Showroom No. 4 exhibits and introduces the cultures of 21 ethnic groups of the Môn – Khmer language group. These groups live in all three regions: the North, Central – Central Highlands and South VietNam.
In the North there are 5 ethnic groups, among which, four groups of Khơ Mú, Mảng, Kháng and Xinh Mun live in the northwest provinces. The Ơ Đu ethnic group live in Nghệ An.
The Central – Central Highlands have 15 ethnic groups including Bru – Vân Kiều, Tà Ôi, Cờ Tu, Ba Na, Xơ Đăng, Cơ Ho, H Rê, Gié Triêng, Xtiêng, Co, Chơ Ro, Rơ Măm and Brâu.
The South is the dwelling of the Khmer.
The ethnic groups of the Môn – Khmer language family are the aborigines, having aged-old history in Vietnam and Indochina. Apart from general characteristics in language, most of these groups live on cultivating milpas in combination with wet rice field. They practice the method of creating holes for seeds by sticks and raking weed to cultivate on sloping milpas, use papoose to transport. They are good in weaving bamboo and rattan. They live in houses on stilts and drink wine out of jar through pipe as their communal cultural activities. Besides, each ethnic group also features its peculiar cultural identities.
* Exhibition topic No. 1: Villages and houses of Môn – Khmer group:
Ethnic minorities of Môn – Khmer group live in concentration in villages. In the Northwest, village is called bản, in Trường Sơn Mountain range – Central Highlands Buôn, and in the South Phum sóc. All of these villages are built on dry and high terraces in concentration, near water sources and have their own cultivation lands and cemeteries. Ethnic minorities of Môn – Khmer group build house in traditional architecture which is stilted house of three rooms, two wings and four roofs. The Kháng and Xinh Mun people build house like the one of the Black Thái people, two gables of which are decorated with khau cút in the shape of a tortoise shell. But the plans inside are different. The house of the Xinh Mun always has a room for receiving guest and the alter worshipping the family’s ghosts, other rooms are reserved for family use. The Mảng’s house always has two doors at the two gables, one reserved for male and another for female. Inside the house is partitioned into many rooms for small families, following the order from the guest room, house owner’s room, sons’ rooms and daughters’ rooms.
Ethnic groups in Trường Sơn Mountain range – Central Highlands live in Buôn, each buôn accommodates some dozens of houses surrounding the Rông House. People live in long houses, in which there are many generations. Each room is one small family.
Houses of the Khmer are very simple, mainly with earthen floor. The building materials are rattan, bamboo and leaves of coconut or palm tree. The plan inside a house includes the middle room for receiving guests, two sides are the sleeping places of men, the half part behind is a small room for women. People’s inner wishes are to build a spacious pagoda in the middle of phum sóc.
+ House with round roof of the Tà Ôi people:
The gable of a round-roofed house of the Tà Ôi ethnic group exhibited in the Museum is the reproduced model of a stilted house of 100m long of Mr. Võ Bắt’s family in Tà Rụt Village, A Ngo Commune, Quảng Trị Province. This is a long house of hundred years old, made from kiền kiền wood, a benign tree with high durability. The house was built with a round roof, decorated with “Khau cút” in the shapes of crossing buffalo horns and pigeons on the gable roofs, at the joining with the roof ends. The roof is made from thatch and palm leaves and has big slope.
In average, a long house accommodates from 10 to 20 rooms, each one for a small family. All the house is supported by a system of columns and separated from the ground suface by a floor of about 1.5m high. The architecture of every room is simple with two main columns supporting a traverse beam. On the traverse beam, there are two beams running from the roof to the column heads. Under the floor there is a horizontal beam connecting two main columns by mortises. All the column system is planted on the ground.
The plan inside the house includes: the middle room is for worshipping, receiving guests and meeting. The inner part is divided into many sections, each one for a family. In front there is a main door coming to a stairs to go down the yard. In the middle of every room of each family, there is a cooking fire, around which happen all activities, eating and resting etc…
Today, there exist few long houses with round roofs. Now, people live in earthen house or brick house with metal roofing. Small families now reside in separate houses.
* Exhibition topic No. 2: Agricultural cultivation of the Môn – Khmer group:
Most of ethnic groups in the Môn – Khmer language family in the Northwest and Central – Central Highlands cultivate milpas in combination with wet rice field. They practice the method of creating holes for seeds by sticks and raking weed to cultivate on sloping milpas.
