Showroom No. 5 exhibits and introduces the cultures of 8 ethnic groups of the Malayo – Polynesian languages and Chinese languages. CULTURES OF THE ETHNIC GROUPS OF THE MALAYO – POLYNESIAN LANGUAGE GROUP
The Malayo – Polynesian group has five ethnic groups: Ê Đê, Gia Rai, Ra Glai, Chăm and Chu Ru. People live scatteringly in the Central Highlands and coastal area in Central Vietnam in Đắc Lắc, Gia Lai, Kon Tum, Phú Yên, Khánh Hoà, Bình Thuận and Ninh Thuận provinces.
The Chinese language group has three ethnic groups: Hoa, Ngái and Sán Dìu originated from China and they migrated to Vietnam very long time ago. People live in provinces from Vietnam – China border to the South, mountainous area to the plain, rural to urban areas. The Hoa people concentrate in big provinces and cities such as Chợ Lớn of Hồ Chí Minh City, Hội An, Hà Nội, Quảng Ninh and Hải Phòng.
Ethnic groups of the Austronesian language family and Han language family are typical representatives of the cultural exchange of Vietnam with India and China. Cultures of ethnic groups of the Austronesian language family have deep impressions of matriarchal patterns, while the ones of Han have patriarchal patterns. This is shown clearly through the ethnic life and culture.
* Exhibition topic No. 1: Villages and houses of the Malayo – Polynesian language group
Ethnic groups of the Austronesian language family live in villages with from some dozens to hundreds of houses. Houses of most of these ethnic groups bear the impacts of matriarchy. However, each ethnic groups and each local group have their different styles of houses.
The Gia Rai live in houses on stilts with the main door looking towards the north. Each stilted house has a matriarchal small family.
The Raglai live in long stilted houses with floors 1m above the ground and their sizes depend on number of the family members. Houses are often built on high and even terrains along mountain foots and near water sources.
The Chăm from Ninh Thuận to the South live in villages and inside separate precincts. Their houses are built near to each other following certain order, including guest house, house for parents, houses for small children, houses for married girls, kitchen and secular house, in which there are store of paddy, room for newly married couple and palces for couples. The main house is the final one reserved for the youngest daughter marries her husband and receives inheritance.
The Chu Ru live in long wooden stilted houses, roofed with thatch or leaves. Each house accommodates many generations.
The Ê Đê live in villages. Their long stilted houses have the length from 30 m to 60 m. The length of houses with many daughters is up to hundred meters. Therefore, it is said that “it takes a chime or a neigh” to go from one end to the other of an Ê Đê’s house.
The gable of an Ê Đê long house exhibited at the Museum is a reproduction of the one in Ea Bhoh Commune, Krông Ana District, Đắc Lắc Province.
Materials for building house are bamboo, wood and thatch. A house is often built in north – south direction. Its walls are made of weaving wattles and the two ones of gables are upright, while the two lengthwide walls lean towards two sides. From afar, the house looks like a boat.
Traditional house only has a long line of pillars and has not any rafters. House frame and roof framing like two separate strucures attached to each other.
Ê Đê house has two doors in the middle of two gables. The front door is reserved for guests and men and the back door is for others and women.
Decorations inside an Ê Đê house clearly reflect the matriarchy. The stairs are made in polygonal shape with round pedestal, including 5 – 7 or 9 steps. Typically the stairs of the front floor yard are often cut in the curved shape like the bow of a boat. Its head is carved in the shape of two breasts, representing the origin, vitality and advantages of a mother, an ancient cultural feature of the matriarchal era. Moreover, people also carve the shape of a crescent moon representing the loyalty and expectation about a brighter and happier future.
The front floor yard is the place where they pound rice and talk after a working day. A wealthy family has spacious floor yard. Above the floor yard is a traversal beam decorated with the shapes of a lizard and a tortoise, representing yin – yang. The back floor yard is reserved for people of the house and not for guests.
