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PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2004 12:33 pm 
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Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2003 2:32 am
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Location: Vietnam
H A G I A N G - NORTHERN VIETNAM

IN SEARCH OF TAI PEOPLE


We almost sneaked out, eight of us, each an experienced and hardy traveler, each ready to accept the hardship that was obviously for us in store. Having seen the different Tai People living in Laos, Yunnan and in Vietnam in the Nghe An and Dien Bien Phu area’s we still had to explore Ha Giang in Northern Vietnam, a more mountainous and isolated region. Traveling in a restricted area, close to the Chinese border is not easy. Border police is everywhere and indeed aware of what we were doing. Heavy rains blocked us at crucial moments and the ensuing mud made the going sometimes impossible. Sleeping in a room without windows during nightly downpours seemed just a minor incident. And on our way home we even had to handle a totally collapsed bridge in it’s own way! But in spite of all these calamities we cached a glimpse of the daily life of some fascinating people. People who managed to keep their own traditions in place, who still live their shielded village life and wear their traditional clothes while walking on the roads and working in the fields.

The Tai people living in this region are known as Nung, Tay and Zay. They are easily recognized by the strange way they knot their head-cloth on their head. Their clothes are made of dark blue indigo, often just a pair of trousers with a long-coat or short top. The Tai People know how to choose their settlement and here in Ha Giang province that was very visible. As everywhere the Tai are living close to the river to feed their rice-paddies; the typical Tai waterwheels were here as well and behind the village the protective mountains. Their houses on stilts, their legendary friendliness and their language made it clear that the people were Tai. But the looms were missing, suggesting the Tai here in Ha Giang do buy their textiles in the markets.

While the Tai were living in the river-valleys, the people surrounding them were living higher up in the mountains. We had to walk sometimes to their villages to meet them and again and again we were charmed by their hospitality and the colorful spectacle of their outfits. It was overwhelming to see so many different people, who invited us into their houses and who were more than willing to sell their tribal products. It is always so contradictory as you really love to buy these wonderful items, but you know that at the same time it will destroy their culture. For them the money is sometimes badly needed, and creating a new outfit or headdress is time consuming. The markets in these border area’s are flooded with Chinese goods to replace the traditional gear, and a cotton scarf with red or green checks will often replace the more traditional one.

We saw so many different groups, the Shanzi, Red Dzao, Dzao with Coins, the White-Trouser Dzao, the Long-dressed Dzao, the Lolo, Hmong, White Hmong, the Phathen that it is almost impossible to say which ones we liked to best. But of course some of them managed to charm us more.

A group we really enjoyed meeting were the Lantien Shanzi. We walked up to their village, and before we realized what was happening a whole bunch of women were surrounding us and they were as curious as we to figure out what was going on. It was one of those meetings with that typical female intimacy, when both parties are absolutely at ease with each other.
Although they were wearing the same dark blue jacket and trousers, there were actually two different kind of headdresses, one black and red that was covering a whole series of silver hairpins set in a circle on the head and a white one with a dark blue field in the center, attached to a silver plate at the back of the head. Somehow with two big ‘matches’ the whole thing was attached to the braids.

The Lolo, a Tibetan-Burman group, divided into the Flowery Lolo and the Black Lolo were probably the most attractive due to their stunning outfits. The Flowery Lolo wear a dark indigo costume that is entirely decorated with red patches. It consists of a jacket, a pair of trousers, a kind of wrap-around skirt and a head-cloth with pompons. Yes, many of us bought something from these people, it was too beautiful to resist.
The spectacular Black Lolo wear black trousers and a short top with decorated sleeves, a black headdress knotted on their head, topped often by a flat straw head decorated at the inside with pieces of glass. And they all have a necklace of white beads.

