1. Chut Ethnic Group
The Chut ethnic group resides in communes in the two districts of Minh Hoa and Bo Trach, both located in Quang Binh Province. Chut people live off of milpa agriculture, animal husbandry, hunting and gathering.
The Sach group sustain themselves entirely via agriculture while other groups place a bigger emphasis on hunting and gathering. In years with poor agricultural yield, craftsmanship like weaving and carpentry are common substitutes.
Chut people live in small villages (Ca Ven) both clustered together and scattered. Each village is headed by a leader who has gained the respect of his village, usually a prestigious family patriarch.
Housing has often been unsustainable, as they used to stay in huts, caves and under rock roofs. Until 1945, these were the housing conditions for the majority of the people.
Other than the previously mentioned Sach sub-group, Chut people do not know weaving, as such, traditional clothing consists of a loin-cloth for men and skirts for women, and clothes made from bark in the winter. However, most Chut people now dress in modern fashion like the Kinh.
Weddings are held at the bride’s family home, followed by the groom bringing his bride to his home for the wedding night. The most common and appreciated gifts are pigs, chickens, and dried monkey meat.
Funerals are simple and has been influenced by Kinh customs. Mourning takes place over 3 days, then the deceased is taken for burial and the patriarch holds a ceremony intended to conjure the spirit of the deceased and guide it to reside with its ancestors.
Besides the altar dedicated to the ancestors located at the patriarchs house, Chut people also worship ghosts and spirits associated with the forest, agriculture, the kitchen, and other staples of their day-to-day life. A ritual to the agricultural spirits is held during planting season, before the seeds are put down, and then after harvesting.
The Chut people also have a rich heritage of folk arts like songs such as Ka Tum and Ka Lenh and stories accompanied by musical instruments such as pan pipes, organs and flutes and more.
2. Kinh Ethnic Group (other name: Viet)
The Kinh are distributed throughout 61 provinces, with the largest concentrations located in the Delta and in urban areas.
As the residents with the oldest indigenous traditions and history in Vietnam, the Kinh settled and developed in the Northern and North-Central regions of the country.
Throughout Vietnamese history, Kinh has always been at the centre of the country, whether it’s economically, culturally, or in building a trans-ethnic Vietnamese identity.
Economically, the Kinh has known metallurgy since ancient times, crafting tools of iron, copper and copper alloys. The emergence of iron-working, the Kinh people laid the foundations for ancient Vietnamese civilization.
Sustaining themselves with wet rice agriculture, the Kinh successfully exploited the fertile plains, and developed a rich culture of traditional arts and crafts.
Kinh economy was already thousands of years old by the time modern and colonial times began, and is still primarily an agricultural focused economy supplemented by traditional craftsmanship and exports.
On the subject of social organization, after the Kinh emerged from the caves, they settled in clustered villages composed of several “hamlets” that each functions as an independent village but in conjunction and symbiosis with each other. Every village has a communal house where all the residents from the different hamlets can come to worship.
Unlike some other ethnic groups in Vietnam, the Kinh live on the ground. The main structure of a house is usually 3 or 5 spaces with the middle space being the most important one, as it contains the altar.
Culturally, the Kinh are unique, having incorporated a host of successful aspects of other cultures throughout history. The culture is incredibly diverse, which is represented in religious beliefs, with the Kinh adhering to Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Catholicism and others. These imported beliefs have been moulded and altered to better fit with Vietnamese life and culture. Ancestral worship is the most important cultural belief among the Kinh, with all homes containing an altar to venerate those who came before, also serving as a central aspect of rituals and celebrations.
The literary and artistic culture of the Kinh has gone through continuous development over thousands of year, with a rich heritage of folk art such as fairy tales, folk music, proverbs and others. A drastic increase in folklore literacy among the Kinh has greatly aided in both preservation of their heritage as well as in crafting and strengthening a common national identity. For literary writing, the greatest works were written during the Ly-Tran period, especially from the 15th century and onwards, featuring works by literary geniuses like Nguyen Trai, Nguyen Du, Ho Xuan Huong, etc.
3. Muong Ethnic Group
The Muong has resided permanently in the provinces of Hoa Binh, Thanh Hoa, Phu Tho, etc. and were once part of the same ethnic group as the Kinh who live in the lowlands and urban areas.
The Muong, who live primarily in the mountains, began to diverge culturally and socially from the Kinh when the latter began to incorporate cultural aspects from neighbouring China during the 2nd century AD. As such, the Muong are linguistically and ethnically tied to the Kinh/Viet, but culturally and socially more similar to other mountain groups like the Tay.
Primarily the economy consists of rice agriculture, either wet-farming or on rice paddies. The Muong tend to the fields, as well as participate in hunting, fishing and traditional craftsmanship.
Social organization is centred on the mountainous villages, each consisting of a small number of families with a tight communal bond.
The majority of the Muong live in houses set on stilts, with four separate roofs.
Muong wine is famous, and is made by processing yeast, resulting in a strong flavour. Muong are generally happy to invite guests and drink in collective parties.
Typical clothing of women consists of traditional headgear and short white blouses, black skirts with leggings and gaudily patterned textiles.
The marriage ritual is similar to that of the Kinh, while funerals are more extravagant and expensive.
The Muong also have a rich folklore culture with ancient stories (mo), the most famous of which being: "De dat de nuoc", "Len troi", and especially "Mo-Muong epic", a tome consisting of more than 2,000 page, truly a priceless piece of heritage not only for the Muong but also for Vietnamese culture in general.
Song and dance have an important place in Muong culture, with traditional dances like the Animal Dance, the Cotton Dance, the Instrument Dance (featuring gongs!) being common ways to celebrate during holidays, religious ceremonies, weddings or funerals.
The Muong language is closely related to the Vietnamese one, and 80% of the vocabulary is shared between the two languages at the dawn of the 20th century. A Muong studio and museum is located in Hoa Binh province which provides a detailed look on the culture, history and traditions of the ethnic group.
4. Tho Ethnic Group
The Tho people live in the western province of Nghe An within the Con Cuong, Nghia Dan, Tan Ky districts.
The main economic activity consists of agriculture, mostly on rice paddies but also a small number of wet-farms. The primary crop grown is rice, followed by cassava and maize. Mon and Cuoi, popular candies, are also produced here. Flax plants are another common product and provides much of the exports. While hunting and gathering persists in some areas, fisheries are also developing, which has significantly lessened the hardships faced in their day-to-day life.
When it comes to social organization, they live in villages similar to the Kinh, and each village has is led by an annually elected leader. Men dress like the Kinh, but the women dress according to their hobby.
Marriages are generally between two Tho people, and during the courtship process, the practice of “ngu mai” allows the bride and groom to be to spend time together at festivals, sleep in the same bed (though only for chatting!) before marriage.
A marriage in Tho culture consists of multiple steps. A traditional dowry given by the family of the groom contains a buffalo, 100 white piaster, 30 square pieces of cloth, 6 baskets of steamed glutinous rice, and a pig. While it varies from area to area, it is common for married couples to live with the wife’s family.
Funerals are complicated and often costly. Ancestor worship is key, in addition to a wide variety of gods, ghosts, and spirits, especially related to fighting the enemy and expending land.ve