk dances such as “Xoe”, “Sap”, “Han Khuong”, and “Con” are reflection of the Thai’s unique cultural characteristics.

Costumes

The men have adopted the Kinh’s clothing style, while Thai women have retained their traditional clothes which include short vests, long black skirts, scarves, and ornaments.

Economy

The Thai are experienced in cultivating rice and orchards. They also breed cattle and poultry, make bamboo articles, weave cloth, and produce ceramic ware.

Tho ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Tho (Keo, Mon, Cuoi, Ho, Tay Poong, Dan Lai, and Ly Ha).

Population: 68,394 people (Year 1999).

Locality: The Tho live in the western parts of Nghe An Province.

Customs and habits

Formerly, the Tho lived in houses built on stilts. Now they prefer houses built on the ground. Close relationships and a desire to help each other have existed for a very long time in Tho society. Young Tho boys and girls have enjoyed considerable freedom through a custom known as “Ngu Mai”. They are allowed to lie together and have heart-to-heart talks with each other. In the course of these nocturnal parties, each boy and girl will eventually find their sweetheart. As for marriage, a boy’s family must spend a lot of money in preparation for the celebration of the wedding. Therefore, a boy must work many days for his future in-laws. The Tho worship innumerable genies and spirits. They also have great respect for pioneers who have made contributions to the clearing of the land and the building of the village, and for the numerous war heroes. All families also worship their ancestors. Each year, the most important ceremony called “Going to the Field” is held.

Culture

The Tho language belongs to the Viet-Muong Group.

Costumes

Tho attire resembles the farmers’ dress of the Kinh in the early half of 20th century. Tho women buy skirts from the Thai and wear a square white cloth around their heads which serves as a female head dress. The morning ribbon is a long white piece of cloth.

Economy

The Tho cultivate rice and hemp. With rice cultivation, they often use ploughs and harrows to till the soil. Hemp is grown primarily for producing items for daily use. The forest provides various kinds of vegetable for Tho daily life.

 Xinh – mun ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Xinh Mun (Puoc, and Pua).

Population: 18,018 people (Year 1999).

Locality: Son La and Lai Chau provinces and along the Vietnamese-Lao border regions.

Customs and habits

Xinh Mun houses are built on stilts, have vaulted roofs shaped like a tortoise shell and stairways at both ends of the house. The children take the family name of the father. After the death of the father, the eldest brother is elevated to an important position.

According to marriage customs, the family of the groom must give money to the bride’s family. After the proposal, engagement, and wedding, the husband goes and lives with his wife’s family. A few years later, when the married couple has a few children, the wife is then welcomed to her husband’s house. The couple must change their name and take another name given by the mother-in-law’s younger brother. It is the habit of the Xinh Mun to chew betel nut, dye their teeth black, and drink alcohol.

During the production of rice, people hold many ceremonies and maintain many taboos. The villagers annually organize a ceremony to honour the spirit of the village.

Culure

The Xinh Mun language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group.

Costumes

They wear garments that resemble the Thai and Lao.

Economy

The Xinh Mun grow glutinous rice and corn on burned land and terraced fields. They also gather, rear animals, hunt, make basketry articles, and have developed a system of bartering goods.

Xo dang ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Xo Dang (Xe Dang, Ca Dong, To Dra, Ha Lang, Mo Nam, Ta Tri, Ka Rang, Bri La Teng, and Con Lan).

Population: 127,148 people (Year 1999).

Locality: The Xo Dang are concentrated in Kon Tum Province and scattered in the mountainous areas of Quang Ngai and Quang Nam provinces.

Customs and habits

The Xo Dang believe in animism and worship many spirits related to the production of food and life. Each village has a “Rong” (communal house), and the roof of this communal house forms two steeply rising surfaces that resembles an axe-head. The village chief is the most respected person in the community and all village affairs are managed by the chief.

Xo Dang people do not have family names as the proper name consists of only one word with a prefix indicating the sex of the person, “A” for men, and “Y” for women. Male and female adults are allowed to seek their own loves. The Xo Dang wedding is very simple. After the wedding, the married couple lives in rotation of their families for a few years.

Culture

The Xo Dang belong to the Mon-Khmer Group. The buffalo stabbing ritual is held annually. The Xo Dang enjoy singing, dancing, playing gongs, and telling old tales. Xo Dang men are good at architecture, sculpting, and painting.

Economy

Farming is the main form of income generation. Cattle and poultry raising, hunting, picking and gathering, fishing, basketry, weaving, and blacksmithing are other ways the Xo Dang survive.

Xtieng ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Xtieng (Xa Dieng).

Population: 66,788 people (Year 1999).

Locality: The Xtieng live in four northern districts of Binh Phuoc Province and in Dong Nai and Tay Ninh provinces.

Customs and habits

The Xtieng live a sedentary lifestyle. Each family builds its own house. Each village is led by an elderly man who must be experienced in the affairs of the community, dynamic, and trusted by the villagers. The Xtieng can marry outside their lineage. After the wedding, the bride comes to live in her husband’s house. The Xtieng believe in animism and the mystical powers of thunder, lightning bolts, the heavens, and the earth. The Xtieng calculate their age according to the number of harvests that they have gathered.

Culture

The Xtieng language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group. The Xtieng enjoy music and popular musical instruments, such as the six-patterned gong set. These gongs are made of bamboo panpipes.

Costumes

Xtieng women wear skirts and the men wear loincloths. In winter, they cover themselves in blankets. The women wear their hair long and tie it in a bun at the back of their heads. They usually wear ivory earrings pierced into their earlobes, or tattoo their faces and body with simple motifs.

Economy

The Xtieng cultivate rice in submerged fields and have used oxen and buffaloes as draught animals for a long time.

 

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