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Village of Ta Phin, Province of Lao Cai, Vietnam View on Map

Find out more About Ta Phin

About Ta Phin

Ta Phin is a village 17 kilometres northeast of Sapa – a well known destination in Vietnam for its brilliant and rugged landscapes. The village is set within a large oval shaped valley with a towering peak at one end making for a scenery you will surely never forget..

The higher land is a maze of narrow terraced rice paddies along with corn and vegetable fields. Beneath on the valley floor are our spectacular rice fields which supply our community with much of its resources through the exasperating lifestyle that is secluded mountain living.

Our village is one of the few where the Red Dao and H’mong live together, share the land and still retain our traditional tribal cultures. Our 13 hamlet village, with many small home communes covers an area of 2718 hectares. With our unique natural and cultural features, this makes our village a facinating place to come and spend a few days or a few weeks.

Come and enjoy our pictureque landscape of rice paddies, mountains, streams, hill tribe houses and most importantly our people.

Black H’Mong

History: The Black H’mong immigrated from China approximately 300 years ago.

Language: The spoken language belongs to the H’mong – Dao language family. The H’mong writing was romanized in 1961 but is not widely used today.

Costume: The Black H’mong women are famous for making cloth from hemp and dying it a deep indigo blue. They wear long blouses decorated with batik flowers over short trousers, and wrap long scarves around their legs. They wrap their long hair around their head and wear a blue turban. The men wear long jackets with shirts and a long waist coat embroidered at the collar, and a small hat. Today some H’mong wear Viet or western clothes.

Social organization: H’mong women are respected in their community as being equal with H’mong men. Husbands and wives are very affectionate and do many of their tasks together like going to the market, working on the field and visiting relatives. In this way, they help each other to develop a strong community life.

Marriage: For the Black H’mong it is important that a girl knows how to embroider and work well in the field. These skills are more important than her beauty. Boys and girls are allowed to get to know each other before they get married. They go to the love market where they eat and sing songs together. After this time, the boy can propose marriage and if the girl agrees, she goes to live in his house. She is put in a small room and visited by the boy’s mother and sisters who give her food to persuade her to accept the marriage. The boy must give the bride’s family silver coins, pigs, chicken and rice wine for the wedding ceremony. The bride has some time to decide if she accepts the marriage – even after living with her husband for a few days, she can choose to break their agreement. If the boy doesn’t have a dowry to give to the girl’s family, he lives in her house until he is able to marry her.

Funeral: When there is a death in the family, the deceased’s children fire a gun to let everyone in the area know. People in the village come to deceased’s house with anything they have – chicken, rice, a small pig or rice wine – to help the family. Everybody sings and eats until the deceased is wrapped in a mat and carried to a grave by one group, while a coffin, which has been kept in a cave somewhere near the grave, is carried by another. Both groups have to run very fast to meet at the grave to make the deceased forget the way home. If the deceased’s family is not able to supervise the funeral rituals, they can wait for a few years before organizing a special one called ma kho. They invite people in the village to a place by the grave for the funeral for a celebration, at which they sing and dance.

Beliefs: Many places are reserved for worshipping in a H’mong house – there’s a place for ancestors, for the house spirit, for the kitchen spirit, even the door spirit. There are different rituals which forbid people to walk into the H’mong house or their villages. For example, a green tree branch on the front door indicates that entrance is forbidden.

Artistic activities: The Black H’mong are very good at making agricultural tools, wooden furniture, musical instruments and jewelry. They are also famous for their handicraft and embroidery. They generally only make such items to meet their own needs, but other minorities in the area buy their produce because of its high quality. Since the advent of tourism in Sa Pa, many H’mong women make decorated cloth to sell on the town’s main streets.

Festivals: Like the other minorities, the Black H’mong have lots of different festivals during the year. They ensure that there is always time for community activities, which play an important role in their life. One of the most important festivals is the New Year, which they celebrate for an entire month. It happens about one month earlier than Vietnamese Tet. During this time, boys play flutes and girls play an instrument made from two leaves. They all spend time together playing traditional games.

The Blue H’mong minority

The Blue H’mong share the same origin as the Black H’mong. Most of their rites and rituals are the same – only their clothes are different. The Blue H’mong women wear long skirts over long trousers, with a blue bib worn over the top.

The Red Dao

History: The origin of the Red Dao is uncertain. It has been surmised that they arrived not long before the H’mong during the 18th Century.

Language: The Red Dao spoken language belongs to the H’mong – Dao language family. Their writing is based on Chinese characters adjusted to accommodate their own spelling.

Costume: Red Dao women usually wear a long blouse over trousers. Their clothes are colorfully embroidered with designs that appear on both sides of the material. The men typically wear a short shirt with long trousers, and a head-scarf. Both men and women have a square piece of fabric on the back of their shirts which represents that they are children of God. They wear similar hairstyles – long on top, with the rest smoothly shaved. Many women shave their eyebrows as well. Women also wear a distinctive red triangular shaped turban decorated with silver coins and red tassles.

Social organization: The Red Dao men play a dominant role in the family, community and the economy. They also play a major role in ceremonies such as marriages, funerals, and building new houses.

The Dao people have many different family names. Each lineage has its own system of different middle names to distinguish people of different generations.

Birth: The Red Dao women usually give birth in their bedroom with help of their mother and sisters. The new born is given a bath with hot water. The family hangs green tree branches or banana flowers in front of the door to prevent evil spirits from bringing harm and wickedness to the baby. When the baby is three days old, they celebrate a ritual in honor of the mother.

Marriage: Parents select partners for their sons. When a boy is fourteen or fifteen years old, his father takes him to have a look at a girl he thinks is fit and healthy and can help with the housework. The couple chosen to be married then have to consult a diviner who judges their compatibility based in a ritual using a chicken leg, and their horoscopes. The girl’s value is shown by how many silver coins, chickens, pigs and jars of rice wine the boy’s family have to give her family. During the marriage ceremony, it is customary to stretch a piece of string in front of the procession. The groom carries the bride on his back, and she must step over a blessed pair of scissors to cross the threshold into his house. When a family has no son, the parents can buy a groom who will live happily with his bride’s family. However, if a boy is so poor that his family can’t afford a dowry, he has to live in his bride’s house – which causes him great shame.

Funerals: When there is a death in the family, the deceased’s children have to invite a man called thay tao to supervise the rituals and find the right piece of land for a grave. The deceased is wrapped in a mat, placed in a coffin inside their house and carried to a grave built of stones. In the past, if the deceased was over 12 years old the body was cremated. The funeral rituals celebrated ensure that the deceased rests in peace. The ceremony, which lasts for three days, usually coincides with initiation rites for Red Dao boys. The first day liberates the spirit of the deceased, the second day is a time to worship the deceased in the home, and the third day is the boy’s initiation rite. The boy has to sit on a throne at the highest place in the village until he falls into hammocks hanging below him. This represents him falling down from the sky to be born on earth, another symbol of the Dao belief that they are the direct descendents of God.

Housing: The Dao ritual to select land for a new house is very important At night, the household digs a bowl sized hole and fill it with rice grains that represent people, cows, buffalos, money and property. The family will know where to build the house based on the dreams that follow during the night. In the morning, the family inspects the hole to see if the rice remains – if not, the house will be built elsewhere.

Beliefs: Dao religion has elements of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. They worship the ancestors of the family together with the legendary holy man Ban Vuong, who is considered the earliest ancestor of the Dao people.

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