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The Dao Ethnic Group

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    Posted: 05 May 2010 at 17:26

Proper name: Kim Mien, Kim Mun (jungle people)
Other names: Man
Population: 473,945 people
Local groups: Dao Do or Red Dao (Dao Coc ngang, Dao sung, Dao Du lay, Dao Dai Ban), Dao Quan Chet or Dao with tied or belted trousers. (Dao Son Dau, Dao Tam Dao, Dao Nga Hoang, Du Cun), Dao Lo gang (Dao Thanh phan, Dao Coc Mun), Dao Tien or Dao with silver coins or money (Dao Deo tien, Dao Tieu ban), Dao Quant rang or Dao with white trousers (Dao House), Dao Thanh Y or Dao with blue vest, Dao Lan Ten (Dao Tuyen, Dao Ao dai or Dao with long tunics).
Language: The Dao language belongs to the language family of Hmong-Dao.
History: Dao people originally came from China, immigrating between the 12th or 13th century and the early 20th century. They claim themselves descendants of Ban House (Ban vuong), a famous and holy legendary personality.

Production activities:  Dao communities cultivate swidden fields, rocky hollows, and wet -rice paddies. These cultivation activities play a dominant role among different groups and areas. Dao Quan Trang (white trousers) people, Dao Ao Dai (long tunic) and Dao Thanh Y (blue clothes) specialize in wet-rice cultivation. Dao Do (Red Dao) people mostly cultivate in rocky hollows. Other Dao groups are nomadic, others are settled agriculturists. Popular crops are rice, corn and vegetables, such as gourds, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes. They raise buffaloes, cows, pigs, chickens, horses, goats in the middle regions of mountains and highland areas.
            Cotton farming and weaving are popular among the Dao groups. They prefer garments dyed indigo. Most village wards have forge kilns serving for farming tools repairing. In some places, people make matchlock and flint-lock rifles and cast-iron bullets. The silversmith trade, handed down through generations, mostly produces necklaces, earrings, rings, silvers chains, and betel nut boxes.
            Dao Do (Red Dao) and Dao Tien (Coin or Money) groups are well-known makers of traditional paper. The paper is used when writing history, story and song books, when making petitions, when sending money for funeral services, and on other occasions. Other Dao groups are noted for pressing certain fruits to extract oils which they use to illuminate their lamps. Sugarcane is also refined.
Diet: Dao people have two main meals a day-lunch and dinner. Breakfast is eaten only during the busy harvesting season. The Dao eat mostly rice. However, in some places, people eat corn or soup instead of rice. Popular rice meal is made of wood and bamboo. Mortars are divided into several types, such as pillar-shaped mortars or water sprout mortars, with rice-pounding pestles controlled by hands or feet or by water power. The Dao prefer boiled meat, dried or sour mixed meat and sour bamboo shoot soup. When eating is finished, the Dao have a tradition that they never put down the chopsticks on the bowl because it signifies that there is a death in the family. Dao people usually drink distilled alcohol. In some places, they drink a kind of local wine, having a slightly sour and hot taste. Dao people smoke cigarettes or locally grown tobacco with pipes.
Clothing: In the past, men had long hair with chignon or top tuft, with the rest shaved smoothly. Different groups have different types of head-scarves and ways of wearing them. They wear short or long shirts.
            Dao women’s clothes are diverse. They usually wear a long blouse with a dress or trousers. Their clothes are colorfully embroidered. When embroidering, they create designs based on their memories. They embroider on one side of the cloth so that the design is seen on the other side. They have several designs such as the letter “van”, the pine tree, animals, birds, humans, and leaves. Their method of creating batik garment is unique. They put the batik stylus or pen into hot bee’s wax and then draw the design onto the cloth. The portion of the cloth receiving the waxed patterns resists the indigo blue dyeing a cloth of beautiful blue and white patterns.
Housing: Many Dao communities are found about half-way up most of the northern mountainous regions. However, there are several Dao groups that live in valleys, such as the Dao Quan Trang (white trousers), as well as high-mountain dwellers like the Dao Do (Red Dao). Wards and houses are scattered around. There are a variety of architectural styles, as some Dao build their houses directly on the ground while others build them on stilts. Some Dao houses combine both these elements.
Transportation: Dao people in highland areas use black baskets with two straps to transport goods and produce. Those living in the lower elevantor carry goods with a pair of containers suspended on each end of a carrying pole that rests on the shoulders. Cotton bags or net bags or net back-packs are preferred here.
Social organization: Village relationships are essentially regulated by parentage or by being neighbors. The Dao people have many family surnames, the most popular being Ban, Trieu. Each lineage or each branch possesses its own genealogical register and a system of different middle names to distinguish people of different generations.
Birth: Dao women give birth to their children in the seated position, and usually in the bedroom. The newborn is given a bath with hot water. The family of the expectant mother usually hangs green tree branches or banana flowers in front of their door to prevent evil spirit from doing harm to the baby. When the baby is three days old, they celebrate a ritual in honor of the mother.
Marriage: Boy and girl who want to get married must have their dates of birth compared and consult with a diviner who interprets their future in a ritual using chicken legs to see if they are a compatible match. During the course of the marriage ceremony, the Dao have the custom of stretching a piece of string in front of the procession, or exchanging songs between the couple’s families before entering the house. When the bride comes to the groom’s house, she is carried on his back, and she must step over a pair of blessed scissors when crossing the threshold into the husband’s home.
Funerals: A men called thay tao plays an important role in the funeral. When there is a death in the family, the deceased’s children will have to invite him to supervise the rituals and fine a piece of land for the grave. Care is taken so that the corpse will not be laid out at the same time someone in the family has been born. The deceased, who may be wrapped in a mat, is placed in the coffin inside the home. Then it is carried to the grave. The grave is built of earth and lined with stones. In some Dao areas, the body is cremated if the deceased is older than 12 years old of age. Funeral rituals celebrated to ensure that the deceased rests in peace may take place mane years after the burial. The ceremony usually coincides with initiation rites (cap sac) for a Dao man of the family. The celebration takes place over the course of three days. The first day liberates the spirit of the deceased, and is likened to a break from jail. On the second day, the deceased is worshiped in the house. Then, on the last day, the man’s initiation rite takes. At this point, a particular rite returns the deceased’s spirit to its homeland, Duong Chau.
Building a New House: the age of different members of the family must be considered before a new house is built. This is especially true in the case of the age of the head of the household. The Dao ritual for selecting the land for a new house is considered very important. It takes place at night and involves digging a hole as big as a bowl, arranging grains of rice to represent people, cows, buffaloes, money, rice, and property. And this is placed into the bowl. Based on the dreams that follow in the night, the family will know whether it is good to build the house. The next morning, the family inspects the hole to see if the rice remains and if it is possible to build the house.
Beliefs: Dao religious beliefs include traditional practices and agricultural rituals mixed with elements of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Ban vuong is considered the earliest ancestor of the Dao people, so he is worshiped together with the ancestors of the family. In Dao tradition, all grown-up men must pass an initiation rite, cap sac, which expresses the traits of Taoism and the ancient rituals.
Calendar: Dao people use the lunar calendar for all of their activities.
Education: In most wards, people know Han nom (Chinese) characters and the Dao language. Instruction is necessary for reading the ritual texts, folktales and poems.
Artistic activities: The Dao have a rich folk literature and arts with old stories, songs and verse. The Gourd and the Flood Disaster and the Legend of Ban vuong are particularly popular Dao stories. Dancing and music are performed mostly in religious rituals.
Games: Dao people like playing swings, spinning top, and walking on stilts.

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