Cultural changes in marriage and funeral customs of san diu people in phu binh district, thai nguyen province

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INTRODUCTION 1. Reasons for choosing this issue Vietnamese culture is the culture of “diversity in unity ". It is the convergence of cultural values of the 54 ethnic groups living in the territory of Vietnam. During their history and development, each group has created typical traditional cultural values for themselves. Each ethnic group has their own cultural values; and through history these cultural values become their cultural identities, contributing to the multi-nuanced culture of Vietnam. Cultural identity is one out of three criteria to determine the ethnic structure in Vietnam. So, the existence of each group is attached with their cultural characters. The loss of the cultural values of a nation will gradually lead to the disappearance of that nation. Particularly, in the context of current integration, the issue of national cultures is paid more and more attention. An urgent need is that to integrate does not mean to dissolve the culture. We integrate with the international trends, but still reserve our traditional national values. National values are our cultural characters. Vietnam cultural characters are the cultural values of every ethnic group living on the territory of Vietnam, in particular the Kinh people and 53 ethnic minorities. The research and studies on Vietnamese characters can not be separated from studying the cultural characters of each of the 54 peoples in Vietnam. Our Party and Government also attach great importance to conserving and promoting cultural values of ethnic groups. In 1991, in the "Platform for national construction in the period of transition to socialism" the Party has stated to respect for the interests of cultural traditions, languages, customs and beliefs of the peoples, and at the same time, to reserve and promote moral, ethic, aesthetic values and the cultural and artistic heritages of every people. In the huge family of Vietnam’s ethnic groups, San Diu people, also known as Son Dzao people (Dzao people in the mountains), mainly live in the provinces of Quang Ninh, Hai Duong, Bac Giang, Thai Nguyen, Tuyen Quang , Yen Bai, etc. Having immigrated to Vietnam and settled in Thai Nguyen for just about 3 centuries, but they still reserve their available cultural values, together with other groups’ cultures they have absorbed simultaneously, to create their own tradition cultural characters. It is affirmed that life cycle rites are the profound expression for ethnic culture characters, especially spiritual, psychological life and customs of each group. Besides, these are exceptional cultures well reserved and hardly changed for a long time, because they themselves contain meaningful humane values, which is ground for prosperity of every group’s culture. Every San Diu person, from birth till death, goes though their group’s life cycle rites, which helps building their cultural values. Studying their life cycle rites is a must if we want to study their cultural values. The major milestones in each person’s life are marked by following rituals: marriage, giving birth and funeral, which are the turning points of his (her) life. They enable development inside each person in accordance with natural laws and under impact of social ones. The issue of studying San Diu people’s cultures in general and the issue of explaining the changes in life cycle rites in particular remain unsolved. Thinking of that we decided to choose to do research on this issue “Cultural changes in marriage and funeral customs of San Diu people in Phu Binh District, Thai Nguyen Province” with which we aims to show significant changes in marriage and funeral customs of the local San Diu People, firstly to contribute to the study of cultural 1 characters of ethnic minorities in Vietnam, and finally to make ground for the study of Vietnamese cultural characters. We hope that this research upon completion will help understanding more of San Diu People’s culture, as well as cultures of all the ethnic groups in Vietnam; and basing on that to propose suitable policies about preserving and promoting cultural values of marriage and funeral customs, two of the life cycle rites of San Diu People in Phu Binh District, Thai Nguyen Province in particular and San Diu People all around the country in general. 2. Background information on this issue In the last few years, the trend to study and research on traditional ethnic cultures has become more and more popular. Although the ethnic minorities only cover about 13% total population, each of them owns unique culture and customs, which creates the national diversified-but-unified culture, the progressive and well reserved culture of Vietnam. The San Diu ethnic group in Vietnam is also an interesting issue which has been attracting many ethnologists and writers. There has been many deep researches done on their culture published into books or writing on magazines. The book Nguoi San Diu o Viet Nam written by Ma Khanh Bang, published in 1983, is an overview picture of life of San Diu people in Vietnam. The author has researched and presented a general overview of the San Diu people: the name, foundation and development history, as well as the social organization, material and spiritual cultures, and their tradition customs which make up their own cultural values. He concludes that San Diu group is a minority who continuously absorbs other groups’ cultures, but still keeps in mind that they are a people. Writer Diep Trung Binh, in Phong Tuc va Nghi Le Chu Ky Doi Nguoi cua Nguoi San Diu o Viet Nam (2005), describes in details most customs of San Diu People during their life cycle from birth to death. Besides, he also shows his opinions about their cultural values and changes in these values shown in their life cycle rites. In Tri Thuc Dan Gian trong Chu Ky Doi Nguoi San Diu o Viet Nam, published by National Culture Press in 2011, Diep Trung Binh also mentions cultural values of the San Diu people through their folk knowledge in giving birth, raising children, growing up, marriage and funeral. He also collects, studies and translates San Diu people’s folk songs in their everyday life and corresponding singing in weddings. All is published in the book Dan Ca San Diu by National Culture Press in 1987. The book “Cac Dan Toc It Nguoi o Viet Nam (Cac Tinh Phia Bac)”also gives a general overview of the San Diu people in Vietnam. The authors briefly describe history of the people and the living cultures, including material cultures in their houses, costumes, food, and spiritual cultures in their rituals like marriage and funeral, etc. “Dan Toc San Diu o Bac Giang”, written by Ngo Van Tru and Nguyen Xuan Can (main editor), by National Culture Press, Hanoi, 2003, is a full picture of San Diu people in Bac Giang, presenting in details from history, name, living territory, etc., to traditional economic activities, food, traditional costumes, rituals and customs related to life cycle. The author Nguyen Ngoc Thanh, in his book “Van Hoa Truyen Thong San Diu o Tuyen Quang”, published in 2011, also gives the most general overview of the history of this people, as well as their residence and cultural identities in Tuyen Quang Province. 