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Tay hamlet preserves ethnic culture

Preserving ethnic culture is a tough challenge in the modern world. In Thai Hai hamlet, Thai Nguyen province, preserving the language, costumes, folklore, and customs of Vietnam’s Tay ethnic minority is a task for every family.

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Thai Hai villagers eat together in the communal house.

Located between Thai Nguyen city and Song Cong city, Thai Hai hamlet is a typical Tay community. Families often gather in the communal house to eat a meal together and discuss communal projects.

Family business such as holding a wedding, having a baby, or sending a child to school are seen as a community affair and villagers are ready to lend a helping hand. Everyone is aware of their responsibility and duty. Some families make herbal medicines, some distill alcohol, and some produce tea.

They have a Then singing group that performs at rituals and ceremonies. Nguyen Thi Thanh Hai, the Chief of Thai Hai hamlet, said, Tay brothers and sisters take care of each other if one’s spouse has died.

"All the villagers protect one another, and each person performs one job to the best of his ability, whether it’s raising buffaloes and cows or running a business," said Hai. "We love and protect each other regardless of our job or education level.”

The hamlet has 30 stilt houses that date back 100 years. Families use traditional farm tools such as manual grinders, rice mortars, wooden trays, bamboo baskets and containers, and copper basins. Old people teach the children to play the Tinh musical instrument and sing Then and other folk songs.

Ma Thi Dang, a Then singer who lives in Thai Hai hamlet, elaborated that after school, grandmothers teach the children to sing Then and play the Tinh musical instrument.

"I have taught 3 generations, and all the children can sing Then and play the Tinh,” Dang confided.

The villagers wear indigo clothes and speak the Tay and Nung language, which is rare in other Tay hamlets.

Women wear the signature necklaces of the Tay. Married women often wear headscarves and decorate their outfits with five-color straps and silver chains. Men wear berets and indigo blouses. In their leisure hours, children play folk games such as merry-go-round, walking on stilts, and jumping sack. 

Le Van Viet, a herbal medicine physician, said, “Our ancestors taught us which plants are appropriate to grow in each month. To protect our health, we don’t use any pesticides.”

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Guests wash their faces and hands at the village well.

Customarily, a guest visiting the village must stop at the village well to wash his face and hands and then strike a wooden bell to inform the villagers of his arrival. 

“Visiting Thai Hai hamlet, I feel I’m in an authentic Tay community. They have done good preservation work. This is a model of solidarity and love,” said Hoang Van Tay, a tourist from Lang Son province. 

On weekends many people visit Thai Hai hamlet to experience life among the Tay, enjoy Then performances, observe Tay ceremonies, and eat a traditional Tay meal in a stilt house.

The Thai Hai eco-village won an ASEAN Tourism Award in 2018 as a successful model of cultural preservation and tourism development. VOV5



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