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The Sandiu Ethnic Group

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    Posted: 05 May 2010 at 17:19

Proper name: San Deo Nhin (or Son Dao Nhan)
Other names: Trai, Trai Dat, Man quan coc (which means “man-in-shorts”), Man vay xe (“man in split cloth”).
Population: 93,530 people
History: The Sandiu migrated to Vietnam about 300 years ago.
Production activities: The Sandiu cultivate more on dry fields and less on submerged fields. Apart from their common crops such as rice, maize and manioc, they also grow many kinds of root plants. The Sandiu have long used manure to fertilize the soil. Thanks to an extra blade, their ploughshares are much shaper and, thus, more suitable for cultivating the tough and gravelly land of the Sandiu region.
Diet: The Sandiu mainly eat ordinary rice, often mixed with sweet potatoes and manioc. After meals, they like to have watery porridge of a type also enjoyed by the Nung.
Clothing: The traditional costume of the Sandiu women includes a black shawl and a long blouse with single or double layers. If a double-layered blouse is worn, there is a white shorter blouse inside the indigo-colored outer blouse, a red brassiere and a white, pink or blue belt. Their dress is made from two separate laps connected in one hem; its length stretches to the knees. It is dyed indigo while the waist-band is white in color. Sandiu jewelry for women is comprised of a necklace, bracelet, earrings and the silvery sa tich. Sandiu men’s costume is much like the Viet’s style: traditionally, they wind their hair on the top of the head, and wear turbans, black ao dai (traditional long dress), and white pantaloons. 
Lifestyle: The Sandiu mainly live in the midlands in the northern region, from the left-bank of the Red River to the east. Their villages are similar to Viet villages, often surrounded by bamboo rows and fences between houses. They live in cottages with earthen or plank walls.
Transportation: Apart from using their shoulders to carry things, they also use the no-wheel carts as a means of transporting goods. This cart is made of bamboo and wood, drawn on sled ties by buffaloes and used for transporting everything from rice to fire-wood, to manure. Because the cart does not have wheels, it operates well on a variety of terrains.
Social organization: Before the August Renovation in 1945, land and fields had been privatized and social classes was clearly defined. Landlords and rich peasants occupied most of the land and fields and exploited peasants and farmers though renting land, hiring labor, and charging high interest loans. In addition to the administrative government, each village has a chief elected by the people to govern public affairs.
Marriage: Boys and girls are given the freedom to love, but their marriage also depends on their “destiny” and on their parents’ final decisions.
            There are many rites in a Sandiu wedding ceremony. Most notably, there is often a ceremony called le khai hoa tuu (opening ceremony of the flower liquor) at the home or the girl’s family. People prepare a bottle of wine and a dish on which two pieces of paper flowers are put – the white flower is put under the red one which rests on top. Two boiled eggs are put on the dish, threaded with red string and tied with two coins on either ends. After worshiping, the shells of the boiled eggs are taken off and their yolk is mixed with the wine for a drink toasting the couple.
Funerals: When the dead body is lowered into the grave, his or her children standing at the foot of the coffin should crawl around the grave. The boys should do it from the left, and the girls do it in the opposite direction. They should be pushing the soil into the grave while crawling. When they stand up, each one will take a handful of soil and run fast towards their homes and put he soils into the buffalo pens and pigsties with the hope that the cattle and animals will grow quickly. Then they will also run into their houses, and sit in a rice basket in belief that those whose have lots of rice sticking to their bodies will be the lucky ones. Finally, each person tears a piece from a boiled chicken to eat. The eldest will get the cockscomb and those next in line receive the head, neck, and wings.

The grave house is often flat-roofed structure covered with forest leaves. In an exhumation ceremony, the bones of the deceased are put in a small earthenware coffin or a big jar and arranged in a sitting manner. If a fortunate day has yet to be selected beforehand, the dead will be re-buried at the foot of a hill or on a field bank.
New house: When a person or a family builds a house, relatives and villagers are willing to come and help out without being asked to do so. To celebrate a new house, the house owner should invite an elder in the lineage to bring fire, a lime pot and seeds into the house.
Beliefs: Usually three incense bowls are put on the altar to worship ancestors, the shaman and the Kitchen God. If the host is not initiated, there will be only two incense bowls. An incense bowl is also put on the altar but at a lower level to worship the dead. In addition, the Sandiu also worship earth spirits at joss houses and the village’s tutelary god at shrines.
Festivals: The Sandiu also celebrate different festivals like other groups in their regions. In particular, the winter Tet season expresses their hopes for many descendants. Couples who do not have a child long after their marriage will move to live at the parents’ house after the Tet festival. The husband, then, will send a middle man to ask his wife back and they will hold a brand new wedding ceremony.
Calendar: The Sandiu respect the lunar calendar.
Education: In the past, young people learned Chinese to become ritual specialists, but few know Chinese today.
Artistic activities: Like other groups, Sandiu couples also sing alternating songs at night, which they call soong co. Some performances last for several nights.

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