Inside, an Ê Đê long house is divided into different parts. The main one is Gah – for receiving guests and common activities. In this part, there is a bench for guests, a chair for house owner and Kpan chair for musicians in rituals. Moreover, there is a stake for gong. Along the wall is a row of jars. The rest part is Ôk, the place of kitchen and dwelling for couples.
Formerly, in a house is the dwelling of four generations under the management of a woman. Children adopt their mother’s family name and have the right of inheritance, especially the youngest daughter because she is responsible for worshipping ancestors and take care of her parents when they become old. In marriage, woman takes initiative in proposing and carrying the marriage; man comes to live with his wife’s family. When a girl in a great family marries, the house would be extended with one more room.
Today, the Ê Đê live in house with smaller family which comprises one to two generations. However, the image of a long house is still an unique cultural feature bearing peculiar cultural identity of the Ê Đê.
* Exhibition topic No. 2: Production tools of the Austronesian group
The mountainous Austronesian people such as the Ê Đê and Gia Rai mainly cultivate milpas. Apart from rice, cassava and maize, people cultivate some industrial plants such as coffee, cacao and vine. Coastal dwellers such as Chăm, Chu ru and Raglai have experience of cultivating wet rice very early.
Whether cultivating milpas or wet rice field, Austronesian people use plough and harrow to work the soil. In dry fields, they use sticks to make holes for the seeds to maintain the ferlility. At present, they liberate the labour in cultivation by using modern machines.
* Exhibition topic No. 3: Customs of handling over the marriage proposal bracelet
Almost all Austronesian ethnic groups have the customs of handling over the marriage proposal bracelet. This is an indispensable ritual for a girl before her wedding which shows the deep impression of matriarchy and the recognision of deities, families and community for the couple in the wedding to become wife and husband.
In the exhibition on marriage and family of the Austronesian group there is a part for the customs of handling over the marriage proposal bracelet of the Ê Đê, Đăk Lắc Province.
According to the customs of the Ê Đê with the marriage proposal made by the girl and husband coming to live with his wife’s family, the traditional wedding is conducted in four steps: proposal of marriage to the man, agreement ceremony, ceremony to call the man and ceremony for the newly weds’s first visit to the husband’s family. In proposal ceremony, the ritual of handling over a marriage proposal bracelet is the most important. As usual, when a girl found a satisfactory boy, she would inform her parents. Her parents then ask a matchmaker to show a marriage proposal bracelet, starting the relations with the boy’s family. After some times doing so, when the boy agrees, the girl’s family would comes to the boy’s to carry out a ceremony handling over the marriage proposal bracelet. In case the boy’s family doesn’t agree, the ceremony should be posponed to wait for another opportunity.
The ceremony of handling over a marriage proposal bracelet is carried out in ceremony for proposal of marriage to a husband. The girl with the matchmaker and her mother’s brother bring to the boy’s family gifts including a wine jar and a bronze ring as offerings to deities. If the boy does not live in the same village, the girl’s team would have to take with them a pack of glutinous rice.
In ceremony to hand over a marriage bracelet, the girl and the boy together touch the bronze bracelet with their hands, while the girl’s uncle prays to Giàng (god). They consider this action as a marriage engagement with the recognision from the deities and community, and the agreement of the couple. After the ceremony, there will be a union between two families by marriage. Each family designates a patron as a representative on behalf of this family to help the couple in all ceremonies and throughout the rest of their lives. The patrons play the role of the parents to admonish the groom and bride and settle all disagreements between two families.
After the ceremony of handling over the bracelet, the boy’s family also hand over a bracelet to the girl’s family as security for the engagement. After that, the boy’s family invites the girl’s family to a party.
* Exhibition topic No. 4: Ceremony to abandon the tomb of ethnic groups in Central Highlands.
Ceremony to abandon the tomb is the biggest important ritual in the spiritual life of ethnic groups in Central Highlands. The ritual involves many forms of arts such as: architecture, carving, painting, music, dancing and performing etc…with the aim to see off the deceased to the afterworld, at the same time totally “release” all the bindings between the living and the dead.
