The Thai ethnic group in Vietnam

(VOVworld) – The Thai ethnic group lives mainly in Vietnam’s northern and north-central regions in Lai Chau, Dien Bien, Son La, Yen Bai, Hoa Binh, Nghe An, and Thanh Hoa province. The Thai people have their own language, which belongs to the Tay-Thai language system. They build their wooden stilt houses in large fields, in the foothills of the mountains.

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Costumes of the white Thai displayed at the Vietnam Museum of Ethonolgy

The Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi has a permanent pavilion dedicated to the Thai ethnic group. Ms. Nguyet, a museum employee, told VOV: “The Thai and the Tay ethnic groups are the most populous. There are two Thai groups, white Thai and black Thai, who are differentiated by their other costumes and houses. Traditionally, the black Thai wear a black blouse with a high collar and a black skirt, while the white Thai wear a white blouse with a heart-shaped collar and a black skirt”.

In each locality, the Thai group is divided into many branches, according to Luong Van Thiet, who also works at the Museum of Ethnology:“In Nghe An, the black Thai group is divided into 2 different subgroups: Man Thanh and Tây Mười. The white Thai are also called Tay Mường or Tay Do. “Do” in the Thai language means people who reside permanently in one place. The Thai group in Tây Thanh has another name: Tay Nhại. “Nhại” means people who always move”.

Thiet said the black Thai and white Thai live together. He points out their different features: “In the northwestern region, the white Thai usually wear bright-colored costumes, such as white and pink. Their blouse has short sleeves and a heart-shaped collar. The black Thai prefer dark colors such as black and brown. Their accents are also different. The black Thai have a stronger accent, while the white Thai speak faster and more melodiously. Their perceptions of numbers are different. The white Thai prefer even numbers which they believe represent fullness and prosperity. The black Thai prefer odd numbers, which they believe symbolize growth and reproduction”.

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The white Thai's house in Lai Chau displayed at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology

With regard to the spiritual world, the Thai are polytheists who worship their ancestors. As their life is tied to agricultural production, they observe the ritual of taking water on New Year’s Eve, the festival to welcome the first thunderstorm of the New Year, and other crop-related rituals. The Thai people think death is the continuation of life in another world.

The Thai people have many last names and each clan has its own taboo. The Lò clan does not eat birds and according to the Quàng clan, a tiger brings bad luck. Ethnology researcher Thiet highlights differences in the worshipping rituals of the white Thai and black Thai: “The black Thai are traditionally nomadic people who frequently change their farmland. As a result of an unstable life, they worship and pray more. The white Thai are engaged in wet rice cultivation with higher productivity and worship less, with less yin and yang displayed in their homes”.

Living mainly on rice farming, the Thai have a lot of experience in irrigating terraced rice fields, which has been passed down from one generation to another.