2 These above mentioned researches provide a useful theoretical ground and comparative object for me to objectively study the cultural changes of the San Diu minority in Phu Binh through their customs of marriage and funeral. Dr. Nguyen Thi Que Loan has deeply studied the eating habits of the people, and reflected the result in her doctorial thesis “Tap Quan An Uong cua Nguoi San Diu o Thai Nguyen”. This thesis discusses in details about the traditional sources of their foods, their traditional methods of preparing foods and drinks, as well as changes of these customs when the people exchange and learn from other groups. Related to the above issue, Dr. Nguyen Thi Que Loan also wrote a post on the Ethnology Magazine, “Bien Doi Trong Tap Quan An Uong cua Nguoi San Diu Tinh Thai Nguyen”. Researcher Le Minh Chinh had a study on San Diu People in Thai Nguyen majoring in medical aspect called “Thuc Trang Thieu Mau o Phu Nu San Diu Trong Thoi Ky Mang Thai tai Huyen Dong Hy Tinh Thai Nguyen va Hieu Qua cua Bien Phap Can Thiep”. Dam Thi Uyen and Nguyen Thi Hai wrote “Tin Nguong Cu Tru Cua Nguoi San Diu o Thai Nguyen” on the Nation and Times Magazine, number 89, 2006. The post mentioned their social organization and spiritual views in their residing customs. Also on the Nation and Times Magazine, number 87, 2006 there was a post by Nguyen Thi Mai, titled “Le Hoi Cau Mua cua Nguoi San Diu”, showing us about the people’s spiritual viewpoints in season and weather. The ethnologist Chu Thai Son wrote the book “Dan Toc San Diu”, published by Kim Dong Press in 2011, to supply for the programme “Books supplied by the States for the children in remote or mountainous area”. It briefly introduce San Diu minority group in Vietnam in aspects of history, working and living habits, traditional customs, mental life and present living conditions. The above mentioned works reflect a long history of studying San Diu people’s culture in Vietnam in general and in each area in detailed. However, researching on culture of San Diu group in Phu Binh - Thai Nguyen in general and studying the cultural changes in their marriage and funeral customs in particular are still mostly left unattended. Thus, the above mentioned works will help me a lot in my studying and clarifying the cultural changes in the marriage and funeral customs of San Diu group in Phu Binh - Thai Nguyen. 3. Purposes, objects and scope of the research 3.1. Purposes of the research This thesis “Cultural changes in marriage and funeral customs of San Diu people in Phu Binh District, Thai Nguyen Province” aims to research and learn how the cultural values of San Diu group in Phu Binh District, Thai Nguyen Province are reflected in some life cycle rites, basing on which to propose suitable policies about preserving and promoting traditional cultural values of San Diu ethnic group in Vietnam in general, and in the researched area in particular. - Marriage customs and funeral rituals are related to people’s viewpoints on their spirit, universe and life. Thus, researching on changes of these fields is an approach to San Diu people’s viewpoints on marriage and funeral. - Researching on changes in marriage and funeral customs in their life cycle rites plays an important role in building the local cultural life. Thanks to this, some proposals to promote good cultural values and to remove existing bad rituals from their spiritual life. 3.2. Objects and scopes of the research 3 - Objects of the research are major changes in marriage and funeral customs of San Diu ethnic minority in Phu Binh District, Thai Nguyen Province, and the causes of these changes. The research bases on the comparison of the present customs with the ones in the past, through which the cultural values in their rituals and their relationship, among family members and among the public are clearly exposed. - Scopes of the research: In term of space: The research is done in Phu Binh District, Thai Nguyen Province, with a focus on the two communes Ban Dat and Tan Khanh, where there is the highest density of San Diu ethnic people. In term of time: The research on cultural characteristics of San Diu ethnic group in Phu Binh District, Thai Nguyen Province from the past to present in the comparative approach. 4. Theoretical bases and research methods - Theoretical bases The thesis is written basing on the dialectical and historical materialist perspectives of Marxism - Leninism, Ho Chi Minh Thoughts, and perspectives of our States and Party on the issues of ethnic groups and their cultures. Accordingly, the research always approaches to the materials and phenomena in their constant movements in space and time. This thesis also inherits the research achievements, theoretical bases and methodology of the local ethnologists. - Research methods The most important method is ethnographic fieldwork survey, in which direct interviews with individuals and groups are made, and, at the same time, observing, writing, video and sound recordings are realized in the two mentioned communes (Tan Khanh and Ban Dat) of Phu Binh District. Besides, other used methods are document studying, interdisciplinary method combining ethnology, cultural study, history, sociology, comparison, contrast, etc. - Material resource In order to complete this thesis, we have gathered information from different sources: survey, ethnographic field trips; talking with ethnologists; studying documents, articles, and other press about the San Diu group, their life cycle rites and other groups’ in Vietnam. 