QuoteReplyTopic: A mosaic of ethnicities Posted: 19 May 2010 at 22:50
Both the majority Kinh people and the country's 53 ethnic minority groups derive from three great language families - the Austro-Asiatic, the Austro-Thai and the Sino-Tibetan.
The majority Vi?t language (ti?ng Vi?t) is one of approximately 150 languages belonging to the Austro-Asian language family. However, the classification of ti?ng Vi?t and its upland counterpart Mu?ng within that language family is still the subject of academic debate - some scholars argue that it should be classified as part of the Mon-Khmer language group, while others (including most Vietnamese linguists) maintain that it should be categorised as a separate language group within the Austro-Asian language family, on the same level as Mon-Khmer, Asli, Munda and Nicobar.
The Vi?t-Mu?ng language group/branch is dominated by the Vi?t (or Kinh), who constitute Vi?t Nam's ethnic majority, and their upland cousins the Mu?ng, Vi?t Nam's fourth largest ethnicity, who reside mainly in H�a B�nh and H� T�y provinces to the north and west of H� N?i. The Th? of Ngh? An and Thanh H�a provinces south of H� N?i and the Ch?t of Qu?ng B�nh province in central Vi?t Nam also hail from this ethnicity.
Branches of the Mon-Khmer language group represented in Viet Nam include Eastern Mon-Khmer (Kho-me), Bahnar (Ba-na, Br�u, Gi�-Tri�ng, Cho-ro, Co-ho, Hr�, M?, Sre-M'n�ng, Ro-mam, Xo-dang and Xti�ng), Katu (Bru-V�n Ki?u, Ca-tu, Ta-�i), Khmu (Kh�ng, Kho-m�, O-du, Xinh-mun) and Mang (M?ng). The Kho-me (equivalent to the Khmer of Cambodia) constitute the sixth largest ethnic people in the country and are widely settled throughout the Mekong Delta provinces of the south. The great majority of the other M�n-Khmer ethnicities are settled in the central and southern-central highlands region bordering Cambodia and southern Laos; notable exceptions to this rule are the Kho-m�, Kh�ng, M?ng and Xinh-mun, all of whom reside in the mountainous north west.
Three branches of the Austro-Thai linguistic family are represented in Vi?t Nam - Austronesian (Malay-Polynesian), Hmong-Mien and Tai-Kadai.
The Austronesian or Malay-Polynesian language family is represented by five of Vi?t Nam's ethnic minority groups � the Cham, the Chu-ru, the �-d�, the Gia-rai and the Ra-glai � all of whom hail from an Achinese-Chamic sub-sub-branch of Sundic and are to be found in south-central Vi?t Nam. Perhaps best-known of these are the Cham (or Cham), now settled in the southern coastal provinces of B�nh Thu?n, Ninh Thu?n, Kh�nh H�a, Ph� Y�n and B�nh �?nh, whose ancestors founded the ancient kingdom of Champa. However, more numerous today are their neighbours the Ra-glai and the Chu-ru, and their central highland cousins the �-d� of �?c L?c province and the Gia-rai of Gia Lai and Kon Tum.
The Hmong-Mien group is believed to have migrated from southern China into Vi?t Nam, Laos and northern Thailand only over the last 300 years, and all representatives in Vi?t Nam of its two constituent branches, the H'm�ng and the Mien, are settled exclusively in the north of the country. Of the four H'm�ng language branches found throughout the wider region, three are represented in Vi?t Nam. The White H'm�ng (H'm�ng tr?ng), the Flower or Variegated H'm�ng (H'm�ng hoa) and the Blue or Green H'm�ng (H�m�ng xanh) hail from the Chuanqiandian language group, the Black H'm�ng (H'm�ng den) from the Qiandong language group and the Red H'm�ng (H'm�ng d?) from the Xiangxi language group. The Mien group is represented in Vi?t Nam by the Dao (Yao), all of whom are classified (like their cousins in neighbouring Thailand and Laos) as part of the Iu Mien language group. However, significant dialectical differences exist between major Dao sub-groups such as the Black Dao (Dao den), the Coin Dao (Dai ti?n), the Red Dao (Dao d?), the Tight-trousered Dao (Dao qu?n ch?t) and the White-trousered Dao (Dao qu?n tr?ng).
