At present there are 54 different ethnic groups inhabiting Vietnam, in which Kinh (Viet) people make up nearly 90% of the whole population, and 53 other ethnic groups represent over 10%.

   
         

The Vietnamese nation was formed through a process of two major ancient cultures, the Chinese and the Indian. Thus a peculiar trait of Vietnam's culture was formed. As far as anthropology is concerned the Vietnamese people have their origin in the Mongolid race, believed to be one of the major or races of the world and often found in northern and eastern Asia.
* 54 different ethnic groups inhabiting Vietnam can divide eight different groups by the Vietnamese language:

The Viet - Muong Group includes 4 ethnic groups
:
The Tay - Thai Group includes 8 ethnic groups
:
The Mon - Khmer Group includes 21 ethnic groups
:
The H'Mong - Dao Group includes 3 groups
:
The Kadai Group includes 4 ethnic groups
:
The Malayo - Polynesian Group includes 5 ethnic groups
:
The Han Group includes 3 ethnic groups
:
The Tibeto - Burnma Group includes 6 ethnic groups
:

In the core of the history of national development, all these groups of people have been closely attached to one another in sharing the same tasks of fighting against foreign invaders, defending the country's territory, gaining the right to live and the right to national independence and self-determination. Each group of ethnic people have developed their own language and identity, thus making the Vietnamese culture, long known for its variety, a well blended combination of different cultures

 

   

 

   
 

 

Viet (Kinh) ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Kinh (Viet).
Population: About 65.8 million people (Year 1999).
Locality: These people live in all provinces but are densely clustered in the delta areas and urban centers.
Language: Viet - Muong

 

 
   

 

   

 

Customs and habits
The Kinh ancient villages are usually surrounded by bamboo groves. The communal house is a place for meeting and conducting common ritual ceremonies. The Kinh also live in mud houses. They enjoy the habits of chewing betel, smoking water pipes and cigarettes, drinking tea, and eating ordinary rice.
The husband is considered the head of the family. Children take the family name of their father. The eldest son is responsible for the worship of dead parents and grandparents. Each family lineage has a temple for their forefathers and the head of the family lineage handles all common affairs.
Monogamy is observed during marriage. The family of the man approves the marriage and organizes the wedding for him. After the wedding party, the bride goes to live with her husband's family.
The Kinh attach much importance to fidelity and the virtues of the bride.
They worship their ancestors and also practice Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism or Christianity to various extents.
Culture
The Kinh have a rich collection of literature which includes old tales, folk ballads, and proverbs. The written literature takes many forms such as poems, writings, books, and edicts. Song, music, sculpture, painting, dance and performance are also well developed and popular.
Costumes
The traditional attire of the Kinh in the north is a brown pajama set for men. A four paneled robe, bra, and trousers for women, also in brown, are usually worn. In the southern delta plains, both men and women wear black pajamas. At present, the Kinh's costumes resemble western clothing.
Economy
Rice cultivation in submerged fields is the main economic activity of the Kinh. They also erect dykes and dig canals which help in the growing of wet rice, gardening, and sericulture. They also raise cattle and poultry. Pottery production has been very developed for a long time.

   

 

   
 

 

Chut ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Chut (Ruc, Sach, Arem, May, Ma Lieng, Tu Vang, Pa Leng, Xe Lang, To Hung, Cha Cu, Tac Cuc, Ymo, and Xa La Vang).
Population: 3,829 people (Year 1999).
Locality: Minh Hoa and Tuyen Hoa districts of Quang Binh Province.
Language: Viet - Muong

 

 
   

 

   

Customs and habits
Though most Chut live a sedentary life, their villages are quite separated and their houses are temporary. Each lineage has its leader and an altar to worship their common ancestors. Among the leaders of the lineages, those who can win the highest prestige will be proclaimed village chief. Matrimony is still practiced. The Chut have very simple funerals.
Culture
The Chut language belongs to the Viet-Muong Group. The Chut have inherited a rich folk art and culture. The folk songs are called Ka-tum and Ka-lenh, and are very popular among many people. The ancient tales of the Chut are diverse and have various themes. The Chut play pan-pipes and six-hole flutes.
Economy
The Chut are primarily involved in agriculture and they practice slash and burn cultivation. They also practice hunting, gathering, fishing, and animal husbandry. Carpentry and basketry are another means of income generation.