5. Contribution of the thesis - To contribute to the source of field trip survey, through which we clearly see the changes in marriage and funeral customs of San Diu ethnic group in Phu Binh District, Thai Nguyen Province from the past to present. - To make a systematic research in details on the two important existing customs in life cycle rites of San Diu ethnic group in Phu Binh District, Thai Nguyen Province, and the changes in each field through time. - To help studying and preserving good traditional cultural values of San Diu ethnic group in Vietnam in general and in Phu Binh District, Thai Nguyen Province in particular. - The research result will help building a scientific basis for cultural, educational and social policies, in which an essential is preserving the good traditional cultural values, and discontinuing the pessimistic and costly rituals which limit the development of 4 people’s awareness and society. This is importantly related to building a new cultural living style in the public in the period of national industrialization and modernization. 6. Layout of the thesis Besides the Introduction and Conclusion, the thesis includes three chapters: Chapter 1: General geographic information of Phu Binh District - Thai Nguyen Province and the San Diu ethnic group. Chapter 2: Traditional characters and changes of marriage and funeral customs of San Diu ethnic group in Phu Binh District - Thai Nguyen Province Chapter 3: Some proposals to preserving and promoting cultural values of marriage and funeral customs of San Diu ethnic group in Phu Binh District - Thai Nguyen Province. 5 CONTENTS Chapter 1: GENERAL GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION OF PHU BINH DISTRICT THAI NGUYEN PROVINCE AND THE SAN DIU ETHNIC GROUP 1.1. Geographic location and natural conditions 1.1.1. Geographic location In Ly Dynasty, the nowadays Phu Binh District was called Tu Nong District, Thai Nguyen Territory (Chau Thai Nguyen). In Minh Dynasty it was in Thai Nguyen District (Phu Thai Nguyen). In Le Dynasty, it was in Thai Nguyen Province (Thai Nguyen thua tuyen), which was then renamed into Ninh Soc (Ninh Soc thua tuyen). At the beginning of the 20th century, the French governor general in Indochina renamed it into Phu Binh District (phu Phu Binh). At the time right before the August 1945 Revolutionary, Phu Binh District (phu Phu Binh) consisting 9 towns, 47 communes, 7 villages and 1 ward, was one of the 7 districts (phu, huyen, chau) of Thai Nguyen Province. March 25th, 1948, the government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam issued the Decree 148/SL about removing the terms “phu”, “chau”, “quan” from provincial administrative naming, and using the only term “huyen” for the division which is larger than a commune and smaller than a province. From that time on, it has been officially called Phu Binh District1 (huyen Phu Binh) [22, p. 6]. Today Phu Binh District consists of 21 administrative divisions including 20 communes and 1 town (Tan Khanh, Ha Chau, Tan Hoa, Dong Lien, Luong Phu, Duong Thanh, Tan Thanh, Bao Ly, Nha Long, Tan Kim, Dao Xa, Tan Duc, Xuan Phuong, Thanh Ninh, Kha Son, Uc Ky, Ban Dat, Diem Thuy, Nga My, Thuong Dinh and Huong Son Town) which are divided into 315 villages and 4 community groups. Phu Binh District has 7 communes recognized as mountainous ones. Phu Binh District was in between the northern latitudes 21023' and 21035', eastern longitudes 105051' and 106002'. It borders Dong Hy District to the North and Northwest, Pho Yen District and Thai Nguyen City to the Southwest and West, Yen The District (Bac Giang Province) to the East, and Hiep Hoa District (Bac Giang) to the South. Phu Binh District is the farthest southern point of Thai Nguyen Province. It is not far from Thai Nguyen City (28 kilometers from district center to city center), Gang Thep industrial zone, Hanoi Capital, and conveniently located on the national traffic roads, so it is very easy and quick for its market economy and the social and economic exchanges with these centers to develop, which is an important ground advantage for Phu Binh District to move forward rapidly and firmly in the time of industrialization and modernization in this 21st century. 1.1.2. Natural conditions Total area of the district is 249.36 km2 in which the largest section is used for agricultural purposes: 13,845.93 ha (55.52% total area) [30, p. 1]. - Topography: the average gradient of about 0.04% decreases from Northeast to Southwest; the average height difference is 14m, the lowest one of 10m is in Duong Thanh Commune. The highest peak is on Bop Pass at 250m high above sea level. In general its topographic features include being comparatively flat with some low and slightly sloping downward-bow-shaped hills of 100 meters high at most. The area with 6 sloping degree lower than 80 is majority (67.56% total area), which is an advantage for developing agriculture, especially growing food crops. - Climate and hydrology: Locating under the Tropic of Cancer, Phu Binh District owns the monsoon tropical climate (Phu Binh District is in the hot area of the province). Besides, as its location is in the Northeast Vietnam, it features the typical climate of this area where the monsoon can easily be caught. + The annual average temperature is 23.10C - 24.40C; the difference between the hottest and the coldest months is 13.70C. + The annual average rainfall is 2000-5000 mm; the highest rainfall is on August and the lowest in January. + The annual total time of sunlight is about 1206-1570 hours. + The annual average humidity is 81-82%. + Winds: in Summer Southeast breeze is prevailing; but in Winter with the Northeast monsoon, the weather is cold and dry, causing great troubles for people’s working. The fact that Phu Binh District is in warm climate area is an advantage for agriculture, forestry, and local residents’ life. It enables the development of a stable diverse ecosystem in general, and agriculture and forestry in particular. - River system: Phu Binh District has the rich water supply of two rivers and three small streams. The Cau River, a river in the system of Thai Binh rivers, derives in Cho Don District Bac Kan Province. It runs through several districts such as Bach Thong, Phu Luong, Vo Nhai, then runs in northwest - southeast direction to Thai Nguyen City, Phu Binh District, Pho Yen District and Bac Giang Province. Its part in Phu Binh District is 29 kilometers long, starting from Thac Huong Dam (Dong Lien Commune), running through 9 other communes and finally entering Pho Yen District in Cha Commune. The average width of the river is 120 meter. This river is a quite convenient waterway and a rich source of water for farming. The Dao River (also known as Mang River) which derives from Thac Huong Dam (Dong Lien Commune) runs through nine communes with the total length of 31 kilometers before entering Bac Giang Province and joining the Thuong River. This river is an important part of the huge irrigation system supplying water for 1800 hectares of farms in Phu Binh District and thousands of farms in Hiep Hoa, Tan Yen and Yen The Districts Bac Giang Province. Phu Binh District also has three main small streams deriving from northeast area running through Ban Dat, Dao Xa, Tan Khanh, Tan Kim and Tan Thanh Communes and falling into the Cau River. Such river system has made it much easier to develop farming in Phu Binh District. 