Ethnic minority groups with members numbering upwards of 500,000 include the Tay, Thai, H’mong, Muong, Hoa, Dao, Nung and Kinh or (Viet) people make up about 86% of the population. The vast majority of Vietnam's minorities live in the hilly regions of the Northern part, down the Truong Son mountain range, and in the Central Highlands - all areas which saw heavy fighting in recent wars. Several groups straddle today's international boundaries, spreading across the Indochinese peninsula and up into Southern China. Little is known about the origins of many of these people, some of whom already inhabited the area before the ancestors of the Viet arrived from Southern China around four to five thousand years ago. At some point the Viet emerged as a distinct group from among the various indigenous peoples living around the Red River Delta and then gradually absorbed smaller communities until they became the dominant culture. Other groups continued to interact with the Viet people, but either chose to maintain their independence in the highlands or were forced up into the hills, off the ever-more-crowded coastal plains. Vietnamese legend accounts for this fundamental split between lowlanders and highlanders as follows: the Dragon King of the south married Au Co, a beautiful northern princess, and at first they lived in the mountains where she gave birth to a hundred strong, handsome boys. After a while, however, the Dragon King missed his watery, lowland home and decamped with half his sons, leaving fifty behind in the mountains - the ancestors of the ethnic minorities.
While the ethnic-Vietnamese and Chinese live mainly in urban centres and coastal areas, the remaining people, an estimated 10% of Vietnam's total population, are found primarily in the high country. Undoubtedly the most colourful of the hill tribes reside in the Northwest and Northeast, in the plush mountain territory along the Lao and Chinese borders, while many of the tribes in the Central Highlands and the south can be difficult to distinguish, at least by dress alone, from ordinary Vietnamese. The French called them Montagnards (meaning 'highlanders' or 'mountain people') and still use this term when speaking in French or English. Some have lived in Vietnam for thousands of years, while others migrated into the region during the past few centuries. The areas inhabited by each group are often delimited by altitude, with later arrivals settling at higher elevations. Most of the individual ethnic groups share basic, similar traits in their daily lives and are often most easily identified by differences in language, physical features and traditional dress. They have a rural, agricultural lifestyle and show similarities in village architecture and traditional rituals and have a long history of inter-tribal warfare. Many of the tribes are semi-nomadic, cultivating crops such as 'dry' rice using slash-and-burn methods, which have taken a heavy toll on the environment. Because such practices destroy the ever-dwindling forests, the government has been trying to encourage them to adopt more settled agriculture often at lower altitudes, with wet (paddy) rice and cash crops such as tea coffee and cinnamon. Still, despite the allure of benefits like subsidised irrigation, better education and health care, a long history of nonconformist attitudes, coupled with a general distrust of the lowland ethnic-Vietnamese majority, keeps many away from the lowlands. As is the case in other parts of Asia, the rich, inherent culture of so many of Vietnam's ethnic minorities has slowly given way to a variety of outside influences. Many tribes have been so assimilated into mainstream Vietnamese society that very few even dress in traditional garb. Most of those who do are found in the remote villages of the far north, and even there it is often only the women who do so, while the men more typically have switched over to Vietnamese or western-style clothes. While factors such as the introduction of electricity, modern medicine and education do create advantages, unfortunately such evolution has brought about the abandonment of many age-old traditions. A more recent, and perhaps equally threatening, outside influence is the effect of tourism. With growing numbers of people travelling to see the different ethnic minorities, further exposure to lowlanders and a developing trend toward commercialism will likely worsen the situation. In some areas, such as Sapa and Bac Ha, adorable children who used to just stare, laugh or run away at the sight of a foreigner have begun to warm up, often expecting handouts of money or candy.
Ethnologists typically classify the Montagnards by linguistic distinction and commonly refer to three main groups (which further splinter into vast and complex sub-groupings). The Austro-Asian family includes the Viet-Muong, Mon-Khmer, Tay-Thai and Meo-Dzao language groups; the Austronesian family, related to Indonesians and Pacific Islanders, were probably the earliest inhabitants of the area but are now restricted to the central highlands, speaking Malayo-Polynesian languages; and the Sino-Tibetan family encompasses the Chinese and Tibeto-Burmese language groups, originating in southern China and at different times migrated southwards to settle throughout the Vietnamese uplands. Furthermore, within a single spoken language, there are often myriad varying dialectical variations.
