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The Cham Ethnic Group

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    Posted: 05 May 2010 at 17:25
Other name: Cham, Chiem, Chiem Thanh Cham Pa, Hoi, etc
Local groups: Cham Hroi, Cham Poong, Cha Va Ku and Cham Chau Doc.
Population: 98,971 people
Language: Cham language belongs to the Malyo-Polynesian language family.
History: The Cham, who have lived along the coast of central Vietnam for a long time, possess a rich culture profoundly influenced by Indian culture. Until the 17th century, the Cham had successfully maintained their own nation, known as Cham Pa. The local population is composed of two groups: those living in Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan believing in Brahmanism, with a smaller group following Bani (old Islam). Those residing in Chau Doc, Tay Ninh, Dong Nai and House Chi Minh City follow what is referred to as new Islam.
Production activities: The Cham have a tradition of wet rice cultivation. They are experienced in intensive farming and gardening and use irrigation. Apart from wet rice cultivation, the Cham also cultivate an annual crop of rice on dried swidden fields located on the mountainsides. Meanwhile the economy of the Cham living in the South is characterized by fishing, agriculture, textile weaving and small-scale enterprise. Handicrafts are fairly well-developed, especially silkworm textiles and handmade pottery wares that are baked in open kilns. The Cham engaged early on in external trade with other population, as the central coast used to be a busy hub for commercial transactions by famous merchant ships.
Diet: The Cham eat rice cooked in large and small earthen pots. It is often accompanied by fish, meat and bulb vegetables, which are obtained from hunting, gathering, husbandry and agricultural production. Popular drinks are rice and can (pipe) wines. Betel chewing is very important to people’s daily life and traditional rituals.
Clothing: Both men and women wear long one-piece sarongs or cloth wrappers. Men wear shirts fastened down the center with buttons, while women wear long-sleeved pullover blouses. The main color of their daily dress is cotton white. Nowadays, the Cham dress like the Viet in other parts of central Vietnam, with long-sleeved blouses which is only worn by elderly women.
Lifestyle: The majority of Cham live in Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan. They build their houses on the ground, with the rooms being arranged according to a particular order: the sitting room, rooms for the parents, children, and married women, the kitchen and warehouse (including the granary), and the nuptial room of the youngest daughter.
Transportation: Te chief means of transporting goods and produces is the back-basket. The Cham are also expert boat builders, which serves river and sea fishing. They also make heavy-weight buffalo carts for transporting large quantities of goods by land.
Social organization: The Cham family is traditionally matriarchal, though in the past Cham society was a feudal one. In areas where people follow Islam, the family structure may be somewhat patriarchal, although traces of matriarchal still exist in family relationships and ancestors worship. The local population was originally divided into two major family lineages, including Cau and Dua, such as the Nie and Mlo of Ede then became a working class, while the Dua was the class of aristocracy and priests. Under each lineage were the mother-governed sub-lineages, always headed by an aged woman, of the youngest lineage. The lineages can have numerous family branches. The ancient Cham society also set out ranks for different social classes, including that of the ancient Indian society. The social classes lived in different areas, and there were certain barriers between them that prevented cross-marriage, co-existence in the same village, eating from a shared tray of food.
Marriage:  Cham women take the initiative in marriages. The couple lives with the wife’s family, and children are named after the family name of the mother. Wedding gifts are prepared by the bride’s family. Monogamy is a principle of all marriages.
Funerals: Cham traditions have two forms of sending the deceased to the world beyond: burial and cremation. Brahmanists often cremate the deceased according to their religious principles, while other Cham bury their loves ones. Members of the same family lineage are buried in the same place as their mother.
Building a New House: the Cham living in Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan believe that they have to perform certain religious rituals before the building of a new house, particularly praying for the land’s god and asking for his permission to cut down trees in the forest. A ritual is also held to receive the trees when they are transported to the village. A ground-breaking ceremony called phat moc is also held.
Festivals:  Various agricultural rites are performed each year. These include ceremonies for the opening of a canal and embankment, for young rice, for the appearance of paddy ears. The most important event, called Bon Kate, is held by the Cham towers in the tenth moth of the lunar year.
Calendar: The Cham make their agricultural schedule based on the lunar calendar. Education: The Cham developed their own writing system early. Many literary works written on stelae and ancient manuscripts are still preserved today. The Cham script is based upon Sanskrit, but its use is limited to the upper classes of the aristocracy and priests. Instruction and professional training is essentially transmitted orally and by memorization.
Artistic activities: Among the more striking Cham musical instruments are their drums with leather drum heads, called Paranung, cylindrical drums, and the xaranai clarinet. Cham folk songs and ancient Cham music have influenced considerably the music and folk songs of the Viet people in the central parts of Vietnam, particularly cylindrical drum music, songs relating sad or tragic stories, and traditional songs of Hue. Traditional Cham dances are also found in the important annual event of Ban Kate held by the Cham towers.
Games: Children are font of games such as kite flying, mock combats, flag seizing, hide and seek, etc.
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