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The unique culture of Giay ethnic people in Ha Giang

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Giay Ethnic People

Located on high mountain passes in Meo Vac district, Tat Nga village, Tat Nga commune, it is a main living place of the Giay ethnic people in Ha Giang.  Besides the natural landscape, the special cultural features here are specially preserved, making it become a remarkable place for tourists to discover Ha Giang province.

Giay Ethnic people in Ha Giang has another name as Giang, Nhang ethnic group, coming from China and immigrating to Vietnam about 200 years ago. Over many centuries, people here still preserve the traditional culture of their nation such as weaving, drum dancing, and making hats. Let’s discover the uniqueness in the way of eating, wearing, residing and living of this exciting community in Ha Giang.

Giay Ethnic People
Giay Ethnic People

The unique feature of the housing architecture of Giay people in Ha Giang

Formerly, houses of Giay people were often made of wood, with stone pillars with rich patterns such as lotus flowers, chrysanthemums, lanterns … Recently, because the forest area has been increasingly narrowed, Giay ethnic people make houses with soil by two methods: using loose soil to compact the wall mold to form a soil house; or mixing soil with straw to cast bricks and build houses. This type of material seems to be simple, but it is enduring with the wind and sunshine of the Northwest. A house of Giay people in Ha Giang is usually divided into three compartments, including a compartment used for worship and the reception of male guests, usually placed in the middle of the house, next a compartment that is used to cook and receive female guests, and a compartment used as the bedroom.

Traditional house of Giay Ethnic People
Traditional house of Giay Ethnic People

Traditional costumes of Giay people in Ha Giang

Coming to Tat Ngat village, you will easily see images of women sitting on the porch to weave clothes. In order to make daily costumes, they often plant trees, weave fabrics and sew clothes by themselves. According to traditional customs, men often wear clothes and wrap towels on their heads. Their shirt is knee-length, split in the chest part, has round neck and cloth buttons. Giay ethnic women in Ha Giang often wear blue or black long shirts with the bottoms which are long to tibias. Their shirts are buttoned from the neck to the armpits, like the ao dai of the Kinh.They wind hair in the annular shape, covered by a colorful square scarf, and wear shoes that are embroidered sophisticatedly. Unlike women of other ethnic groups who often use a lot of metal jewelry, the Giay women only wear a bracelet, a chatelaine or a silver necklace.

Today, their costumes have changed a lot, which women wear shorter shirts with smaller fringe, men wear shirts split in the chest part. However, the unique costumes of Giay people are still the culture that attracts the curiosity of many tourists.

Drum dance festival is the most unique culture of Giay Ethnic people in Ha Giang

Drum dance festival is the most unique culture of Giay Ethnic people with long-standing agricultural beliefs. According to Giay people, drum is a sacred object that brings good luck to everyone. The drum is located in a communal house in the village – where a dragon head-shaped piece of land is carefully chosen by the elders. The drum has a height of over 1 meter, a diameter of more than 60cm and drumheads which are covered with leather. The drum is not arbitrarily moved or lowered because such action is considered disrespectful to the god. Each year the drum is only lowered once on the 1st to the 30th day of the Lunar New Year.

On the festival, the village leader performs a ritual to ask for permission to lower the drum. Each family makes a meal, gathers together here, burns incense, dances to the rhythm of the drum to pray for favorable weather and implores to gods to bless their families and villages to be healthy and peaceful. After that, the drum will be processed by the healthiest young people in the village, followed by all the people lining up in long lines to create an atmosphere of solidarity and joy. The drum will be processed around the village. When passing through a house, the drum will be hit a sound to pray for peace and luck for the owner of the house. After that, the drum is taken to an empty land to be made a drum dance ritual. At the end of the festival, the villagers come together to hang the drum to the old place and wait until the festival next year.

Cuisine of Giay Ethnic people in Ha Giang

Black ‘chưng cake” is not only a traditional dish on Tet holiday but also a characteristic culture of Giay ethnic people. To make the black “chưng cakes”, the Giay people are quite sophisticated and careful in every stage of making cakes. In order to make “chưng cakes” fragrant, delicious and soft, baking ingredients are carefully selected from the stage of choosing leaves. The phrynium leaves choosen must be suitable leaves which are not young and old. Glutinous rice used to make the cakes must be Bac Me glutinous rice, a famous type of delicious rice in Ha Giang; the meat used to make the cake core must be black pork, which is fresh and delicious, sliced ​​and then marinated.

Black Chung Cake - Special Dish in Tet holiday of Giay Ethnic People
Black Chung Cake – Special Dish in Tet holiday of Giay Ethnic People

The most important stage when making cakes is to make the black for the “chưng cake”. There are many different methods for coloring the cakes such as using pandan or bignoniaceae, sesame. However, the black “chưng cakes” of Giay people in Ha Giang bear the color and flavor of black sesame. Black sesame branches are taken from the forest, then dried, burned into charcoal, then pounded into a fine powder, mixed with glutinous rice and stirred evenly until rice is mixed with coal powder and has a jet black. Unlike “chưng cakes” of the Kinh with square or long shape, the “chưng cakes” of Giay people have a protruding back like a mountain top called humpback.  Today, black “chưng cakes” not only appear during Tet holidays but also a popular gift for tourists when coming to Ha Giang.

When traveling to Ha Giang, it will not be enough to explore only the rough roads and the mountain and sky scenes. Learning the unique culture of the ethnic people here to get more new experiences, making your trip more perfect than ever.

|Read more: Ha Giang Travel Guide

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