The methods of cultivating milpas of these ethnic groups are basically the same, including: slashing, burning, making holes, putting seeds into the holes, taking care and gathering. People know how to use labouring tools suitable for environment conditions. For even milpas, they use plough and harrow to work land. For sloping milpas, they use sticks to make holes to keep the fertility of the soil. Every phase of cultivation is distributed among male and female. When they sow the seeds, men go in the front, using stick to make holes, then women follow to put seeds into holes and cover with earth. In many places, Khơ Mú people also tie small bells on the stick head, so every time they make a hole, the musical sound releases the hardship of labour and make people feel closer to nature. Stick making holes is an important tool, therefore it is washed after using and put at a solemn place in the house. Before using it, people carry out a worshipping ceremony to pray for the seed sprout quickly without pests.
Today, this method is still applied in some milpas with high slope because it is suitable for the terrain there and to protect the fertility of land.
Along with the cultivation of milpas, ethnic groups in Trường sơn Mountain range – Central Highlands have created many production tools suitable for different phases of cultivation such as: Chà gạc, machetes, rakes, hoes and axes. In which, chà gạc used for slashing milpa is a multipurpose knife, can be used to cut, slash milpa, sometimes weapon for hunting or sefl-defense. Therefore, formerly in ethnic groups in the Central Highlands such as Giẻ Triêng and Xtiêng, when a boy proposed a marriage, it is necessary to have a chà gạc, axe and knife to prove that he worked hard so that the girl would accept him.
In the South, the Khmer people reside alternately with the Kinh, Hoa (Chnese) and Chăm. They mainly cultivate wet rice and have experience in intensive farming. Since a long time, people have learnt to select rice seeds, do irrigations and make use of tide to remove salt from the field. In cultivation, they combine two phases of spreading rice on flooded field, pruning, sowing rice and transplanting.
In production, for a long time, people have used plough and harrow to work land. In deep water rice field, they use a pcythe with short handle and long blade to slash grass, then sink it down into the mud and transplant rice without ploughing.
The sickle is widely used by the Khmer in gathering rice. The decoration with a dragon head reflect the beliefs of agricultural inhabitants and the worshipping of snake expresses the beliefs of inhabitants who exploit the Mekong River Delta. Beside the cultivation of wet rice, the Khmer also grow subsidiary crops in the milpas and fruit trees in gardens.
At present, in agriculture, the Khmer use some modern equipment instead of rudimentary tools. But many families still could not afford to have the machines, so pcythes and sickles are still effective tools in cultivating wet rice of the Khmer in the South.
* Exhibition topic No. 3: Hunting and taming elephants of the Mnông ethnic minority:
Inhabitants in Central Highlands in general and the Mnông ethnic group in bản Đôn, Đắk Lắk Province in particular have a famous vocation of hunting and taming elephants. Every year, in Lunar March, the villagers organize the hunting of elephants. It shows the sporting spirit and forces of the village and drives away the wild elephants from the production area so that they would not destroy the crops.
The taming of elephant of the Mnông has originated from the results of the huntings. After catching an elephant, the villagers would tame it to become a domestic elephant. With their experience and creativeness, they have tamed the ferocious wild elephants to become domestic docile elephants obeying the human order to take part in the transportation of wood, hunting of other wild elephants and participating in elephant race festivals.
Every year, the Central Highlands people organize a ritual to pray for elephants’ health as solemnly like the one for human being. Today, while tourism develops, elephants are used to transport visitors to villages and many elephant racing festivals are organized in national scale.
* Exhibition topic No. 4: Rông House and festicvals
+ Rông House in Central Highlands:
Rông Hous is a type of aged-old folk architecture of many ethnic groups in Central highlands, an unique cultural product bearing a clear peculiar local character and is a symbol of villages in Central Highlands. The Museum has an exhibited model of a part of faade of the traditional Rông House of the Ba Na people.
A Rông House has 5 rooms, with the height from 20m, representing the strength and wealthy of a village, so the villagers build it very carefully and solidly with precious wood. Its architecture is like a stilted house with partitions, high and steep roof, and broad inside. The decorations of a Rông House are very diversified. On its walls are bamboo patterns in the shape of the sun with light rays, geometry animals and plants etc …
+ New rice festival of the Ba Na people
The Ba Na often organize a new rice festival every year at the beginning of harvest. That means after sowing rice in April, in October harvest, people organize a new rice festival or “soc mor” ceremony. Previously, this festival prolonged for three days. Today, it is only one day.