1.2. Social and economic situation * Economy: Local residents in Phu Binh District mainly live on agriculture. The farming land area is 13,845.93 hectares of which 10,085.14 hectares is used for annual plants, 2,296.55 hectares for gardens, 1,060.43 hectares for perennial trees [32, p.1, 2]. With such a potential and hard-working people with rich producing experience, Phu Binh District has the right conditions for agricultural development. In addition to food crops, vegetables, Phu Binh District also has 400.8 hectares of water surface for aquaculture. Although agriculture still faces much troubles, and depends on the nature, Phu Binh District has 7 been considered to be a granary, a rich labor force and a rich natural resource of Thai Nguyen Province. Besides agriculture, in Phu Binh District there are many handicrafts, especially pottery making in Lang Ta Village, and rattan knitting in many villages in Diem Thuy, Thuong Dinh communes, etc. Because its location and transportation are convenient for exchange of goods, especially for supplying foods for markets of Thai Nguyen, Bac Giang, Bac Ninh and Hanoi, so commerce plays an important role in the local economy. Phu Binh District has some big markets near main roads such as Don Market, Cau Market, Tan Duc Market, Hanh Market, etc., which are the exchanging points for nearby regions. Huong Son Town is more and more widen and crowded, attracted a large number of residents coming to open their businesses. Phu Binh people and Cell of Communist Party have well performed the reforms initiated and led by Vietnam Communist Party (1986) through the Party Congresses (from the Ninth Congress (1986) to the Fourteenth Congress (2005-2010)) and obtained great achievements in every fields and gradually made right use of local potentials. In 2011, although Phu Binh District people and government faced the same difficult challenges as other parts of the country, they have gained significant results in realizing socioeconomic development tasks, such as: Economic growth rate (GDP) in the area is estimated at 11.5%. Per capita income is estimated at 13 million dongs/person/ year. Production of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries in 2011 increased by 3.9% (especially farming production increased by 5.2% (thanks to the two successful rice crops, the most productive crops ever before, other crops quite stable and favorable). Total grain output of the whole year was 75,877 tons, an increase of 3.7% over 2010. Total state budget revenue in the area was estimated at 48.5 billion dongs. The production value of industry and small-scale industry (at constant price of 1994) was estimated at 75 billion dongs. Meat finisher output was 17,000 tons, increasing 6.25% over 2010. The district forest area was 351 hectares, an increase of 56.5% over 2010. The production value per 1 hectare of farming land (present price) was estimated at 67 million dongs, increasing 9 million over the plan. Forest coverage rate reached 25%. * Society: According to the preliminary population census of Phu Binh District, as on April 1st, 2009 its total population is 133,322 people in 34,963 households, of which the rural population is 125,887 people, and urban population is 7435 people. The average population density is 556 people per square kilometer, coming second after Thai Nguyen City. Besides land and natural resources, the potential in labor force of Phu Binh District is noteworthy. In 2011, Phu Binh District has created new jobs for 3,100 employees, equally 103% of plan targets, of which 130 people are sent to work abroad under predefined period, equally 108.3% of the plan of the year; District vocational training center provided training and associated training for over 702 people, equally 140% of the plan, 96.8% of which have been employed immediately after being trained. 8 The crude birth rate has been reduced to 0.3‰ (estimated) which is 0.1‰ lower than planned. The poor household rate has been reduced to 5.07% (estimated) which is 2,07% lower than planned. Material and spiritual life of the local people of all groups has been significantly improved; many social policies to support ethnic minorities, the poor and disadvantaged areas have been seriously implemented. The policies of the Party and State have been realized comprehensively, timely and effectively. The district has 21 kindergartens, 21 primary schools and 21 secondary schools, 03 high schools, 01 continuing education center, 01 career consulting center, 01 vocational training center; all communes or town have their own community learning centers. So far the district has completely removed illiteracy, completed popular secondary school education and has had 25 schools having achieved the National Standard. The schools and their facilities have been solidly built. Health care for people: District Hospital continues to be invested in infrastructure and facilities; 100 percents of commune health centers have doctors with their facilities, medical instruments being enhanced; population and family planning propaganda cooperators and village physicians are available in most of the villages and town’s population groups. Therefore, basic health care needs have been met. The percentage of malnourished children under 5 years old has been reduced to 21.4%. The percentage of rural households using hygienic water is 75%. Social security and the local army training have been well organized, met 100% of the targets. Infrastructures: the traffic system has received great interest and investment; the project of renovating and upgrading Highway 37 has been completed; many inter-communal roads have been invested to widen and asphalt such as Cau May - Tan Kim - Tan Khach Road, Cau May- Dong Lien Road, Uc Son - Tan Thanh - Hop Tien Road, and many others are under plans to be built in the short coming time. Facilities for schools, classes, hospitals, and clinics have been being well invested. All villages have been provided with national electricity to use in daily life and production. These are favorable conditions to evoke potentials and strengths, to boost the economy of the mountainous areas with large ethnic minorities. Road system of Phu Binh District is relatively dense. Highway 37 from Thai Nguyen City runs through the entire length of the district to Bac Giang. National Highway 38 from Diem Thuy via Ha Chau and Kha Son to Nha Nam (Bac Giang). In addition to the two main highways, Phu Binh also has 120 kilometers of inter-communal, 198 kilometers of inter-village roads, enabling car drive in every village in the district. Social security situation: the political security and social safety in the district is always stable; all ethnic minorities in the district absolutely believe in the leadership of the Party and local authorities. The communes of Tan Khanh, Tan Hoa, Tan Kim, Ban Dat and Dong Lien have done good work in keeping security in the border areas over the years. 