The H'm�ng and the Dao are Vi?t Nam's eighth and ninth largest ethnic group respectively. The H'm�ng are settled widely across the north of the country but particularly in Son La, �i?n Bi�n, Lai Ch�u, L�o Cai, Tuy�n Quang, Y�n B�i, H� Giang and Cao B?ng Provinces. The Dao are also found widely throughout the mountainous north of Viet Nam, with major pockets of settlement in H�a B�nh, Son La, �i?n Bi�n, Lai Ch�u, L�o Cai, Tuy�n Quang, Th�i Nguy�n, Y�n B�i, H� Giang, B?c C?n, Cao B?ng and L?ng Son Provinces.
The Tai-Kadai group comprises two branches � Kadai or Kam-Tai (C? Lao, La Ch�, La Ha and Pu P�o) and T�y-Th�i (B? Y, Gi�y, L�o, L?, N�ng, S�n Chay, T�y and Black/White Thai). Common ancestors of both branches are known to have migrated from southern China in large numbers during the first millennium CE. Some travelled as far as modern-day Laos and Thailand where they went on to lay the foundations for the powerful kingdoms of Lane Xang (T�y-Th�i) and Sukhothai (Kadai), while others chose to settle en route in the northern mountains of Vi?t Nam. Today the T�y (north east Vi?t Nam), the Black and White Th�i (north-west Vi?t Nam) and the N�ng (north east Vi?t Nam) constitute respectively the second, third and seventh largest ethnic groups in the country after the Kinh.
The Sino-Tibetan linguistic family is represented in Vi?t Nam by two groups. The H�n (Sinitic) language group incorporates the Yunnanese or south west Mandarin-speaking Hoa, Ng�i and S�n D�u ethnicities; and the Lolo-Burmish language group incorporates the Lolo-speaking C?ng, H� Nh�, La H?, L� L�, Ph� L� and Si La ethnicities. The Hoa or ethnic Chinese constitute Vi?t Nam's fifth largest ethnic group, who are nowadays found mainly in H? Ch� Minh City and the surrounding Mekong Delta provinces, though scattered rural Hoa settlements may also be found in many other parts of the country. All other Sino-Tibetan ethnicities are settled exclusively in the north of Vi?t Nam.
Other ethnic groups in Vi?t Nam include a tiny Indian community in H? Ch� Minh City and a small but growing western expatriate population, particularly in H? Ch� Minh City.
Since time immemorial, oral literature has been passed down from generation to generation through the ancient art of storytelling (kể chuyện). A popular diversion for young and old alike at many different types of rural social gathering, this art form also taught morality as well as serving to perpetuate the various proverbs, myths, legends and cosmology associated with particular ethnic groups. Over time there emerged a class of storytellers who learned the ancient tales by heart, eking out a meagre existence by practising their craft whilst travelling from village to village. This tradition is still found today amongst the ethnic groups of the central highlands. Both the Ê-đê and M'nông, for example, preserve a rich corpus of epic stories which are delivered at festival times in marathon 12-hour sessions by village elders charged with keeping the ancient art alive.
Popular singing began without instrumental accompaniment, giving rise to a plethora of solo love songs, nuptual songs, lullabies, work songs, festival songs, eulogies and funeral laments. The forebears of some ethnic communities, such as those of the Mường or the Thổ, subsequently developed a strong tradition of choral singing, whilst images carved into the surface of ancient Đông Sơn drums indicate that the use of percussion and wind instruments - notably pestle and mortar, bronze drum, bronze gong, copper bell and an early version of the mouth organ known as the khèn - had become widespread by the first millennium BCE. Thereafter musical instruments, generally fashioned from natural materials, became an essential complement to vocal music, as well as an important means of musical expression in their own right.
The instrumentarium of the Lạc Việt people of the 1st century BCE, progenitors of the Kinh majority, would have had much in common with that of today's ethnic minority communities who, since time immemorial, have crafted musical instruments with great ingenuity using all kinds of natural materials including stone, wood, gourd, bamboo, animal horn and reed.
Amongst a wide variety of ethnic minority stringed instruments, plucked gourd lutes such as the goong and the ta lư of the central highlands or the tính tảu, ta in and đỉnh dơng of north west Việt Nam are used either for the accompaniment of singing or as solo instruments in their own right, whilst bowed bamboo fiddles such as the cò ke (Mường) or the cửa (Tày) are more often used for ritual purposes, sometimes as part of a small orchestra. Of particular note is the bamboo fiddle known as the k'ni (central highlands), which is distinguished by a thread running from the instrument to the player's mouth, where subtle modulations of the sound can be effected.