In festival, villagers set up a bamboo pole and Gưng stake to tie a buffalo and wine jars at the foot of the Rông House. Ritual offerings include: a strong bull, a pig, a chicken, some wine jars and an animal blood bowl to offer Yàng (God). Every family also prepares a tray of its own including a chicken, a tray of young rice flakes and a wine jar to offer to deities. The offerings of all families are displayed along two corridors of the Rông House. After that, every family designates a representative to sit by its offerings tray. The village patriarch starts his prayers to invite the gods of river, mountain, forest, rice and souls of the deceased to enjoy the offerings and pray to them for all rice ears full of seeds, a wealthy village and healthy people.
In closing his prayers, rice seeds are thrown up into the air for the harmony of earth and heaven, for his prayers to be answered and villagers feel secure about an auspicious new year with a bumper crop.
Today, wet rice has gradually replaced rice in the milpas and people have 2-3 crops each year. However, new rice festivals of the Ba Na are still organized after good crops.
* Exhibition topic No. 5: Weaving and transportation
Ethnic groups of the Môn – Khmer language family are very good in weaving household utensils by available local materials such as rattan, big bamboo, coconut leaves, bamboo and various forest strings. Their weaving products are solid, beautiful, diversified in styles and shapes, with sophisticated patterns and can be used for different purposes. Some are like a big basket with a cover for containing agricultural products, some can be used to transport such as papooses and baskets. There are small and pretty containers such as rice basket, basket containing needles and thread, and box for areca and betel.
Especially the papooses for men of the Giẻ Triêng, Ba Na and Xơ Đăng, and the Ti Lét of the Tà Ôi are very suitable for the hunting. Therefore, the papoose of this kind has its mouth directed towards the back of its carrier or has three compartments so that the things inside would not fall out while running.
Ethnic groups of the Môn – Khmer language family in the Northwest and Trường Sơn mountain range – Central Highlands mainly used papooses for transportation. Some Northwest ethnic minorities use baskets on shoulder poles to transport. On the rivers in the South, the Khmer transport by boats and carts.
* Exhibition topic No. 6: Gastronomy and smoking of the Môn – Khmer group:
Mon – Khmer people’s staple food is ordinary rice. Breakfast and dinner are the main meals and lunch is auxiliary. Apart from ordinary rice, people also eat glutinous rice, maize, potatoes and cassava. In the New Year and festivals, glutinous rice and ordinary rice are made into different dishes. Daily food includes vegetable, fish and some products from nature such as fermented cassava leaves. People like half-cooked, grilled, fried, and boiled dishes such as frogs grilled in big bamboo tubes, and meat fried with sour vegetable and sour bamboo sprout. Especially the dish cooked from young intestine of animal with it liquid inside mixed with meat is a specialty only served when there are distinguished guests or in festivals.
Tools for prosessing food include big cauldrons and steamers. In the meals, people use wooden and bamboo trays, various closely woven baskets, rice boxes and gourds for containing water. All of them are made from natural materials.
Wine drunk out of jars through pipes is a popular beverage of the Central Highlands people. Making and drinking this kind of wine have become customs and cultural feature in their life. Every family has some jars to keep wine. Many families have many rows of jars putting by the walls of their houses. People drink the wine in festivals: ceremonies of rice soul procession, new rice festival, rituals to wish a good health, praying for a good crop, wedding, to abandon the tomb, receiving distinguished guests, siblings, cousins and friend meeting one another after a long time etc.
To have a good wine jar, the yeast must be made from some forest leaves and roots, chili powder, ginger powder and rice flour mixed with water and made into small wisps to keep until white with fermentation (about 10 – 15 days).
The best material for making wine is rice and millet. Firstly, material should be cooked well, speaded and cooling. In cold weather, it is needed a bit cool to spread the yeast over. Alternate layers of materials and rice husks are put into a jar. Finally, the jar is closely covered with banana leaves and kept for three days before drinking. The longer the wine is kept, the better and stronger it is. To have a better wine, people also bury the wine jar underground and only take up when drink it.
The pipes for drinking wine are made from small bamboo branches, a kind of straight tree with long nodes which are bored through and pointed at one end so that they would not be stuck when drinking. Pipes are put deep to the jar bottom, so a high jar need longer pipes.