1.3. San Diu People in Phu Binh District - Thai Nguyen Province 1.3.1. The people’s name, historical origin and population In Vietnam San Diu people is a minority group with small population, living mainly in the North: about 40,000 people, living on some low hills of the Quang Ninh, Hung Yen, 9 Bac Giang, Bac Ninh, Phu Tho, Vinh Phuc, Bac Kan, Thai Nguyen, Ha Giang, Tuyen Quang, and Thanh Hoa [4, p. 87]. San Diu people call themselves “San Deo Nhin”, Sino-Vietnamese transcription is “Son Dzao Nhan” which means Dzao People on the hills. Other peoples call San Diu people with different names basing on their dressing style, their house style, etc., such as: Man Quan Coc or Trai Coc (people with short pans), Man Vay Xe (people with slit skirts), Trai Dat, etc. Not until Mar 1960 the name San Diu was officially recognized by the National Department of Statistics. From that time on, the name San Diu has been officially used in all administrative documents. Nowadays, the name San Diu is popularly used around the country. The origin of San Diu people has not been revealed, as there is no historical evidence about that; and all we have is by guess. To tell about their own origin, San Diu people in Phu Binh District - Thai Nguyen Province created the mythical story “Frog King”, which is popularly told among the people. The story tells that under the brutal reign of Chinese feudalism (from late Ming Dynasty to early Qing Dynasty in the Seventeenth Century), San Diu people were caused to be in poverty and homelessness; some of the survival together ran away toward the Southeast Asia countries to settle down, including Vietnam. Although their origin has not been determined, San Diu people are always aware of being a people with the name San Diu they called themselves. No one remembers how they migrated to Vietnam; only the pain and frightening are left in their mind. However, they still clearly remember when they joined the Vietnamese peoples to live here. In his book “ San Diu people in Vietnam”, Ma Khanh Bang wrote: “After entering Vietnam, San Diu people crossed over Hoang Chuc Cao Son Mountain to Ha Coi, Tien Yen before spreading to many other places. Some of them went along the coastline to Dam Ha, Mong Cai, Hoanh Bo, Mao Khe, Dong Trieu and a small number went to Chi Linh (Hai Duong), whereas most of them followed the Yen Tu Range to Luc Nam, Luc Ngan, Lang Giang, Yen The (Bac Giang), and then from there moved to Vinh Yen, Phuc Yen (Vinh Phuc), Tuyen Quang (Ha Tuyen), Thai Nguyen (Bac Thai). So, San Diu people have been residing on the large midland from the left bank of Red River to the East of the Northern Vietnam. Besides a number of residents gathering in some communes of the former Bac Giang Province, the majority live in the Northeast and Southeast sides of Tam Dao Range in nowadays Vinh Phu, Ha Tuyen and Bac Thai provinces”[2, p. 17]. In Phu Binh District there are many peoples residing together such as: Chinese, Nung, San Chay, Dzao, H’mong, etc. The population of Phu Binh District - Thai Nguyen Province was 134,150 people according to statistic of the 01/04/2009 census, in which San Diu people’s population was 3115, accounting for 2.3% of the district population. Table 1.1: Phu Binh District’s population by ethnicity, gender, urban and rural area 10 Ethnicity Total Total Total % 134150 Urban Rural Male Female Total Male Female Total Male Female 66259 67892 7394 3617 3777 126756 62642 64114 124182 92.57 61208 62974 7202 3531 3671 116980 57677 59303 Peoples 1.Kinh 2.Tay 1804 1.34 962 842 61 33 28 1743 929 814 3.Nung 4594 3.42 2361 2233 108 44 64 4486 2317 2169 4.San Diu 3115 2.32 1521 1594 7 1 6 3108 1520 1588 19 0.01 3 16 2 0 2 17 3 14 6.Dzao 103 0.08 29 74 3 1 2 100 28 72 7.H’mong 24 0.02 15 9 0 0 0 24 15 9 8.Chinese 207 0.15 123 84 0 0 0 207 123 84 9.Other 102 0.08 37 65 11 7 4 91 30 61 5.San Chay Source: [27, tr.119] In Phu Binh District - Thai Nguyen Province, San Diu people are present in mostly every commune, but the majority of them are in the two communes of Ban Dat and Tan Khanh, which, respectively, count for 81 percents and 11.7 percents of their total population of the district. Despite the scattered distribution in several communes of the district, their culture is identical. Thus, our real research has been carried out in reality in these two communes where there are most San Diu people of the district in order to generalize the cultural identities available in the two ceremonies of marriage and funeral, and comparing with traditional customs to find the changes and reasons for those changes in today customs. Table 1.2: San Diu people’s population in Phu Binh District - Thai Nguyen Province No 1 2 Commune Dong Lien Ban Dat Percentage Number of Total San Diu of total San households population population Diu (household) (person) (person) population (%) 1104 4569 32 1431 6194 2224 81 11 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Tan Khanh Tan Kim Tan Thanh Tan Hoa Tan Duc Uc ky Xuan Phuong Kha Son Luong Phu Bao Ly Diem Thuy Duong Thanh Nha Long Thanh Ninh Ha Chau Thuong Dinh Nga My Huong Son Town Dao Xa Total 1789 1774 1293 1962 2065 1318 1835 2049 1078 1575 1924 1614 1792 1235 1358 2104 2330 7372 7646 5472 8289 8651 5586 7761 7747 4001 6540 7215 6549 7432 4410 2538 8509 9672 322 21 5 8 11 27 3 4 9 33 6 7 1 6 2 6 3 2170 1,433 35.233 7751 5,198 139.102 7 8 2.745 11.7 Source: Results from survey on ethnic minorities in Phu Binh District of the Chamber of Ethnicity, Phu Binh District People’s Committee, 2011. 