People think that: when the ceremony to abandon the tomb has not yet carried out, the connection between the soul of the dead and the living would not be broken off thoroughly. Therefore, during this time, the family has to visit, provide food and utensils to the deceased. Only after the ceremony, the soul of the dead would be released and come to the ancestors’ world.
After the ceremony, the mourning period is over, the dead allows her/his husband/wife to remarry and have a free and independent life.
Usually, after the mourning ceremony from 3 to 7 years, people have to carry out the ceremony to abandon the tomb for the deceased. In some ethnic groups like Ê Đê and Gia Rai, the tombs are common for a family or family line so they have to hold a common ceremony to abandon the tombs, although the offerings of each family may be different.
The ceremony is often held for 3 to 5 days. The ritual involves making a funerary house with statues made from rough wood carved in the shapes of monkeys, peacocks and human beings etc… with the beliefs that the soul of the dead would incarnate into the statues, and they would become slaves of the dead’s soul in the afterworld. The statues in the shapes of nude men, women, women pounding rice, elephant riders and footballers etc… plainly represent the life on earth so that the dead would not be solitary.
The ceremony to abandon the tomb is considered a big ritual of the family and community, an actual happy day of both the living and the dead. The ritual includes playing gongs, buffalo stabbing, drinking wine out of a jar through pipes, dancing and singing for the release of the soul. The ceremony testifies the exchange of cultures between ethnic groups in an area.
After the ceremony nobody would visit the funeral house, it falls into oblivion with time and the living would totally finish with the dead.
* Statues of funeral house:
Statues in funeral house are a unique architectural style of ethnic groups in Trường Sơn Mountain range – Central Highlands. The statues come into exist together with the ceremony to abandon the tomb to see off the dead’s soul to the world of its ancestors and they would become “the slaves” to the soul of the dead in afterworld.
The statues of funeral house are made of wood by simple carving with knife and axe to form the figures which look animated. The contents, appearances and significance of the statues are diversified: figures of peacock to praise the beauty of the dead to make the soul pleased; Grứ supernatural bird to bring about protection, good fortune and happiness for the dead; elephant tusks for praising the strength and bravery of the dead while he was still alive, at the same time are weapon to protect his soul; human being figures carrying a child, taking water, weeping while sitting, striking drum and gong, statues of men and women etc. with their reproductive organs to advise their offsprings to continue the family development.
All statues set up around the funeral house are animated picture of the life on earth made by the living with the hope that the dead would not be solitary in the afterworld.
According to the customs of Central Highlands people, statues of funeral house are created to held ceremony to abandon the tomb and only used for this ritual. After that, they also abandon these statues.
Culture of the Chăm:
The Chăm in our country is also called Chàm, Chiêm Thành or Hroi, including 132,873 people living in concentration in two provinces of Ninh Thuận and Bình Thuận. Moreover, the Chăm also dwell in An Giang, Tây Ninh, Đồng Nai, Hồ Chí Minh City and Phú Yên.
The Chăm language belongs to the Malyo – Austronesian family. The Chăm follow Islam and Brahmanism. There are two Islamic groups here: Bà Ni group (old Muslim) and Islam group (new Muslim). Most of the Chăm follow Brahmanism and worship the three Gods of Hindu: Siva, Visnu and Brahma. Few of them follow Islam. The Brahmins (concentrate in Ninh Thuận and Bình Thuận) abstain from beef and the dead are cremated; the Islamites (mostly in An Giang and Hồ Chí Minh City) abstain from pork and the dead are buried.
Chăm people settle in the plain and mainly cultivate wet rice. They skillfully do intensive farming by selecting seeds, fertilizers and irrigation. Their two famous handicrafts are pottery and cotton weaving.