Wind instruments are commonly used amongst almost all ethnic groups and range from vertical and transverse bamboo flutes to single and double reed wooden trumpets and buffalo horns. Distinctive to the wider region is a large mouth organ known as the khèn, made up of seven or sometimes eight pairs of bamboo tubes, fitted into a hardwood soundbox. Numerous different designs of khèn may be identified in Việt Nam, the best-known varieties being those of the Lào, Lừ, H'mông and Ê-đê.
Bamboo ideophones are particularly popular in the central highlands. They include a unique instrument generally known by the Xơ-đăng name klông pút, which is played by clapping the hands to push air into a row of bamboo tubes with a view to producing sounds of varying pitch. Both the klông pút and its distant cousin, the large bamboo xylophone known as the đàn t'rưng, became popular in Việt musical circles from an early date and have long been integrated into the Việt instrumentarium.
The ethnic minorities employ a wide variety of percussion instruments ranging from ancient stone lithophones, bronze drums, bronze gongs and wooden drums of every conceivable shape and size to bamboo clappers, chimes, bells and even pestles and mortars. Great ritual significance is attached to the use of bronze drums by the Mường, Khơ mú, Lô Lô and Pu Péo communities of the far north and to the use of bronze gongs by the Mường of north west Việt Nam and the majority of the central highland ethnicities.
A vivid expression of traditional life, folk dance (múa dân gian) originated largely as a celebration of everyday events and pastimes. The range of folk dance preserved amongst Việt Nam's 53 ethnic minorities has undergone constant development down the centuries and currently ranges from the múa xòe (xòe dance) and múa sạp (bamboo pole dance) of the Thái, Lừ and Lào ethnicities, the rơ bam of the Khmer, the múa khèn (khèn dance) and múa ô (umbrella dance) of the H'mông and the múa chuông (bell dance) and múa trống (drum dance) of the Dao to the múa khiên (shield dance) and múa trống (drum dance) of the Ê Đê, the múa bình (vase dance) and múa quạt (fan dance) of the Chăm and the múa sư tử (lion dance) of the Hoa.
Embracing declamation and choreographed movement, ancient shamanistic propitiation rituals and spirit medium dances are today found almost exclusively amongst Việt Nam's ethnic minority groups, many of which still maintain the services of shamans to intercede on their behalf with the world of the spirits. The ceremonies and trance-dances performed to the accompaniment of ritual music by the thày mo of the Mường, Thái and Nùng ethnicities, the thày cúng of the Tày, the chẩu hua of the Lào and the chẩu hô of the Lừ are particularly noteworthy.
The call-and-response dialogue song is performed widely amongst the ethnic groups of Việt Nam, particularly those of the Austro-Asiatic and Sino-Tibetan language families. Most extant versions of this art form - notably the ví đúm of the Mường, the lượn of the Tày, the sli bốc of the Nùng, the khắp of the Thái, Lào and Lừ, the sình ca of the Sán Chay, the ni cô of the La Chí, the vươn of the Giáy and the pả dung of the Dao and Pà Thẻn - take the form of a flirtatious male-female courting game in which boys and girls engage in sung poetic dialogue, testing each others' skills.
Whilst the great majority of ethnic minority crafts are designed purely for functional use in rural society, others continue to be produced for ritual or ceremonial purposes, their aesthetic values being of secondary importance to their key role in propitiating the spirits and bringing individual or collective good health and prosperity.
Spirit propitiation ceremonies associated with certain Tày-Thái ethnic groups of the far north, including the Giáy, Tày, Nùng and Pa Dí, involve the use of ritual images painted or embroidered onto cloth or dó paper using natural colours. Normally kept in the possession of the village shaman, these images are brought out to accompany readings and prayers. Whilst they differ from ethnicity to ethnicity, they generally represent both Taoist and local spirits, serving to teach important moral and spiritual values. In times gone by these ritual images were painted by a class of professional illustrator; regrettably there are now few artists left with the skills to create them.