Tabacco is a popular smoke of Môn – Khmer people, from men, women to young girls. Tabacco is wrapped up with a whole leaf or sliced into fine fibres and put into a pipe to smoke.
* Exhibition topic No. 7: Pagoda of the Khmer
Khmer pagoda built in the middle of every phum and sóc is a center of communal cultural activity, a Khmer cultural symbol. Pagoda is also the place for Khmer boys to learn how to read and write and Buddha’s teachings when they become mature. In weddings, Khmer boys and girls should come to pagoda to pray for happiness. When a people dies, the body should be cremated and its ash is put in an ash tower in pagoda with the hope that this person’s grandparents and parents would be blessed by Buddha without being harmed. With these beliefs, even if villagers meet with difficulties, they would still save money to build a beautiful and spacious pagoda.
Pagoda is also a sacred place to carry out festivals of the Khmer such as: the traditional Chonchnam-Thmay festival held in mid Lunar April; the Ooc Oom Bok – a festival to thank the Moon for a good harvest in Lunar October. In festivals there are sky lantern launching and boat racing.
Festival is a space to preserve and bring into play ethnic artistic values such as: the traditional Dù kê, Rô băm, the dancing of Sarawan, and Rom wong etc. performed by professional or amateur artists to bless every people.
In the precinct of a Khmer pagoda, there are many houses, but most prominent is the sanctum, the Buddha worshipping center. Khmer people are Theravada Buddhists, therefore in the sanctum there are only Sakyamuni statues in different postures: practicing Buddhism, reaching the peak of the Way, rescuing all living creatures.
* Exhibition topic No. 8: Musical instruments of Môn Khmer group
Ethnic minorities of the Môn – Khmer language family have created a lot of musical instruments, not only used in festivals but also in daily life. Typically are gongs, drums, đinh năm flutes, buffalo horns and T’rưng instrument etc… Particularly, the Central Highlands are famous with gongs which are performed in concerts at community’s rituals and dancing. On November 25, 2005, UNESCO recognized that Central Highlands’ Gongs are unwritten masterpieces and intangible cultural heritage of mankind.
Khmer musical instruments are diversified, typically the five tones orchestra plays an important role in the people’s spiritual life. The set of musical instruments includes five tones, it is used by the Khmer in folk dancing and singing and festivals.
* Exhibition topic No. 9: Insciption on buong leaves of the Khmer
The Khomer have their own language and scipt which have taken form very early. When paper was not available, the Khmer transcribed Buddhist scriptures and stories on buông leaves. Buông leaf books are also called Satra to note down folk tales, proverb, idioms and riddles. Therefore, Buông leaf books are very important in educating morality and preserving language and writing of the Khmer.
* Exhibition topic No. 10: Marriage in ethnic groups of the Môn – Khmer language family
Marriage in ethnic groups of the Môn – Khmer language family is monogamy. Formerly, marriage was based on financial consideration like buying and selling. Today, boys and girls are free to get to know one another to come to marriage, but they have to observe customs and rules. However, it depends on each ethnic group, marriage has different features.
* Wedding of the Khmer:
The Khmer often organise weddings before Lunar New Year. At this time, the weather is dry and the harvest is completed. Previously, the Khmer people followed matriarchal patterns where women governed all family businesses, and a new born baby would adopt the mother’s family name. In a marriage, girl has to take initiative in proposing it first. When society came to patriarchal patterns, marriage also changed. This change is shown in the Bà Om Pond legend. Since then, according to agreement, men have had to take initiative in marriage.
Traditional marriage of the Khmer includes three steps:
Step 1: Speaking ceremony, in many places it is called betel chewing ceremony. It is almost the same as the marriage proposing ceremony of the Kinh people. After two sides getting to know and asking tentively, the boy’s family finds a matchmaker to bring the gifts including cakes, fruit, areca and betel etc… , each kind in even number, to the girl’s family to propose marriage.
Step 2: Betrothal ceremony, in which the boy’s family together with the matchmaker bring gifts to the girl’s family including: bananas, wine, tea, betel, pig’s trotters, chicken, duck and an amount of money, each item should be of even number. In this ceremony, they agree upon the wedding date and inform their relatives and neighbours about the decision.
Step 3: Engagement ceremony. In this time, apart from gifts like in the betrothal, the boy’s family has to give the bride gold ear-rings and finger-ring.
