Traditional costumes reveal diversity among Dao ethnic groups

By Huynh Phuong   February 13, 2021 | 10:16 am GMT+7
A photo series by Nguyen Son Tung captures the gorgeous and varied clothes worn by the ethnic Dao people in northern Vietnam.

The Dao are a major ethnic group with a population of 891,151 according to the 2019 census. They consist of several sub-groups and live mostly in the northern region. They have a diverse and rich culture and speak a number of different languages.

Lensman Nguyen Son Tung, also known as Tung "Dao" for his particular interest in the ethnic group, recently shot pictures of their traditional costumes.

Traditional costumes reveal diversity among Dao ethnic groups

Dao Lu Gang in Lang Son Province

A couple in wedding outfits accompanied by two pi le (a traditional wind instrument) players in Ai Quoc Commune, Loc Binh District.

The pi le is played on special occasions such as weddings, Tet (Lunar New Year) and sacred rituals.

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Two Dao Lu Gang girls pose in front of a cherry blossom tree on Mau Son Mountain, Lang Son Province, which borders China.

Their dress is adorned with a V-shaped scarf, four colorful patches from the hip and a white fabric sash around the wait. The undershirt is embroidered with silver star patterns and beads.

Red Dao in Lang Son Province

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A newly wedded Red Dao couple behind mustard flowers in Lung Slang Village, Tri Phuong Commune, Trang Dinh District.

Lung Slang Village has 35 households, all of Dao ethnicity, who live in an isolated area on the far side of a mountain range with only one road for access.

"As a guest at Dao weddings, I notice the ceremony tradition is well maintained for many generations," Tung said. "The bride and groom and the entire procession coming to fetch the bride look proud in their traditional costumes."

Dao Thanh Y in Lang Son Province

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Trieu Thuy Them of Dinh Lap District in her traditional dress.

In the past dresses used to be made of self-dyed fabric but since they are hard to wash, nowadays modern cloth is used instead. The solid black dress is embellished with hand-sewn beads in a fixed pattern.

Dao Quan Chet in Hanoi

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A Dao Quan Chet (Dao with strapped pants) woman in Ba Vi Commune, Ba Vi District, Hanoi.

In Ba Vi Commune, 98 percent of the population of around 2,000 are of Dao Quan Chet origin. "Their lifestyle is simple, but they generally have an optimistic view of life," Tung said.

Nowadays though many young Dao people prefer to wear modern clothes in daily life, traditional costumes and customs are still treasured and preserved.

Dao Do in Yen Bai Province

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There are four main groups of Dao in mountainous Yen Bai Province, namely Red Dao, Dao Quan Chet, Dao Quan Trang (Dao with white trousers), and Dao Lan Tuyen.

The Red Dao wear the most flamboyant clothes of the four groups. In a palette of five colors from head to toe, red is predominant since they believe it represents happiness, strength and positive energy.

Red Dao in Ha Giang Province

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Hoang Su Phi District in Ha Giang is famed for its terraced rice fields, recognized as a national relic, and untouched lush green landscapes. It is also home to over 13,000 Dao people including the Red Dao, Dao Tien, Dao Ao Dai (Dao with long tunic), and Dao Quan Trang, who account for 22 percent of the district’s population.

The Red Dao here boast of a rich culture going back over 300 years. Most of them live in the southern parts of Hoang Su Phi District such as Ho Thau, Nam Ty and Thong Nguyen communes.

Dao Cham in Ha Giang Province

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A family of Dao Cham or Dao Ao Dai in Nam Dam communal cultural village, Quan Ba Commune, Quan Ba District.

The Dao Cham people in Nam Dam Village have preserved many of their daily customs and traditions. The village recently started providing homestay services for visitors.

Dao Tien in Tuyen Quang Province

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Dang Hong Ngan, an ethnic Dao Tien woman living in Tuyen Quang, poses for a Dao community event at the Hanoi Museum in June 2020.

In Tuyen Quang, each Dao group lives in certain areas, for instance, the Red Dao in Na Hang, Lam Binh and Chiem Hoa districts, and the Dao Tien in Chiem Hoa, Na Hang and Ham Yen districts.

Unlike the Red Dao, their garments have a toned down palette comprised of indigo and white.

Dao Tien in Cao Bang Province

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A majority of the Dao Tien in Cao Bang live in Na Chan Village, Hoa Tham Commune, Nguyen Binh District.

Their outfits are hand-spun and hand-embroidered. Their traditional techniques and hard-working nature ensure they have a steady livelihood from selling products such as dresses, tablecloth, headbands, and wall decorations.

Red Dao in Lao Cai Province

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A Red Dao woman in Khoang Village, Sa Pa Town.

The highlight of this costume is a long sash wrapped three or four times around the waist with a knot at the back.

Dao Thanh Phan in Quang Ninh Province

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A graceful Dao Thanh Phan woman with a dog in Binh Lieu District.

The traditional garments usually go with a box-like red hat held in place by a fabric string tied at the chin.

The motifs on their clothes represent images of ordinary things such as rakes used on farms, asparagus bean flowers and terraced rice fields.

 
 
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