* Exhibition topic No. 5: Traditional handicrafts of the Chăm
Fabric weaving is a traditional handicraft developed for a long time of the Chăm. Before the 1950s, the Chăm had learnt to grow cotton to weave fabric for their clothing. Today, all materials from threads to dyes are bought from the market. They weave fabric and decorate patterns by two types of looms: weaving piece and weaving band. Each type has its own technique of weaving. In weaving piece, weaver sits on a chair, pedaling a horse to separate the background yarns, pulling woof and weft with the right hand to fighten the threads, while worming the shutle with thread by the left hand. In weaving band, weaver sit on the floor like weavers of the Gia Rai and Ê Đê. The Chăm are wellknown for their weaving products in Châu Đốc, An Giang Province, and Mỹ Nghiệp Village, Ninh Thuận Province.
Beside agriculture, Chăm people also develop the craft of pottery, shaping their products by hands without the turning table.
The production include three steps: shaping (setting up the form and scraping to eleborate), decorating and baking.
Shaping: In this step, using two hands, one turning the earth block, the other pressing to make it sunken in the center then pulling the surrounding to create the product body and mouth, then touching sand and put on the jar stand. In this step, the craftpeople has to straight the left hand pressing outside while the right hand pressing inside, passing over it so that the product become higher and higher, then pressing to creat the mouth for small jar, or attaching a thick mouth edging for big one. After finishing this, it comes to perfecting the body for small jar or body and mouth for big one. After shaping, let the jar dry a little then scrape it to perfect.
Scraping: there are two types of tools: a ring of large width and sharpen edge made from old bamboo splints and a round trunk of rattan. Use the bamboo ring to scrape outside the earth block to create an evenly round form. For big jar, there should be additional works for the lower part and bottom by using the round rattan trunk. After pressing to perfect, dry the product in the shaded and ventilated place then dry it under sunshine, the longer the better.
Decoration: The Chăm seldom decorate pottery with patterns. They only decorate jars containing water or food. Patterns are created when product is not yet dried, immediately after shaping. The drawing of patterns is made with a comb in one hand, the other hand pressing inside while going backward gently along with the movement of hands.
Baking: pottery is baked outdoor without kiln. Fuels are tree branches, dry bamboo, straw and some rice husk. While baking, put the first fuel layer closely in a circle, the second one in centrifugal direction. The third one as the base for products is shaped into a ring with diameter 5 – 6m. Then arrange pottery products in order, firstly big jars are put upside down on the base firewoods, then put the small jars into vacant slots among the big ones to create a solid block. The rest firewoods are slipped into slots on the heap of potteries, then cover all with straw, finally spread husk. Fire is kindled leeward at the foot of the heap so that the straw would not be burnt too quickly. The jars would be taken out 15 – 16 hours after the fire is burning down.
* Exhibition topic No. 6: Cultural combination of the Chăm
During their prolonged history, Chăm people haves created many great cultural values in Souteast Asia, most prominent among which are the relics of temples, towers, stele inscriptions, carvings on stone, earthenwares and ancient stela which still exist in Central Vietnam. Among which, Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary is a typical tower architecture of ancient Champa architecture which has been recognized by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage.
Chăm towers are a form of religious structure with its peculiar character. Chăm people’s temples and towers were built according to unique and special architecture. The technique of glueing the dark brown bricks together is sophisticated and precise. Every tower floor is decorated with the pattern of a flame and on top of the tower is a stone pillar in the shape of of linga – the symbol of deity Siva, representing death and dissolution and also the creator of the universe.
In the towers, the Chăm worship Linga ( penis) and Yoni ( vagina). Linga and Yoni are the symbols to worship the deity Siva, the highest deity in the beliefs and religion of the Chăm. They are also sacred object of Champa culture and also representing the fertility.
Linga and Yoni exhibited at the Musem date back to the IX – X centuries, were created and worshipped by the Chăm in Bàn Thạch Village, Phổ Cường Commune, Đức Phổ district, Quảng Ngãi Province.
Ka Tê Festival
Today, Chăm people still maintain traditional customs of special cultural identity, among which the festivals held each year are an invaluable spiritual heritage such as: ceremonies of the community, family line and household etc. organized at temples and towers. Each year, the Chăm in Ninh Thuận have two main festivals: Ka Tê Festival of the Brahmins and Ramuwan Festival of the Muslims.