   

 

   
 

 

Muong ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Muong (Moi, Mual, Moi, Moi Bi, Au Ta and Ao Ta).
Population: More than 1,137,515 people (Year 1999).
Locality: The largest population is concentrated in Hoa Binh Province and the mountainous districts of Thanh Hoa Province.
Language: Viet - Muong

 

 
   

 

   

Customs and habits
In former days, the "lang dao" system characterized Muong society. The "lang dao" ruled the Muong regions. A head of a "muong" was a "lang cun", "lang xom", or "dao xom".
Muong marriage customs are similar to the Kinh. When a woman is giving birth to a child, her family surrounds the main ladder to the house with a bamboo fence. The child will be given a name when it is one year old. The Muong hold funerals with strict rules. Muong practice a polytheistic religion and ancestor worship.
Culture
The Muong language belongs to the Viet-Muong group. The popular literature and arts of the Muong are rich and include long poems, "mo" (ceremonial songs), folksongs, dialogue duets, proverbs, lullabies, and children's songs. The gong is a favorite musical instrument of the Muong, as are the two stringed violins, flutes, drums and pan pipes.
The Muong hold many ceremonies year round such as the Going to the Fields Ceremony ("Khuong Mua"), Praying-for-Rain Ceremony (during the fourth lunar month), Washing Rice Leaves Ceremony (during the seventh and eighth lunar months), and the New Rice Ritual.
Costumes
Men dress in indigo pajamas. Women wear white rectangular scarves, bras, long skirts, and short vests that are open at the front (or at the shoulders) without buttons. The skirt is complemented by a very large silk belt embroidered with various motifs such as flowers, figures, dragons, phoenixes, deer, and birds.
Economy
The Muong have practiced farming for a long time. Wet rice is their main food staple. Other family income is generated through the exploitation of forest products including mushrooms, dried fungus, ammonium, and sticklac. Muong handicrafts include weaving, basketry, and silk spinning. Muong women are known to be very skilled at loom weaving

   

 

   
 

 

Tho ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Tho (Keo, Mon, Cuoi, Ho, Tay Poong, Dan Lai, and Ly Ha).
Population: 68,394 people (Year 1999).
Locality: The Tho live in the western parts of Nghe An Province.
Language: Viet - Muong

 

 
   

 

   

Customs and habits
Formerly, the Tho lived in houses built on stilts. Now they prefer houses built on the ground. Close relationships and a desire to help each other have existed for a very long time in Tho society. Young Tho boys and girls have enjoyed considerable freedom through a custom known as "Ngu Mai". They are allowed to lie together and have heart-to-heart talks with each other. In the course of these nocturnal parties, each boy and girl will eventually find their sweetheart. As for marriage, a boy's family must spend a lot of money in preparation for the celebration of the wedding. Therefore, a boy must work many days for his future in-laws. The Tho worship innumerable genies and spirits. They also have great respect for pioneers who have made contributions to the clearing of the land and the building of the village, and for the numerous war heroes. All families also worship their ancestors. Each year, the most important ceremony called "Going to the Field" is held.
Culture
The Tho language belongs to the Viet-Muong Group.
Costumes
Tho attire resembles the farmers’ dress of the Kinh in the early half of 20th century. Tho women buy skirts from the Thai and wear a square white cloth around their heads which serves as a female head dress. The morning ribbon is a long white piece of cloth.
Economy
The Tho cultivate rice and hemp. With rice cultivation, they often use ploughs and harrows to till the soil. Hemp is grown primarily for producing items for daily use. The forest provides various kinds of vegetable for Tho daily life.


 

   

 

   
 

 

Dao ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Dao ("Dao Quan Trang" (Dao with white trousers), "Dao Quan Chet" (Dao with tight trousers), "Dao Tien" (Dao with coins), "Dao Thanh Y" (Dao with blue dress), "Dao Do" (Red Dao), Man, Dong, Trai, Xa, Diu Mien, Lim Mien, Lu Giang, Lan Ten, Dai Ban, Tieu Ban, Col Ngang, Col Mua and Son Dau).
Population: 620,538 people (Year 1999).
Locality: The Dao live along the Sino-Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Lao borders and in some midland provinces and provinces along the coastline of northern Vietnam.
Language: H'Mong - Dzao

 

 
   

 

   

Customs and habits
The Dao worship their ancestors called Ban Ho. Two forms of matrilocals exist, a temporary matrilocal and permanent matrilocal. Their funerals reflect many ancient customs. In some regions, dead people from 12 years old and older are cremated. The houses are built either on stilts, level with the ground, or half on stilts and half on beaten earth.
Culture
Dao language belongs to the Mong-Dao Group. The Dao have long used Chinese writings (but pronounced in the Dao way) called Nom Dao (Dao Demotic Script).
Costumes
The attire of the Dao men consists of trousers and short vests. Women's attire is more diversified and is often decorated with many traditional motifs.
Economy
The Dao mainly live off of rice cultivation and by growing subsidiary crops. Sideline occupations include weaving, carpentering, blacksmithing, papermaking and vegetable oil production.