The Mường, Khơ-mú, Lô Lô and Pu Péo communities of the far north continue to utilise bronze drums in their propitiation ceremonies, though sadly in most areas the art of casting these drums has now died out. In contrast the ritual bronze gongs (cồng, chiêng) utilised by the Mường of north west Việt Nam and the majority of the central highland ethnicities continue to be manufactured widely.
In the central highlands several ethnic groups of Môn-Khmer and Malay-Polynesian origin - notably the Ba-na, Mnông, Xtiêng, Cơ-tu, Brâu, Gia-rai, Ê-đê, Ra-glai and Chu-ru - create elaborately-carved funeral houses decorated with motifs and surrounded by wooden statues or totems. These play an important role in facilitating the passage of the dead to the spirit world.
However, woodcarving is more commonly associated with the production of everyday items, including traps (fishpots, pits, cages), cross bows, spears, bows and arrows, tobacco pipes, bowls, spoons and combs. Certain ethnic communities also preserve the art of creating musical instruments such as lutes, fiddles, flutes, reed trumpets, mouth organs and ideophones, which are manufactured from a variety of natural materials including gourd and bamboo.
The ethnic minorities of Việt Nam are perhaps best known for their handwoven textiles, produced in a great variety of different traditional designs, colours and weaves. Notable examples are the indigo-dyed cloth of the H'mông, Tày and Nùng and the finely worked brocade of the H'mông, Dao, Pà Thẻn, Phù Lá, Hà Nhì, La Hù and Lô Lô of northern Việt Nam and the Gia-rai, Ê-đê, Xtiêng and Cơ-tu of the central highlands.
In the north these colourful costumes are traditionally decorated with copious amounts of silver jewelry. Accordingly, silversmithing is still practised amongst several ethnic groups, notably the H'mông, the Dao, the Thái, the Tày and the Nùng.
Basket weaving is prevalent in many areas and includes the production of numerous artefacts ranging from mats and containers to hats and fish traps. For example, in Hà Tiên, Rạch Giá (Kiên Giang), Vĩnh Châu (Hậu Giang), An Giang and Cà Mau, the ethnic Khmers are famous for their beautifully decorated bowls with lids, open baskets, mats and pouches made of natural or dyed rushes. The Chăm and several central highland ethnicities (Gia-rai, Ê-đê, Xtiêng, Chơ-ro, Ra-glai) are also renowned for their skills in this ancient craft.
Settled predominantly in outlying rural and mountainous districts of the country, Việt Nam's 53 ethnic minority groups live mainly in villages comprising groups of houses constructed traditionally from natural materials.
As elsewhere in South East Asia, ethnic minority architecture generally reflects prevailing topographical and meteorological conditions, indicating the extent to which Việt Nam's ethnic groups have successfully adapted themselves to their natural environment. In lowland districts, for example, houses are often built on stilts; on hillsides half on the ground and half on stilts; and in mountainous flat areas directly onto the ground.
As a very general guideline it may be said that members of the Austro-Asian language family - including the Việt-Mường and various branches of the Môn-Khmer language group (Eastern Mon-Khmer, Bahnar, Katu, Khmu and Mang) - along with the Austronesian (Malay-Polynesian) and Tai-Kadai (Kadai and Tày-Thái) branches of the Austro-Thai linguistic family live in river valleys and on hillsides in stilted or part-stilted houses, whilst mountain-dwellers such as the Hmong-Mien sub-groups of the Austro-Asiatic language family and certain ethnicities of the Sino-Tibetan language family show a preference for houses constructed directly onto the ground in the high plateaux. However, this is no more than a generalisation and many ethnic and regional variations exist.
In some cases members of the same ethnicity living in markedly different surroundings from each other have adopted different architectural styles. For instance, the large stilted houses of the valley-dwelling White-trousered Dao (Dao quần trắng) of Tuyên Quang Province contrast sharply with the small houses built directly onto the ground by upland branches of the Dao family.
Furthermore the architecture of some minority groups reflects the cultural influence of dominant regional ethnicity. In this way, the houses of minor ethnicities living in the immediate vicinity of the Black and White Thái of north west Việt Nam have over the centuries come to resemble Thái-style stilted houses. In the far north too, many ethnicities living in close proximity to the White H'mông of Hà Giang and western Cao Bằng Provinces have copied the design of their unique two-storey houses, whilst in the Việt Bắc (north east) the design of the large Tày and Nùng stilted houses has become popular amongst numerous other ethnic groups.