In July of the Chăm callenda (about the end of September and early October), the Chăm hold Ka Tê Festival with significance and scale as Lunar New Year of the Kinh.
The festival content clearly shows their customs and beliefs. It is a fertility ritual to worship the King – Deity at the same time imbued with the conception of wet rice dwellers.
Ka Tê Festival has two parts: ritual and festival. Ritual is the spiritual and religious part for praying; the festival part is for recreation to attract every body to participate.
The festival location is at two towers: Pô Klong Ga rai Tower and Pô Rômê Tower. Usually Ka Tê Festival is held for three days.
The first day is for the procession of the costumes of Pô Nưgar (the mother of the area). Costume would be solemnly carried into the temple, the procession includes dignitaries, village elder and young people.
In the second day, Ka Tê Festival is officially held at the towers with rituals such as: ceremonies to receive the costumes at the tower, open the tower door, bathing the statue to show the people’s gratitude to the King Pô Klong Garai who was credited with services in making canals, dams and irrigation to bring about good harvests for the wealthy and happy life of the people.
In the third day, the festival is held at households for the people to enjoy the union, wishing one another a new year of good health, good luck and together enjoying flavours of new year dishes such as tét cakes, ít cakes, and fruit etc…
Ka Tê is held in a boisterous atmosphere with the charming Ghi năng drum and Saranai clarinet sounds and Chăm dancing.
* Exhibition topic No. 7: Wedding of the Chăm (Islam)
Chăm marriage is polygamy with matrimarchal patterns. According to the Chăm custom, children adopt their mother’s family name and the girl’s family marriages husband for her. Man comes to live with his wife’s family and only daughters have the right of inheritance. Especially, the youngest daughter has to feed her parents, so she inherits a bigger inheritance than other daughters.
The Chăm marry people of their same religion and ethnicity. Beside the common features, the marriage customs of the two Chăm communities have many different features.
The Islamic Chăm in An Giang hold their wedding at the mosque. On the way from his house to the mosque, the groom goes under a flower-patterned umbrella. The priests burn aloe wood and pray to Allah for blessing the couple. Then, the groom comes to the bride’s family to hold ritual before their wedding room. When entering their room, the groom shows his power by pointing at the bride’s forehead and pin a hairpin to the bride’s hair showing that he is satisfied with the wife who Allah and her parents choose for him. The Brahmin Chăm in Ninh Thuận and Bình Thuận hold the wedding at the girl’s home and the boy’s family bring him to his wife’s. In the wedding, the groom and bride together chew a ritual betel, drink wine and give a ring to the bride. Then, the groom puts off his jacket and gives it to the bride to show that they belong to each other. An the wedding night and two following nights, the newly weds lie beside each other, but separated by three candles to undergo a trial so that they would love each other for ever. Today, this custom is not popular any more.
Cultures of ethnic groups of the Chinese language family.
* Exhibition topic No. 8: Club-house gate of the Hoa.
Club-house is a typical structure in its architecture and function.
Almost all of the Hoa club-houses were built in the 17th – early 18thcenturies. This is the place to maintain communal activities and worshipping of the gods, preserve the beliefs of the community.
Club-house gate exhibited at the Musem is the reproduction of the Futian Club-house of the Hoa in Hội An, built in 1697. Its three-gate entrance was restored in 1990.
The club-house had its origination as a stopover of the Hoa when they first came to Vietnam. While they had not a home, their fellow-countrymen received them to stay at the club-house. Since then. They would receive the help from their fellow-countrymen to find jobs and homes for their living. Afterwards, the club-house has gradually become the place mustering local Hoa groups. It is also the place of activities of the community.
The gate of Futian club-house is in Chinese style with big vault of many stages, its curved roof decorated with figures of unicorns and lions to show the male power etc., and its principal colour is red, the yang colour which brings about good luck and happiness.