Despite their different origins, languages, dialects and hugely varied traditional dress, there are a number of similarities among the highland groups that distinguish them from Viet people. Most immediately obvious is the stilt house, which protects against snakes, vermin and larger beasts as well as floods, while also providing safe stabling for domestic animals. The communal imbibing of rice wine is popular with most highland groups, as are certain rituals such as protecting a child from evil spirits by not naming it until after a certain age. Most highlanders traditionally practise swidden farming, clearing patches of forest land, farming the burnt-over fields for a few years and then leaving it fallow for a specified period while it recovers its fertility. Where the soils are particularly poor, a semi-nomadic lifestyle is adopted, shifting the village location at intervals as necessary.
Based on their languages, the ethnologists have divided the Vietnamese nation into 08 groups:
01. Mon - Khmer (Bana, Brau, Bru Vankieu, Choro, Co, Coho, Cotu, Gie Trieng, Hre, Khang, Khmer, Khomu, Ma, Mang, M’nong, Odu, Roman, Taoi, Xinhmun, Xodang, and Xtieng )
02. Tay - Thai (Bo Y, Giay, Lao, Lu, Nung, Sanchay, Tay and Thai )
03. Tibeto – Burman (Cong, Hanhi, Lahu, Lolo, Phula and Sila )
04. Malayo - Polynesian (Cham, Churu, Ede, Giarai and Raglai )
05. Viet - Muong (Chut, Kinh, Muong and Tho)
06. Kadai (Co, Lao, Lachi, Laha and Pupeo)
07. Mong - Dao ( Dao, H’mong and Pathen)
08. Han (Hoa, Ngai, and San Diu )
01. 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.
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.
02. 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.
03. 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.
04. 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.
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.
05. 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.
06. 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.
07. 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.
08. 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.
09. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. Dao (Dzao) 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.
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.
15. 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.
16. Giay (Zay) 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.
17. 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.
18. Gie Trieng ethnic group
Name of 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.
19. 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.
Also called U Ni and Xa U Ni, the Ha Nhi have about 12,500 inhabitants settling in the provinces of Lai Chau arc Lao Cai. Ha Nhi language belongs to the Tibet-Burman Group. The Ha Nhi mainly worship their ancestors. They live on rice cultivation of burnt-over land or terraced fields. They are one of the groups who have a traditional experience in reclaiming terraced fields on mountain slopes, digging canals and building small dams. They use ploughs and harrows pulled by oxens and buffaloes to work the fields. The gardens are often close to their houses. Animal husbandry is developed as well as the weaving of cloth, wattling of basketry articles. Most of the Ha Nhi can produce clothes for themselves. Women dress varies depending on the regions. The women of Lai Chau have a decorated dress in raw colours, different from the dress of Lao Cai women which is in indigo colour only.
The Ha Nhi have adopted a sedentary lifestyle. Each hamlet contains 60 house holds. The Ha Nhi consists of many family lineages. Each lineage comprises many branches. Every year, at Tet (New Year's Day), the people of the same lineage gets together to listen to elderly men speaking about their ancestors. Some lineages recall far back their 40 generation ancestors. The children often take the name of the father or name of animal corresponding to their birthdays as their middle names. The young men and women are free to choose their partners. Each marriage goes through two stages. In the first stage, the young man and women become husband and wife. The bride comes to life with her husband's family and takes the family name of the husband according to custom of the Ha Nhi in Lai Chau province. Also in Lai Chau, matriarchy is still observed. The second stage is organized when the couple gets rich or has a child.
Funeral customs vary according to regions, but common practices have prevailed such as when a person dies, the partition making off the bedroom of the deceased is dismantled, as well as the altar to the ancestors. The dead body is placed on a bed in the kitchen and good hours and days must be chosen for burial. To determine the place of burial, an egg is tossed in the air and the grave dug where the egg hit the ground and breaks. There is no cemetery of the whole village. Around the grave, stones are piled up without building a funeral house or a protective fence. Earth grown with grass is refrained from filling up the grave.
The Ha Nhi possess many ancient tales arc stories in long verses. The young men and women play their own dances according to rhythms and accompanied by musical instruments. The young couples used to expose their love by playing leaf panpipe, lip organ and vertical flute. The young girls like to play am ba, met du, tuy huy or nat xi (various kinds of traditional flutes) when night falls. The young boys like to play la khu, a string zither. Besides, the festivals, drums, cymbals and castanets are per- formed. The Ha Nhi also have many songs such as lullabies, duet songs, wedding songs, mourning songs and songs reserved for new houses, receiving guests and welcoming Tet holidays. Particularly, a wedding song of the Ha Nhi in Muong Te district of Lai Chau province is composed by 400 verses.
20. HOA ETHNIC GROUP
Name of ethnic group: Hoa (Han or Tau)
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.
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.