In recent years the map of ethnic minority architecture has been further complicated by the government's relocation of mountain-dwelling ethnic groups such as the H'mông and Dao to lowland areas with a view to eradicating opium cultivation and encouraging settled agriculture.
The size of an ethnic house is always dependent on the number of its inhabitants; in times gone by long houses built by the Gia-rai and Ê-đê of the central highlands measured hundreds of metres, providing living quarters for several extended families. Today the largest houses measure some 30-40 metres and there is an increasing tendency for families to live in smaller, individual dwellings.
Like the Việt, many central highland ethnicities have a communal house which serves as a place where ritual ceremonies are performed, guests are welcomed and important issues of the village are discussed by elders. The largest of these stilted nhà rông, built by ethnic groups of Môn-Khmer and Malay-Polynesian origin such as the Ba-na, Gia-rai and Xơ-đăng, are characterised by their high ground clearance and tall roofs.
Central highlands ethnicities such as the Ba-na, Mnông, Xtiêng, Cơ-tu, Brâu, Gia-rai, Ê-đê, Ra-glai and Chu-ru are also known for their elaborately decorated funeral houses. Surrounded by wooden statues or totems, these play an important role in facilitating the passage of the dead to the spirit world
Most ethnic minority literature remains oral in nature, although a number of collections have been published over the years.
Perhaps best known are the Black Thái epics Xóng chụ xôn xao and Khun Lú Náng Ủa, part of a valuable Thái literary legacy which embraces everything from histories and legends to riddles and humorous tales. The Tày and Nùng communities of the Việt Bắc developed their own version of the chữ nôm script from an early date and the literary heritage of the Tày in particular is also noteworthy, comprising as it does a range of epic poems (Nam Kim-Thị Đan, Lương Quân Bioóc Rốm), histories (Nùng Trí Cao, Nùng Văn Vân) and ancestral myths (Pú Luông-Già Cải), some of which date back to the 16th century. Folk tales and legends from both the Mường and the Dao ethnic minorities have also been preserved and published.
Six ethnic groups of Tây Nguyên (the central highlands) - the Malay-Polynesian Ê-đê, Ra-glai, Gia-rai and Ba-na and the Môn-Khmer Xơ-đăng and M'nông - preserve a rich corpus of oral literature. These include the epic poems of the Ê-đê (Đam San, Đăm Kteh Mlan, Sing Nhã, Đam Di, Khing Juh, Đăm Thih), the Ra-glai (Uya Yuhea) and the Xơ-đăng (Dăm Giông), but perhaps best known is the Ốt N'Rông, a 30,000-verse M'nông epic discovered in 1988 which surpasses the Ramayana, the Odyssey and even the Iliad in size. A 21 billion VNĐ (cUS$1.3 million) project launched in 2001 by the Việt Nam Academy of Social Sciences aims to survey, collect, document, translate, archive and publish the oral literature of the central highlands before it is lost.
In recent years the ethnic minority communities have produced numerous contemporary writers of note. Foremost amongst Việt Nam's ethnic minority poets are Lò Văn Mười (b 1913, Thái ethnic group), Bàn Tài Đoàn (b 1913, Dao ethnic group), Cầm Biêu (b 1920, Thái ethnic group), Nông Quốc Chấn (b 1923, Tày ethnic group), Hoàng Nó (b 1925, Thái ethnic group), Nông Viết Toại (b 1926, Tày ethnic group), Lương Quý Nhân (1926-1996, Thái ethnic group), Lò Văn Cậy (b 1928, Thái ethnic group), Y Điệng (b 1928, Ê-đê ethnic group), Hùng Đình Quý (b 1938, H'mông ethnic group), Vương Trung (b 1938, Thái ethnic group), Nay Nô (b 1942, Gia Rai ethnic group), Lò Ngân Sủn (b 1945, Giáy ethnic group), Pờ Sảo Mìn (b 1946, Pa Dí ethnic group), Y Phương (Hứa Vĩnh Sước, b 1948, Tày ethnic group) and Inrasara (Phú Trạm, b 1957, Chăm ethnic group). The ethnic minority communities have also produced a handful of important prose writers, including Nông Minh Châu (1924-1979, Tày ethnic group), Ma Trường Nguyên (b 1944, Tày ethnic group) and Linh Nga Niêk Đăm (b 1948, Ê-đê ethnic group).
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