Proper name: Bru, according to some researchers.
Other names: Bru and Van Kieu
Population: 40,132 people
Local groups: Van Kieu, Tri, Khua and Ma Cong.
Language: The Bru language belongs to the Mon-Khmer
language group (of the Austroasiatic language family), which is close
to languages spoken by the Tay
Oi and Cotu people. A new Bru writing
system is now emerging, which uses Latin transcription. Some
vocabulary and phrases are different between certain sub-groups.
History: The Bru are believed to be the most permanent residents in the Truong Son
Production activities: The Bru live mainly on swidden
fields, using simple tools such as the axe, the cutlass, and the rice
harvesting knife. They practice slash-and-burn agriculture, using a
digging stick to make holes in the ground for sowing seeds. Weeding and
rice harvesting are done by hand. Multi-crop and rotating cast crops
are grown each year between March and October. Apart from paddy, the
Bru also grow manioc, gourd,
banana, egg-plant, pineapple, sweet potato, etc. Forests and streams
are the two main sources for additional food and other benefits. Almost
every family raises buffalo (later cows), pigs, chickens, and dogs.
Local handicrafts are less developed. Meanwhile, the Bru engage in
barter trade primarily with the Viet people as well as with Laotians.
Diet: The Bru-Van Kieu enjoy eating roasted meat. Soup
usually made with a combination of vegetables, rice, and fish or frog
meat. For everyday meals, ordinary rice is often eaten with the hands.
On special occasions, sticky rice is cooked in a fresh bamboo tube.
Unboiled water and can (pipe) wine are the most popular drinks
(although nowadays distilled spirit is becoming more and more popular).
Men and women smoke cigarettes and pipes made from earth or the le
plant (a sort of bamboo shoot)
Clothing: According to Bru customs, the men wear loin
cloths and the women wear dresses with a sleeves blouse or pullover.
The Bru buy textiles from Laos. Dressing in the style of the Viet
people is becoming more and more popular, with cloth wrappers still
being worn. In the past, people used to make clothing from the fibre of
tree bark. People adorn themselves with chains, necklaces, and
earrings. Formerly, Bru men and women wore their hair wrapped in a bun
or chignon on the top of their
heads. For an unmarried girl, the chignon of a married woman is
generally at the center top of the head.
Lifestyle: The Bru-Van Kieu live in the Truong Son-Tay
Nguyen region in the west of Quang Tri, Thua Thien_Hue and Quang Binh.
Each village is a residential community. Each family owns a house,
built on stilts, with the heart and kitchen placed on the ground level.
The Bru-Van Kieu avoid sleeping in a direction
that is across the width of the house, in the sub-groups of Tri, Khua
and Ma Coong, the house is divided into smaller bedrooms for the aged
Transportation: The Bru uses many kinds of woven
back-baskets, with the straps being tied around the shoulders of the
carrier. The multi-purpose back-basket and the carrier inseparable like
the human body and its shadow.
Social organization: Villagers, who are of different
family lineages, live in harmony, with land plots (even fallow land)
being divided for each family. The eldest person in the village plays
an important role in the village’s life. The gap between the rich and
the poor is increasing, but there is little difference in the standard
of living at the village level. Valuables are counted in gongs, pots,
cooking pots and buffalo, etc. Human exploitation or servitude is
Marriage: Traditionally, the bride is brought to her
husband and the wedding is organized by the bridegroom’s family.
Customary wedding gifts are the sword and a bronze cooking pot. After
the wedding, and once the couple has sufficient economic resources,
they hold a “second wedding” called Khoi ceremony, where the
wife is officially regarded as a member of her husband’s family.
According to the customs, cross-marriages within a family lineage is encouraged, such as between the
aunt’s son and the uncle’s daughter, between the widow and her dead
husband’s brother, and vice versa. In addition, if a woman in lineage A
is betrothed to a man in linage B, lineage B is no longer able to offer
women in marriage to men of lineage A.
Birth: Pregnant women must abstain from eating the meat
of hunted animals and from walking over a tree log that lies across
the road. Bru women usually deliver at home, helped by a mid-wife. The
baby is named after three months; the name must nor coincide with the
names of the dead members of the family, but only bear a similarity in
sound or syllable.
Funerals: According to Bru customs, the dead person is
placed across the house floor, with the feet pointing to the windows.
In the sub-groups of Khua and Marriage Coong, the deceased is laid
along the floor, with the feet pointing to the main door. The funeral
is often held two or three days later, and the deceased is buried at
the village’s common graveyard. The coffin, made of a kind of soft
wood, has a cover. In the past, the deceased used to be wrapped in bark
or a bamboo-woven sheet. The burial place is determined by dropping an
egg onto the place, which is acceptable if the egg breaks. Before the
burial, food is put into the deceased’s mouth, and the deceased is
buried together with plenty pf personal belongings, food, and the seeds
of cane, corn, and Indian taro, etc.
Beliefs: The Bru attach great importance to ancestor
worship. They believe that the embodiments of their dead love one’s
souls exist in such objects as a fragment of a pot or a bowl. Etc. in
some places, people believe in the god of their own fortunes: each
member of the family has a bowl to his or her own fate, placed on a
common altar. People also believe in various Yang (God) such as
god of paddy plants, and mountain, the land and earth, the river, the
tree and the kitchen, etc. the genie or protective spirit of the wife’s
family is also worshipped by the husband-in-law.
Festivals: The Bru perform different rituals in an
attempt to harvest bumper crops. These rites are connected to specific
stage of agricultural production, such as clearing the field, sowing the seeds, and harvest. Sowing
seeds, in particular, is organized as major festivals of the village.
The life of a Bru is accompanied by serials of rituals: birth,
sickness, marriage, death…The most important event is the buffalo
sacrificing ceremony. Tet is celebrated in villages at different times,
usually after the rice has been harvested and threshed.
Calendar: their calendar is made based on the position
of them moon. The Bru identify days of good luck (the 4th, 7th, 9th of
the lunar month) and bad luck (30th and 1st of the lunar month). Each
year, the agricultural calendar adopted by the Bru comprises 10 months,
followed by holidays, before entering into the next crop cycle.
Artistic activities: The Bru preserve a large number of
old tales about the origin of local family lineages, peoples, and
orphans, etc. Folk singing is popular, such as Oat (alternative
chants between men and women); Prdoak, songs of greetings; Xuot,
songs of public occasions; Roai tol, Roai trong, sad
sung stories; and Adang kon, the lullaby. When there are
burials and buffalo sacrifice festivals, songs are often accompanied by
dances. The most popular musical
instruments are: gongs, drums, string
instruments (achung, plua, talu), and wind instruments
(aman, taral, kho lui and pi), etc.