Step 4: Wedding takes place in three days. The first day is called the day of joining home. The boy’s family carry out a ceremony to bring the bridegroom to the bride’s. They bring gifts including areca, betel, wine, meat and a tray of areca flower bunch. Many weddings are also accompaniedy by a traditional folk music troup. In the second day, the weeding ceremony is carried out at good hour. Firstly is a ritual worshipping grandparents and ancestors and chewing betel for engagement. In the afternoon is the hair cutting ritual for the bride and groom. Then they are brought to a temple to pray to deities for acepting them as the new members of phum sóc. In the evening, the family invites the monks and offers rice for them to carry out ritual and recite Buddhist scriptures, wishes good luck and offers cakes and fruit to the bride’s parents to acknowledge their merits of feeding and educating, then organises a party for guests. The third day is for ceremony of bowing to granparents and relatives. At good hour, the couple burn lamps for ritual. Sorcerer and matchmaker carry a ceremony of spreading areca flowers onto the couple. Then come the dancing of opening betel tray and ritual to tie threads on the wrists of the couple, followed by giving them gifts of money or gold together with the wishing for happiness.
Apart from conventional rituals, Khmer wedding is also a form of integrated performance. In which singing and dancing play an important role with songs and dances adapted from legends with the aim to wish fortune to the new couple. Today, Khmer wedding becomes simpler, but the people still keep the customs of inviting the monks to recite Buddhist scriptures and wish the bride, groom and their families good fortune. This is a good tradition of the Khmer who are Theravada Buddhists.
* Exhibition topic No. 11: Weaving fabric and costumes of ethnic groups in the Môn – Khmer language family
Môn – Khmer women can weave fabric by cotton thread to meet their families’ demands and it is also a valuable commodity to increase their incomes.
Traditional looms of the Môn – Khmer in Central – Central Highlands are the ones for weaving flat pieces of fabric. When working, the weaver sits flat on the floor, installs the strings to fasten the frame through the back, fixes them then uses the pointed head of the thread-crushing bar to worm its way through the two thin layers of the upper yarns, slanting it for the woof thread wound on a shuttle is passed and forced tightly down into place, and the whole fabric kept taut.
Formerly, in each family there are from one to several looms. The number of looms depends on the woman number in a family. Their weaving products are not colourful as the ones of some ethnic groups in the Northern mountainous area, but due to manual method, they are suitable for natural conditions and people’s life.
* Costumes of the Môn – Khmer:
Costumes of ethnic groups of the Môn – Khmer language family in general still preserve their traditional cultural identities. However, in every group and place, ethnic costumes have their own forms and patterns.
+ In the Northern provinces: costumes of 5 ethnic minorities of Khơ Mú, Mảng, Kháng, Xinh Mun and Ơ Đu have the strong impacts of Thái culture. Costumes of the Mảng are unique with chignons on tops of their heads and white aprons embroidered with flowers wound around their breasts and prolonged to their calves of legs. Costumes of Kháng and Xinh Mun women have special feature due to the even number of buttons and colourful threads sown along two jacket edges.
+ Costumes of 15 ethnic groups in Central – Central Highlands are alike in cutting, sewing, shapes and horizontal bands of patterns on jackets, skirts and two sides of loin-clothes.
The costumes are different for men and women. Man wears loin-cloth without jacket, and in cold season wears an overcoat. Woman wear jacket and skirt. In some ethnic groups, in summer women wear skirt, and only in winter they add a blouse. Traditional women’s jacket is a pullover without collar and its fringe is edged with colour threads. In some places, women wear pullover long-sleeves jackets without collars. Collar and skirt often have red, white, yellow and blue patterns. However, each ethnic minority has its own decoration such as: Tà Ôi and Cơ Tu women use bead decorations, while the Mạ, Cơ Ho and Chơ Ro women use patterns of geometric, animal and human shapes of different colours on white background.
+ Khmer people in the South have special features. Plain clothes of Khmer women like the Kinh in their localities. They wear a loose-fitting blouse and a bandanna crossing their shoulders, on their heads or necks. In festivals and Lunar New Year, women wear a tunic covering beyond their knees with broad flaps, open in the front, tight sleeves, two sides attached with four clothes lengthwide from armpits to fringe. In wedding day, the groom wears Xà Rông (winding skirt), red collar jacket, and buttoned in the front. The bride wears scarlet long tunic, white scalf, and traditional hat.