1.3.2. Social organization Neighborhood relationship In Phu Binh District, the San Diu people’s villages are set on flat ground, the small valley or foot of the low hills and subject to the following specific criteria: Firstly, its back should lie on a hill or high ridge and its front should be flat and airy. With San Diu people, besides natural reasons, their selection of location is also affected by Chinese geomancy. Living in the midland, lying back on the hills and looking over the valley, they can cultivate both wet land and dry land, as well as take advantage of natural resources provided by forests. Furthermore, according to feng shui, at least each village or house needs a stand to lean on. In better case, there are two “hands” on sides, and a “block” on the far front (all are hills or ridges), that location is the best and the people living there can thrive well. Secondly, it should be near natural water sources (rivers, streams, creeks, ponds), which is convenient for their living and farming. In the past, San Diu people did not have wells, so rivers, streams, creeks and ponds were also water sources for daily living activities of their community. For playing such an important role, water sources are strictly protected by conventions created by the community. In addition, due to the influence of feng shui and folk beliefs, people often make them holy or put them in mysterious legends. 12 San Diu people’s villages are a kind of rural community mainly basing on neighborhood relationships. Each village resides together many different extended families (clans). They are organizations of traditional families: blood relations are paternal; children are named after their father’s family name. Consequently, the relations among extended family’s members are very close; together with relations among the community, solidarity in the villages is a must. They often say “Slan Déo loỏng si” to mean that there are not many San Diu people, so they must unify and help one another. In their villages, houses are organized in a collective-but-separate way; each house has its own territory with clearly defined boundaries. In the past, there are about 50 clans in a village of San Diu people, but today they are much more crowded, up to 100 clans per village. Extended family relationship: Extended family matters are considered to be very important to San Diu people. In Phu Binh - Thai Nguyen, there are many clans living in a village: Hoang, Vi, An, To, Truong, Duong, Do, Ha, Luu, Pham, Viem, Dao, Ly, Tran, Ninh, Tu, Le, Diep, Ta, etc. Each clan has their own system of middle names. They believe that in the past every clan lived in the same area, and worshiped the same ancient Father. Due to historical changes, they moved to different places. When they met, they could recognize their relatives if they had the same family and middle names. Basing on their middle names they would know their relative relations. However, name titles depend on date of birth: the older man will be the older brother. While the role of patriarchs is often highly important with some ethnic groups, it is not with San Diu people. However, sometimes they are invited to preside over the rites of a wedding or a funeral; and just occasionally they are invited to witness property divisions for children [17, p.23]. In marriage, San Diu people attach special important to the principle of blood-unrelated marriage; people of the same extended family are not allowed to get married to each other. Hence, the matters of extended family are always carefully taught to children by their parents. Family relationship San Diu people had changed to mode of small families of paternity before the August Revolution, but their clan spirit is still strongly present. Although the patriarch does not have any power over the clan, he is still invited to preside over the funeral ceremonies. In a family, the father or the husband has the right to decide on everything. The eldest son is nearly as highly respected as the father. Only sons are inherited their parents’ properties. There are very strict taboos between a father and his daughter-in-law, and between a brother and his sister-in-law. A woman must not directly take her baby to her father-inlaw or brother-in-law, but she must place the child in the bed before they take it. Fathers and brothers-in-law must not get in their daughter-in-law’s room, even when she is not in. Women’s position is low and they are not inherited properties from their parents. Only when the family does not have a son, and her husband stays in her house, then she will inherit their parents’ properties. San Diu people are monogamous. However, because men are appreciated whereas women are despised, a husband often marries an extra-wife if he does not have a son. 1.3.3. Livelihood culture It is possible to say that San Diu people, like other peoples in Phu Binh District, Thai Nguyen Province, have made the right use of the nature and exploit it to earn their living 13 and develop their community. With the topography, climate, soil, weather, hydrology, etc. of a midland area, their daily livelihood activities not only benefit with many advantages but also get many challenges. In such circumstances, with their traditional livelihood customs, they have created a stable living although not all families are well fed. After hundreds of years, San Diu people have withdrawn lots of experience in working, which is reflected in their annual production cycle, and built up an economy typical of the midland area in general but still boldly marked with their traditional customs. Farming: like other peoples, farming is the main source of food for daily meals and for household animals, as well as materials for some other industries like textile, fabric dyeing, etc. San Diu people plant many similar types of trees to other nearby peoples, appropriate for growing and cultivating on different types of soil, and for different seasons, such as: Rice (vo), crop plants: corn (mac), sweet potato (hong dzi), taro (xi hu), white cassava (pac moc suy), red cassava (hong moc suy); vegetables: gourd, pumpkin, cabbage, squash, egg-plant (khe), onion (song), garlic (ton), etc.; ingredient trees: sugar cane, tea, cotton, anil, rattan, bamboo, palm, etc.; fruit trees: longan, jackfruit, orange, tangerine, etc. Phu Binh District of Thai Nguyen Province is in the midlands with relatively stable topography in terms of geologic formation. However, through the long history of exploitation, this area’s natural green cover, especially forests, has been seriously destroyed, which caused soil to be eroded, only rocks left with no trees. San Diu people have made full use of mixed and extra crops. Their practice of alternative and