At the end of the trip we met the Phathen, a group belonging to the Mien family. We reached the village in the early evening, around dinnertime. Everything seemed quiet, as if nobody knew we were coming. We were offered some water in those tiny cups and some major activity was started up. Announcements were made, tables were set, glasses for the rice wine filled up and we had dinner with the village heads and their families. More and more people showed up, glasses were filled up again and again, hands were shaken, and again more rice wine was offered. So much food was prepared, but there was no time to eat, we had to shake hands and drink wine with each and every person in the village. We were getting a little giggling, but there was no escape, as honored guests we were supposed to drink and shake hands! More and more young women showed up, all dressed in their tradition dress, an orgy of red colors, ribbons and hats. These young girls saved us, as they provided us with the opportunity to escape the rice-wine and take pictures. It was exhausting, but we were thrilled to get it all done before the show, where we had to perform as well.
Highlight of the evening was the ‘fire-dance’. The shaman was assisting some men to enter a trance and when the fire was burning hot, the flames shooting up high, these men jumped into the fire and really danced. Seconds maybe, they rolled over the burning branches, when they were taken away they jumped again into the fire. And then it was all over, the shaman gone, the fire dead, and the men who danced in the fire had their pictures taken. We scrutinized them, but no burning wounds could be seen. They seemed relaxed, while we were relieved.

Our Search of Tai People brought us to a fascinating area, with lovely people in wonderful outfits. Yes, they were more attractive than the Tai, but maybe we should have another trip to study these Tai in more detail. What a wonderful excuse to travel up to Ha Giang again.

Next adventure: In search of Tai ( Taideang) in Thanh Hoa
and Tay, Nung Dzao in Tuyen Quang.

www.discoveryindochina.com


Last edited by Zoom on Thu Jun 03, 2004 12:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 02, 2004 9:26 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:42 pm
Posts: 1989
Location: Canterbury, UK
Zoom

Thank you very much indeed for sharing with us in such a vivid way the story of your journey in Ha Giang. Do you have any photo images that you can share to fill in the details of the clothing you describe?

By the way, I emailed you and sent you a private message on the forum (which is still sitting there waiting to be read) back in January! So glad that you have come back to share with us on the forum.

Please email me when you have a moment

best wishes,

_________________
Pamela

http://www.tribaltextiles.info
on-line tribal textiles resource


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 03, 2004 12:20 am 
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Joined: Tue Jul 01, 2003 4:52 am
Posts: 162
Location: California, USA
Hi Zoom,

Glad to see you back. After all, you have retained your title of the Honorary Pedant of the Tribal Textiles.Info Forum!

What can you share about the Dao?

Sandie


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 03, 2004 12:32 pm 
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Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2003 2:32 am
Posts: 7
Location: Vietnam
Sandra Shamis wrote:
Hi Zoom,

Glad to see you back. After all, you have retained your title of the Honorary Pedant of the Tribal Textiles.Info Forum!

What can you share about the Dao?

Sandie


Quote:
Hi Sandie:

I'm a bit few feet of the groud for such a long time. I'm on and on to different conners
- took lot of photos, and bumpered into intriquing textiles of a dozen tribal groups. Had a few tribal stuffs including a White Trousered Dzao outit, a man shirt of Dzao Tanpan, and bridal wear with hats of Dzao with long trouser, a headcloths of flower Lolo with beautiful tightdyed pattern and pompom - we missed the initiation of Dzao with Coin as the local police showed up and kept the event on next adventure!

Will be something about Dzao for you.

Cheers,
Dzung



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 03, 2004 12:39 pm 
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Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2003 2:32 am
Posts: 7
Location: Vietnam
Pamela wrote:
Zoom

Thank you very much indeed for sharing with us in such a vivid way the story of your journey in Ha Giang. Do you have any photo images that you can share to fill in the details of the clothing you describe?

By the way, I emailed you and sent you a private message on the forum (which is still sitting there waiting to be read) back in January! So glad that you have come back to share with us on the forum.

Please email me when you have a moment

best wishes,


Quote:
Dear Pamela:

I'm back! Sorry for being quiet such a long time.
I'm a bit tight up with many things over the past few months. We 've done
research, lead the trips... I took many photos and will scan and post a few including the fire-dance of Pathen people.

I've also read your last message - don't you think people can read Vietnamese in tribalinfo?

Best,
Dzung


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