The Tay Ethnic Group

The Tay of Northern Vietnam live in stilt houses. If you want to, you can arrange a homestay in a stilt house in one of the Tay villages during a Vietnam travel package. There are over a million Tay, the vast majority living in the north; they speak a language which is part of the Tai-Kadai family of languages. It is thought that this ethnic group first came to the region as early as 500 BC. Farming, wet rice cultivation to be precise, is the main activity. There are other vegetables and fruits produced as well while common livestock includes cattle and poultry. If you want a souvenir of your time here during your Vietnam holiday, you should look at the woven products that the Tay villages make.

Sticky rice and stews form a major part of the Tay diet. At festival time, special rice cakes, banh chung for example, are made by families. Rice is used to make so much for these very special occasions; it is very adaptable for sweet and savoury food and its flour is used to make a number of different things.

Indigo is the favourite colour for clothing. The bright colour is a substitute for embroidery and decoration. Women wear both skirts and trousers and blouses, short and long-sleeved. There are sub-groups within the Tay and the result is slight variations in clothes. Some wear scarves on their heads, others hats for example.  

Some of the Tay villages are very large, hundreds of stilted houses, tiled, straw or palm leaved roofs with wood or bamboo walls. Marriages require the approval of parents though there is no restriction on dating. Superstition plays an important role within all ethnic groups and parents will compare fortune-telling readings before making a decision. It is similar when it comes to building a new house and selecting a plot of land. Everything from the plans, the direction of the building and the day to finally move in must be auspicious.

After a wedding, the bride lives with her family until she is pregnant and then moves in with the groom’s family.

Funerals are grand affairs; several rituals are involved and the official mourning period is three years though there remains an annual worship day. Ancestor worship in general is very important as well as revering the House and Kitchen Gods.

Festivals and holidays take place throughout the year and there is a chance that you will be in the country enjoying a Vietnam tour when some festival occurs. Tet, Vietnamese New Year, is certainly one of the highlights and others of real importance revolve around farming, both planting and harvest between springtime and autumn.

There are many traditional poems and folk stories. Many have been written down so they will not be lost for future generations. Singing, dancing and water puppetry are entertainment forms in the villages while villagers play many games; tug of war, human chess, badminton and spinning top.