mixed crops is a valuable treasure of knowledge on their soil solution. Farming tools of San Diu people are various and abundant, including ard or early plow (lai coc/lay) which is firm and light, suitable for terrace sloppy fields. Harrows including single, double and board ones. They have many types of hoes, rakes at various sizes to be used for different purposes. The board rake is much more efficient than hoes in making ridges. They use Vshaped cutters (vo lem) or other sickles to harvest rice. Besides, they also have wheel-less plows, shovels, produce knives, wheel-less ox-carts, bailers, etc. Livestock raising: Their livestock raising is well developed now. In the past, they mainly raising for the needs of pulling force and food in weddings, funerals, ceremonies, etc. Nowadays, it is partly for the purpose of selling goods. The proportion of income from livestock out of their total income is significantly increasing. In order to accomplish that purpose, the old tradition of keeping animals out freely and for a long time has been replaced by new methods of planned raising, keeping animals in sheds, feeding full, and applying necessary measures of disease prevention. Family craftworks: San Diu ethnic people have traditional handicrafts of spinning, weaving, indigo making, forging, paper making, basketry, furniture, etc. These hand-made products are mainly used for their daily living and working activities, just sometimes for selling or exchanging with other goods in the area, etc. 1.3.4. Material culture Cuisine: San Diu people’s cuisine is mainly based on the “plant civilization”. Everyday they have rice, boiled and stirred fried vegetables, and soup for meals. Whereas other peoples often mainly have rice, San Diu people also have porridge for their meals, which 14 is one of their traditional customs. They often eat rice and porridge together, so everyday they cook watery porridge which they consider to be a refreshing drink. Sometimes they also invite guests - neighbors or strangers - to drink watery porridge. During festivals, or feasts with the participation of their community, there are plenty of delicious dishes made from chicken, pork, cakes, etc. They often slaughter many pigs in these cases. If they can not eat all, the rest will be salted, which is an efficient method of preserving food for long. On the annual Thanh Minh Day (Grave-visiting Day), San Diu people must pray to their ancestors with black glutinous rice. To make this type of rice, they have to crush the leaves of “lau sau” trees (which is popular in the area), and take its water to soak the glutinous rice before cooking it. Black glutinous rice is made from a special type of rice which is very supple and aromatic, mixed with the special taste of “lau sau” leaves. On Tet holidays, they also make animal-shaped cakes such as chickenshaped (cay cong tap) or duck-shaped (ap cong cap) ones. These cakes are made from glutinous rice, covered with wild pineapple leaves. Peng cake is the only one made for funerals. San Diu people also have customs of eating betel, popular with both men and women. They often take the most delicious food to the elderly and the children; the children often eat chicken legs but not chicken feet for fear of bad writing, etc. In some families there is still such a strict regulation that daughter-in-law must not sit and eat lunch on the same tray with father-in-law and older brother-in-law, or even just sit on a par with these people. When they have guests, women and children have to eat on a lower separate tray. Costumes: The traditional costumes of the women consist of a black scarf, a long shirt (single or double. If is double, then it is always a white one beneath and a little longer indigo one outside), a red traditional bra, a white or pink or light blue waist belt. Their skirts which are indigo and longer than their knees are made from separate pieces of cloth with the same belt. Each piece overlaps the others about 10-15 centimeters (4-piece skirt) or each piece has three or four folds merging with each other (two-piece skirt). When they are wearing such a skirt with a piece in the front and the other at the back, it makes a two slit along the outer sides of their legs. A four-piece skirt will have two pieces at the front and two at the back. Wearing this type of skirt always requires women to be thoughtful while they are working or communicating. Their group name “Man Vay Xe” (people with slit skirts) derived from this outstanding outfit character. People of different ages wear their shirts differently. Old women often wear long shirt with the left flap crossed over the right, which is contrary to the young. Besides, the young females wear red or purple waist belts decorated with colorful patterns. Women with baby often wear shorter shirt without buttons but strings to tie up. Men do not wear much jewelry, just some bronze or silver rings, or a necklace occasionally. Women have earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings, belly chains, etc. Another special accessory of women is the betel bag (loi thoi) in shape of a grapefruit segment. It is carefully sewn and embroidered. Each detail shows the ingenuity and carefulness of San Diu women. It is embroidered with colorful threads, and inserted with four to eight strings made of colorful threads. The long string threaded with a copper coin chain is tied at the end, and can be squeezed over the shoulder backwards to keep the betel bag. Besides this betel bag, we cannot ignore the areca cutting knife with its meticulously carved wooden bag 15 which is always attached to their waist belt during holidays and festivals. Their betel bag is an accessory to make them more graceful. Today the vast majority of San Diu people wear modern outfits like Vietnamese people. The traditional costumes are just worn on their holidays or festivals. Accommodation: traditionally, San Diu people used to build houses with thatched roofs and earthen walls, very few windows, so being low and humid. There are two types of earthen houses: houses with stilts and thin earthen walls, and houses with thick earthen walls. Their houses now have brick walls and tile roofs like those of Vietnamese people in their neighborhood. 