The club-house has contributed to promote the close relationship among the members of different Hoa groups.
* Exhibition topic No. 9: Vocations which are handed down from generation to generation
Chinese traditional medicine
Since long time ago, Hoa people are famous for their Chinese traditional medicine. They can use herbs to make medicines to treat diseases. The recipes are mostly secrets of family lines. When migrating to a new land, they open clinic to diagnose the diseases and make up prescriptions which are very effective in treatment, thus the Chinese traditional medicine of the Hoa develops.
In families and shops of the Hoa, they often hang on the walls parallel sentences, saying about the conditions of each family and their vocations. The parallel sentences exhibited at the Museum are the ones in a Chinese medicine shop with 8 Chinese characters:
“Bổ thiên phối tế oa thạch kỳ công.”
“Đạo địa luân tài cát lâm trân phẩm”
Which mean: A good combination of good herbs planted in family garden would treat hundreds of diseases.
The Hoa in Vietnam are good in cooking dishes from flour such as hủ tíu, noodle and vằn thắn…One of the delicious cakes made from wheet is dunpling.
The outer part of this cake is made of wheet flour mixed with water and kneaded then kept in about 30 minutes, divided into small pieces, rolled flat for stuffing and steamed.
The stuffing is a mixture of pork with oil. Cakes after shaping are put on a tray then steamed for about 15 minutes. This dish is a must in each meal of the Hoa.
* Exhibition topic No. 10: Ceremony of a life cycle
Funeral rituals of the Hoa
Funeral of Hoa people is held through many steps: Ceremonies to inform about funeral, starting funeral, laying the body in a coffin, burying etc… and finally the ceremony to leave off mourning. Ceremony to leave off mourning of the Hoa in South Vietnam is often held one year after the day of death with many small rituals such as inviting a monk, offerings to ancestors and leaving off mourning ritual to see off the soul to the ancestors. In which, leaving off mourning ritual is the most remarkable one which testifies the humanitarianism and piety of the living to the dead.
Exactly at 12 pm. (the time of yin-yang harmony), on the yard at the left door, after 3 times of offering incense, tea and wine, the monk carries out the leaving off mourning ritual for the funeral host with ritual tools such as incense table, incense burner, lamp, water basin, scissors and comb… The monk on behalf of deities releases the mourning for everybody in the host family, successively from the eldest son to the second one, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. At the same time with this ritual, people also burn a model of funeral house together with votive offerings for the dead brings to the other world.
After this ritual, the descendants do not have to maintain the mourning, but show their gratitude by burning incense and worshipping in the middle of a lunar month, on the death anniversaries, cleaning the tombs of their ancestors and parents in grave visiting festival every year.
Wedding of the Sán Dìu
Sán Dìu people live in concentration in Thái Nguyên, Tuyên Quang, Bắc Giang and Quảng Ninh provinces. In marriage, they attach much importance to the equivalence of socio-economic background of the two families. Marriage goes through steps such as: ceremonies of sending words, welcoming six fates, marriage proposal, official wedding and finally returning a part of gifts.
In the wedding, the most remarkable is the ritual of starting flower and wine – this is the ceremony to see off the bride to her husband’s family. Offerings to worship ancestors include two boiled eggs threaded with red yarn and beside each egg is a coin put on a dish with two white and red paper pieces cut into flower shapes, and a wing bottle.
In the following morning, the bride in traditional attire, wearing two red scalves on her head, is taken to her husband’s family (called Hống khăn phạ) The bridemaid takes an umbrella over the bride. Usually the bride procession does not include the groom, but representatives of the boy and girl’s families. Arriving at the boy’s home, the bride goes straight into wedding room. The groom quickly snatches a red scalf on the bride ‘s head to show that the girl’s soul and feeling would belong to the boy now.
Since then, wife should obey the husband and would live happily for their whole life. The two red scalves will be kept carefully until they die, each scalf would be buried with one of them so that they could live together in the afterworld.