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Red Dao – The People of Agriculture and Musical Romance

Red Dao – The People of Agriculture and Musical Romance

Red Dao – The People of Agriculture and Musical Romance

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    About the Red Dao

    Compared to the H’mong, the history of the Red Dao people is less significant, but they have played a major role in aiding the H’mong through the course of time. They arrived and settled down in Vietnam together with the H’mong during the suppression of the Imperial Chinese government hundreds of years ago.

    H'Mong people dressing traditional customs

    History

    Legends say that the Dao people were mountain jackals transformed into humans, and the word Dao (Yao) in Chinese also means “jackal”. Their god is a jackal named “Ban Ho” with rainbow fur, which was promoted to the rank of general by the Heaven Emperor. The people are also more used to living in high mountains rather than down in the plains. Legends also describe them as people with cheeky smiles and innocent looks, but really smart and talented in every field, from agriculture to blacksmithing and art.  

    Despite having a shallow recorded history, their culture is considered as one of the most colorful and unique amongst the ethnicities in Sapa. They also share hospitality traits with the H’mong, treating their guests royally with their own cattle for a communal feast. You can have a look at how the Red Dao treated our beloved friend Sonny Side with seven dishes of pork in this video. But now let’s have a look at more unique cultural spotlights of the Red Dao.

    Traditions and Customs of the Red Dao People in Sapa

    Red Dao’s Maturity Test for Men

    The Dao culture favors men over women like in the old times, therefore, the man of the family has to prove himself to be capable. The maturity test takes place during the last months of the Lunar calendar and is held to evaluate the maturity of a man. Those who fail the test despite being old are considered childish, and those young men who compete with flying colors will be regarded as mature men.

    Traditional man doing their job - worship ceremony

    There are no risky challenges in the test, it is more educational in purpose, reminding the men of their ancestors, karma, and not to do bad things. There is no age limit for taking the test, and upon completion, the participants will receive new names. This is also a major event in the Red Dao’s belief, and they will usually hold big parties with local specialties and wines to celebrate the new matured men within the community.

    Red Dao’s New Year

    Unlike the festive H’mong New Year celebration, the Red Dao New Year centers on religious purposes. The Red Dao also celebrate on the same dates as the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.

    On the 27th and 28th of the last month of a Lunar Year, a Red Dao family will start to cook offerings for their ancestors and gods. On New Year’s Eve, the man of the family must not stay home, but rather gather with other men on the tallest peak nearby to enact the offering ritual. There will be a charm master creating charms on the men, shooing away the ghosts and bad spirits, and blessing them with good luck for the next year.

    Traditional man dancing in the fire

    One of the most important parts of the New Year Celebration is the Fire Dancing Ritual, only those over 18 are able to take part. The man and the woman of the house will have to clean themselves thoroughly and wear new clothes. Then they sit opposite to each other, with a bonfire in between and watch the charm master execute the rituals. After the fire settles, and a pile of red blazing charcoal smolders, they will jump in and dance together with their bare feet. The dance serves as an offering to the Fire God, in hopes for a happy life and good health for the coming year.

    Red Dao’s Love Chasing Custom

    Unlike the H’mong people, the Red Dao marriage is based on true love between the man and the woman. They spread love throughout their songs and melodies. There is also a Love Market in Sapa where Dao boys and girls meet and date, choosing the right partner for their marriages. The love season occurs during the spring time also, after the New Year celebration.

    Girls at Love chasing custom
    Source: Unflash

    Come to Sapa during this time, and you will be able to hear beautiful love songs and melodies that echo across the mountains by the Red Dao lovebirds. This custom is part of a bigger culture they refer to as “Pao Dung singing”, where the Red Dao people put their stories, love, and hope into their songs to filter across the valleys.

    While a H’mong man has to snatch his wife out of her parent’s home, a Red Dao man “rescues” her. The Red Dao people live in stilt houses, high above the ground. In order to marry a girl, a Red Dao man has to figure out, by himself, how to take her down to the ground, without using the stairs of her house. This can mean either building his own stairs, or asking for help to form a human tower. The girl meanwhile will sing and tell her stories to encourage her man. Further on, the wedding takes place and shares similar traits to the Vietnamese’s wedding.

    Source: guide.cmego

     

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    06 Aug 2020

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