 

   

 

   
 

 

Mong (H'Mong ethnic group)

Name of ethnic group: Mong (H'Mong): (Mong Do, White Mong, Mong Lenh (Variety Mong), Mong Si (Red Mong), Mong Du (Black Mong) and Mong Sua (Man Mong).
Population: 787,604 people (Year 1999).
Locality: The Mong are concentrated in Ha Giang, Tuyen Quang, Lao Cai, Yen Bai, Lai Chau, Son La, Cao Bang and Nghe An provinces.
Language: H'Mong - Dzao

 

 
   

 

   

Customs and habits
Each lineage lives within a group setting. The head of the village assumes the common affairs for the lineage. Young Mong men and women are free to choose their partners. Marriages are absolutely forbidden between men and women of the same lineage. Matrimonial life of the Mong is very harmonious and divorce is very rare.
Culture
Mong language belongs to the Mong-Dao Group. The Traditional Tet (New Year's Day) of the Mong is organized every December. They refrain from eating green vegetables during the three days of the Tet Holiday. The musical instruments of the Mong include various kinds of "khen" (pan-pipes) and lip organs. After a hard working day and to celebrate spring, the young men and women often play "khen" and lip organs to express their feelings for their partners.
Costumes
The Mong make their clothes from linen. Women's attire consists of a skirt, a blouse that opens at the front and has embroidery on the back, an apron to cover the skirt at the front, and leggings.
Economy
The Mong live mainly on slash-and-burn cultivation. They also grow rice and corn on terraced fields. Their principal food plants are corn, rice, and rye. Apart from these crops, they also grow medicinal plants and linen plants to supply the fibers for cloth weaving.


   

 

   
 

 

Pa Then ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Pa Then (Pa Hung and Tong).
Population: 5,569 people (Year 1999).
Locality: Concentrated in communes of Ha Giang and Tuyen Quang provinces.
Language: H'Mong - Dzao

 

 
   

 

   

Customs and habits
Pa Then houses are built either on stilts, level with the ground, or half on stilts and half on the earth. Marriage is strictly forbidden within the same lineage. According to customs, after marriage the husband lives with his wife's family for a certain amount of time. If the wife has no brothers, the husband will live with his wife's family forever, and he has to worship the spirits of his wife's family. Half of the children take the family name of their father, and the rest takes the family name of their mother. The Pa Then worship their ancestors at Home. They worship the spirits of the soil and the new rice crop, pray for the rain, and worship the souls of the dead.
Culture
The Pa Then language belongs to the Mong-Dao Group. The Pa Then have managed to preserve a rich heritage of folk culture through legends, folk songs, lullabies, and dances. They also have a lot of musical instruments such as panpipes, string instruments called the "tay nhay", and bamboo flutes.
Costumes
The Pa Then costumes look very colourful. Men wear shirts, long indigo trousers, and cover themselves with a long scarf. Women wear long skirts, a bra and a shirt. They like to wear their hair wound up in a turban which is trimmed with colourful motifs.
Economy
The Pa Then live mainly on slash-and-burn cultivation. Rice and corn are their food staple.


   

 

   
 

 

Gie Trieng ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Gie Trieng (Dgich, Tareh, Giang Ray, Pin, Trieng, Treng Ta Lieng, Ve, La Ve, and Bnoong).
Population: 30,243 people (Year 1999).
Locality: Kon Tum Province and the mountainous areas of Quang Ninh Province.
Language: Mon - Khmer

 

 
   

 

   

Customs and habits
The Gie Trieng lives in long houses built on stilts. Houses in the village are arranged in a circle around the Rong (communal house). Young woman decide when they will marry according to their own initiative. The Gie Trieng believes that all beings have a "soul" and a "spirit". Therefore ritual ceremonies and the watching of good and bad omens have prevailed. The sacrifice of buffaloes is a common ritual ceremony.
Culture
The Gie Trieng language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group.
Costumes
Men usually wear loincloths. Women wear skirts long enough to cover their chests and some have adapted to wearing a bra sewn into their skirts.
Economy
The Gie Trieng lives mainly on the cultivation of the land, hunting, fishing, and gathering.


   

 

   
 

 

Khang ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Khang (Xa Khao, Xa Xua, Xa Don, Xa Dang, Xa Hoc, Xa Ai, Xa Bung, and Quang Lam).
Population: 10,272 people (Year 1999).
Locality: Son La and Lai Chau provinces.
Language: Mon - Khmer

 

 
   

 

   

Customs and habits
The Khang live in houses built on stilts, with three rooms. Each house has two kitchens, one kitchen is used to cook daily meals and the other is used to warm and cook meals which are offered to worship dead parents. Khang marriage ceremonies go through three steps. First, a marriage proposal is made. Next, parental approval is sought; and finally the wedding occurs. The first stage is held for the groom's family and the second stage is held in order to accompany the bride to her husband's Home.
Culture
Khang language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group.
Costumes
Khang women dye their teeth black and chew betel like the Thai.
Economy
The Khang mainly practice slash-and-burn cultivation using traditional techniques such as digging holes and planting seeds in these holes. They grow sticky rice which serves as their food staple. Their weaving products include chairs, baskets, flat baskets, suitcases, packs, and wooden boats. The Khang also grow cotton and exchange it for cloth and garments.


