Visitors to Mau Son Mount in Lang Son Province have the unique opportunity to discover the colorful customs of the local Dao ethnic minority.
There are three ethnic minorities in Mau Son: Dao, Tay and Nung, of which the Dao account for 98 percent. From past to present, the Dao in Mau Son, a commune near the border with China have clung tightly to their cultural identity.
Series “Dao People’s Lifestyle in Mau Son” by lensman Nguyen Son Tung, a Lang Son Province resident, vibrantly depicts the mountainous Dao lifestyle.
The Dao eat breakfast and dinner at home while lunching in the fields. Their staple is rice, including glutinous rice, cooked in varying forms.
Mills are used to pound rice and stone mortars for corn. Rice is usually made into porridge while corn is broken into small pieces and cooked with rice, made into porridge or baked into cakes.
Meat, cured and strung along the ceiling, is typically served with leaves from the exotic Chinese sweet gum tree.
Harvested corn is kept in the attic to avoid termites and are infused with kitchen smoke, affording them a golden glint and signature taste.
Customary female attire includes a long black dress embroidered with colorful patterns and decorated with silver stars and beads. A silver pendant is also worn on the side.
Colorful local fabric often depicts birds and pine trees.
“The use of traditional clothing for every day use remains common, though mainly among the elderly. It is worrying that fewer and fewer artisans know how to embroider, weave and make traditional garments. Materials are also growing increasingly scarce,” Tung said.
Dao men usually wear a simple black shirt with a scarf with colorful tassels. Wide pants are held up by a hemp rope. A turban or scarf usually serve as a hat.
Traditional weddings will see songs of love resound to the accompaniment of a Pi le trumpet welcoming the bride.
Usually, the groom’s family collects the bride in the early morning. Departing, the bride wears traditional clothing, which is changed before she enters the groom’s house.
The traditonal Pi le trumpet is used during rituals for the rice god and forest god, during weddings, and over Tet (Lunar New Year festival). Its sound represents the spiritual communication between heaven and earth, mountains and forests, loved ones, as well as children and their parents.
The trumpet consists of a mouthpiece, pipe and bell, capable of producing 72 different melodies.
Most Dao families worship their ancestors up to the ninth generation, including their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Ancestor worship occurs during funerals, tomb visits, full moon in seventh lunar month, Lunar New Year festival, and other rituals.
The Dao are originally farmers, and pray to the god of agriculture to bless their harvests.
During funerals, the Dao believe a dead person’s soul returns to its roots among the ancestors. To facilitate this journey, a ‘dry ritual’ is performed at home, one month after burial.