Vietnamese Ethnic Groups – Vietnam is the homeland of many ethnic groups. According to legend, all are descendants of Lac Long Quan and Au Co, hatching out of a hundred eggs, half of them following their mother to the mountain, the other half accompanying their father to the sea. They joined hands to build the nation from “Three mountains, four seas and the land mass”, with endless forests and mountains, delta plains stretching as far as the eyes can see and the Eastern Sea rippling its waves all the four seasons. It is a land stretching from the high peak of Lung Cu (north) to the hamlet of Rach Tau (south) and from the Truong Son Range (west) to the Truong Sa archipelago (east).
Living together in one country from time immemorial, all the ethnic groups develop a tradition of patriotism and unite and assist mutually in the conquest of nature and in social struggle, throughout the historic process of national construction, defense and development.
The history of the conquest of nature is really an epic, manifesting the creative innovation, vitality, determination to surmount all obstacles, adaptability to natural conditions of each ethnic group to produce, subsist and develop. People of various ethnic groups have found out different patterns to cope with nature, appropriate to specific natural geographical conditions.
In the lowland and mid-land regions, people work the rice fields to grow wet rice and build village culture on the back-ground of communal houses, wells, banyan trees and green bamboo groves. The delta plain, agriculture, villages and hamlets constitute a source of inspiration for the making of multi-panel robes, rose-colored bodices and hats with fringed chin strap, for the composition of folk songs, love duets and folk verses familiar with specific regions.
In the mountain areas, people grow wet rice in valleys, develop terraced fields for dry crops, especially corn, and begin to plant perennial trees such as anise and cinnamon, in replacement of natural forests. They live in houses built on stills, wear trousers or jupes and indigo vests with design motifs imitating wild flowers and beasts. It is their habit to drink can (bamboo pipes) wine from jars.
In the northern uplands and the Central Highlands, people clear and burn jungle patches as a method of farming in the pre-industry age. With a sub-tropical climate, cultivation is chiefly carried out in summer and autumn. For acclimatization and the raising of land utility rate, the highlanders from time immemorial have developed multi-cropping to generate further income and prevent soil erosion. With their dexterity and sense of aesthetics, the young women have made skirts and vests with beautiful and colorful decorations and in a style convenient to farming work in terraced fields and to travel on hill slopes and mountain gorges. The generous forests and mountains and backward farming methods give rise to mythical rituals with propitious conditions for their development. Almost all regions in the Central Highlands hold buffalo-stabbing ceremonies in honor of Giang (Heaven) to pray for health, for the good of livestock breeding and for bumper crops. These regions harbour innumerable legendary stories and gallant chronicles, the value of which is comparable to those of China and India but their collection and study are still inadequate. These ethnic minorities are the creators of stone xylophones, T’rung and Krongput musical instruments, sets of gongs and group dances, rich of community colours.
Along the coastline from north to south, people live on fishing. In the morning fishing boats sail out to the open sea and in the evening return to the shore. The life here is bustling with activity as is in farming areas at harvest time. Everywhere, man lives in harmony with nature and nature does not betray human efforts.
Lying in the Indochinese peninsula, the gateway to main-land and offshore Southeast Asia, Vietnam is the location of cultural intercourse in this region, with three major language families, i.e. Austro-Asian Language Family, Austronesian Language Family and Sino-Tibetan Language Family. The Vietnamese speak the languages of eight different groups. Of which the Viet-Muong Group includes four ethnic groups: the Chut, Kinh, Muong and Tho, the Tay-Thai Group includes eight ethnic groups: the Bo Y, Giay, Lao, Lu, Nung, San Chay, Tay and Thai, the Mon-Khmer Group includes 21 ethnic groups such as the Ba Na, Brau, Bru-Van Kieu, Chl Ro, Co, Co Ho, Co Tu, Gie Trieng, Hre, Khang, Khmer, Kho Mu, Ma, Mang, M’Nong, O Du, Ro Mam, Ta Oi, Xinh Mun, Xo Dang and Xtieng, the Mong-Dao Group includes the Dao, Mong and Pa Then, the Kadai Group includes the Co Lao, La Chi, La Ha and Pu Peo, the Malayo-Polynesian Group includes the Cham, Chu-ru, Ede, Gia-rai and Ra-glai, the Han Group includes the Hoa, Ngai and San Diu, the Tibeto-Burman Group includes the Cong, Ha Nhi, La Hu, Lo Lo, Phu La and Si La. The majority Viet, who account for 88 per cent of the country’s population, live mainly in the delta of the Red River, the coastal plains of the centre and the Mekong delta. Fifty three other ethnic groups totaling 5.5 million people live mostly in mountain areas stretching from north to south and covering two-thirds of the country.
Although they speak different languages, the ethnic groups live close to one another and so one group can know the language of others through everyday relations, and although they are involved in cultural exchange, they keep retaining the identity of their own culture. The diversity of the retaining the identity of their own culture. The diversity of the cultures of ethnic groups does not take them off the track of the common development of the nation, just as the peculiarity is in tune with the generality in the dual category of philosophy.
The Ho Chi Minh Era which started with the triumph of the 1945 August Revolution has brought about a great change in the life of the national community. The consistent policy put forth by the Party and State on nationalities boils down to equality, unity, mutual assistance and alliance in the building of the country for the prosperity of the people, for the might of the country, and for a just and a civilized society imbued with national identity.
The promulgation of this correct and innovative policy in the socio-economic field has yielded successes, very big, very new and very modern. The infrastructure, especially land communication, water resource and telecommunication, has reached the districts and gradually the villages and hamlets at a pace depending on the specific conditions of each region. As masters of the country, the ethnic groups are talking part in State organs of authority at an increasing rate. The Party and the State pay concern to the training of scientific and technical workers. The number of cadres of ethnic groups possessing university or higher degree is on the increase. The treasure of traditional culture and art of various ethnic groups has been collected, preserved, studied and promoted.
As a result of the successful promulgation of the Party policy on ethnic groups, people of various ethnic groups who have been working together in the cause of national construction and defence are strengthening their solidarity still further for the sake of national development. The achievements as mentioned above constitute the solid foundation for the consolidation of the block of great national union, for the improvement of the people’s level of education and their living standards and for the advancement of all ethnic groups.
Implementing Directive N0 83-CD of the Government Council on the identification of ethnic groups throughout the country, the Committee of Social Sciences and the Central Committee of Nationalities of Vietnam submitted a report to the Prime Minister on December 22, 1978. The General Department of Statistics with the agreement of these Committees then issued Decision N121-TCTK/PPCD on March 2, 1979 on the “Nomenclature of Vietnamese ethnic groups” which was to assist in the conduct of the 1979 general census and other statistical and research work.