1.3.5. Spiritual culture Religion and beliefs: San Diu people concept that there are three worlds: the upper world is of ancestors and gods, the middle world is of human beings, and the lower world is the hell. In the upper world (Heaven), gods govern the two lower worlds. In the middle world (earth), there are challenges for people, and in the lower world (hell), people, or more exactly human spirits, receive goodness or punishments for their behaviors on earth. When nature is out of men’s control, and some phenomena are unexplainable, their belief in devils and gods has a strong effect on their spiritual life. With that belief, people have customs of worshiping to calm their souls. Worshiping customs are now popular needs of San Diu people with many unique rites. Firstly, it is their customs of worshiping their ancestors. Normally, each family has an altar to worship their ancestors placed right at the center of their house, close to the back wall. San Diu people do not have death ceremonies, but everytime there is an important event such as having a baby, building a new house, wedding or funeral, etc., they do not forget to tell their ancestors. Together with worshiping their ancestors, they also pay attention to worshiping the Gods of the kitchen and the God of land. Because of the contact with Vietnamese and Chinese cultures, San Diu people cannot avoid the influence of the religions like Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. However, the effects of these three religions are not much shown in material aspects with worshiping places and systems of believers, but mainly in spiritual life with popular beliefs. The influences of Taoism are reflected on their acceptance of the concepts of the universe, systems of Gods with the three worlds: Heaven, Earth and Hell. In their community there are some priests who are granted with honors and seals. In their shrine they worship Heaven God, and the three other Taoism’s Gods (Thuong Thanh, Thai Thanh and Ngoc Thanh). During San Diu people’s life cycle ceremonies, especially in their funerals, the role of these priests is very important. The influences of Buddhism on their spiritual life are most clearly shown in their praying for happiness and safety, etc. They do believe in the theories of “causes and effects” and “incarnation”, so they find it important to do goodness and moral acts; they always teach their children to act morally and humanely, so that they will have happiness in the future. Confucianism also has great effects on the rituals of San Diu people. It is represented in the concepts of personal destiny. They believe that each person has his own destiny which is set by Heaven: a destiny of being rich or poor, of tall or short, destiny of being good partners or not, etc. 16 Popular arts: Like other ethnic minorities, San Diu people’s popular arts were formed and have been being developed along their history of foundation and development of the group. Popular arts are the voice of the people, are created by the people during their working and fighting, and are kept through the generations. San Diu people have a rich long-lasting source of popular arts with various forms and unique features for the group. By tradition, when the priests come to practice a ritual, they always bring along with various types of instruments: Shakyamuni Buddha Statue, bronze dragon statue, Buddhist ringed staff, authorized card, etc., and a special thing: the worshiping picture. The characters presented in the pictures symbolize the figures of imagination in San Diu people’s spiritual life. Besides, the worshiping pictures, they also have God paintings, Tam Dan paintings. God painting is used in a priest’s funeral. A short time after the death of a priest, his family holds a praying for him, and God paintings are used in that ceremony. A Tam Dan painting is also hung on the altar together with the God painting, which is believed to protect children of the priest. Music instruments include conical horns “ngoi coc” (made of ox horn or shellfish), flutes, high-pitched flat gongs, cymbals, leather drums, etc. About dancing, in the religious rituals, there are several dances such as dance with staffs (lai thet song), dance with lamps (binh tanh), street cleaning dance (hang coong chieesp senh), dance with charmed stick or ghost controlling dance (ket cay than), worshipingand-running dance, etc. An important type of folk singing is love singing which is call “soong co” by San Diu people. This is a type of parallel singing between men and women, like sli singing or luon singing of Tay, or Nung people. “Soong co” is an elegant form of singing, with various contents to praise the beauty of the nature, the love for hometown, country, people and love for lover, etc. It tells about laborers’ diligence and bravery, criticizes bad habits, and praises people’s wishes to overcome all troubles to earn a good and happy life. The lively “soong co” is fascinating because its lyric is not pre-written, but it is created by thought at the moment of singing so that it is appropriate with the context and with the singer’s partner. “Soong co” singers often use the scenic spots of their hometown, their daily working activities, and historic events to beautify their singing and to show love and their wish to have a prosperous and happy life. There are various forms of “soong co” singing typically including happy new year singing (shin nen co), new house singing (soong chiu oc co), happy wedding singing (senh ca chiu co), parallel love singing (hi soon soong so), etc. They may sing overnight, and night after night, even throughout a week. A wedding of San Diu people cannot go without “soong co”, which is to celebrate the rituals of a wedding: first introducing, describing wedding presents and welcome presents, inviting guests, congratulating brides and grooms, saying thank-you to servants, etc. All these are realized by singing. Conclusion for chapter 1: Phu Binh is a mountainous and midland district to the south of Thai Nguyen City, with very convenient conditions for plants and animals to live and nourish, which brings back a rich source of foods. Phu Binh District is home to many ethnic groups which have their own cultural characters. Consequently, mixed distribution of groups of people enables a 17 thorough cultural exchange among them, which helps create a colorful picture of Phu Binh District’s ethnic groups. With convenient natural conditions appropriate with their psychological thinking and living habits, this place is also home to San Diu people, with most of them living in Tan Khanh and Ban Dat Communes. The people are immigrants from the north but their cultural customs are really interesting. Besides traditional values, they also absorb new customs to enrich their culture, which is the result of the nowadays cultural exchange. 18
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