   

 

   
 

 

Kho Mu ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Kho Mu (Xa Cau, Mun Xen, Pu Thenh, Tenh, and Tay Hay).
Population: 56,542 people (Year 1999).
Locality: Nghe An, Lai Chau, Son La, Thanh Hoa, and Yen Bai provinces.
Language: Mon - Khmer

 

 
   

 

   

Customs and habits
The Kho Mu still live a nomadic lifestyle. Their houses are built with temporary and rudimentary materials and have very little furniture. The husband must live with his wife's family for one year after marriage. Marriage between the same lineages is strictly forbidden. The Kho Mu believe in the existence of spirits. The heavens, the sound of thunder, the earth, the forests, and the field are all assisted by spirits. The worshipping of spirits of the village and of ancestors is very common. They also pray for bumper harvests and good annual production.
Culture
The Kho Mu language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group. A rich heritage of tradition and culture can be found in this ethnic group.
Costumes
The garments of the Kho Mu resemble the Thai group, but the women's ornaments are unique to this group.
Economy
The Kho Mu live on slash-and-burn cultivation, hunting, and gathering. Basketry is also a very developed skill among the members of this group.

 

Mang ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Mang (Mang U and Xa La Vang).
Population: 2,663 people (Year 1999).
Locality: Sin Ho, Muong Te, Phong Tho districts of Lai Chau Province; and Muong Cha District of Dien Bien Province.
Language: Mon - Khmer

 

Customs and habits
The chief of the village, together with the council of the oldest men, takes responsibility for the affairs of his village. The houses are built on stilts. Young Mang men and women are free to choose their own partners. According to customs, the two families are made to struggle for the bride on the wedding day as the bride is brought from the house of her family to worship the heavens.
Culture
The Mang language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group. Chin tattooing is considered a rite for young men to mature into adulthood.
Costumes
Men wear garments consisting of a short vest open at the front and trousers. Women wear a long skirt, a short vest open at the front, and a piece of white cloth decorated with various motifs.
Economy
The Mang practice slash-and-burn cultivation techniques with rudimentary Home-made tools. The Mang cultivate rice in terraced fields similar to the Tha and practice basketry.

   

 

   
 

 

O Du ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: O Du (Tay Hat).
Population: 301 people (Year 1999).
Locality: The O Du live in the villages of Kim Hoa and Xop Pot in Kim Da Commune, and the rest live in nearby villages in Tuong Duong District, Nghe An Province.
Language: Mon - Khmer

 

 
   

 

   

Customs and habits
The O Du live in small families. After marriage, the bridegroom lives at his wife's house for some time before returning to his house with his children and his wife. For the O Du, the New Year begins on the day when the thunder rolls for the first time in early spring. They believe that people have souls which, after death, become the soul of the house, watching over every activity of the living.
Culture
O Du language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group and is now no longer used. They do use the Thai and Kho Mu languages, however. As a result, their cultural identity is obscured by the influences of the Thai and the Kho Mu.
Economy
The O Du live off of farming on slash-and-burnt plots, rearing animals, gathering, and hunting. Weaving is also a sideline family occupation

 

 

   

 

   
 

 

Xinh Mun ethnic group

Name of ethnic group: Xinh Mun (Puoc, and Pua).
Population: 18,018 people (Year 1999).
Locality: Son La and Lai Chau provinces and along the Vietnamese-Lao border regions.
Language: Mon - Khmer

 

 
   

 

   

Customs and habits
Xinh Mun houses are built on stilts, have vaulted roofs shaped like a tortoise shell and stairways at both ends of the house. The children take the family name of the father. After the death of the father, the eldest brother is elevated to an important position.
According to marriage customs, the family of the groom must give money to the bride's family. After the proposal, engagement, and wedding, the h
usband goes and lives with his wife's family. A few years later, when the married couple has a few children, the wife is then welcomed to her husband's house. The couple must change their name and take another name given by the mother-in-law's younger brother. It is the habit of the Xinh Mun to chew betel nut, dye their teeth black, and drink alcohol.
During the production of rice, people hold many ceremonies and maintain many taboos. The villagers annually organize a ceremony to
honour the spirit of the village.
Culture
The Xinh Mun language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group.
Costumes
They wear garments that resemble the Thai and Lao.
Economy
The Xinh Mun grow glutinous rice and corn on burned land and terraced fields. They also gather, rear animals, hunt, make basketry articles, and have developed a system of bartering goods.