Preserving Dao ethnic customs in spring

VOV.VN - The Dao ethnic group in Yen Bai province has many branches Dao including Dao đỏ or Red Dao, Dao quần trắng or Dao with white trousers, and Dao quần chẹt or Dao with tied or belted trousers, among others.

Each branch has their own cultural identities that need better preservation. Many Dao ethnic people take occasions like spring holiday or post-harvest periods when people have more leisure time to teach the young Dao people about their traditions and customs.

Duong Trung Vi of Minh An commune, Yen Bai province, has a profound understanding of the Dao ethnic culture and its traditional customs and scripts. He is passionate about passing his knowledge on to the younger generations to better preserve traditions and customs of his group.

When spring arrives, he hosts get-togethers for the local people to meet and share their knowledge on life and also organizes classes for young Dao people to learn the ancient Nom-Dao writing.

"The Nom-Dao script has different levels like the Vietnamese national script. Most ancient Nom-Dao books teach people about life and rituals, how to behave and taboos to avoid. Dao ethnic language is at risk of being lost gradually due to many reasons," Vi said.

"In some hamlets of the Dao people, nobody is able to speak this ethnic language. We really hope to receive more attention from authorities at all levels to open more classes to teach the ancient Nom-Dao script for the younger Dao people," he added. 

The ancient Nom-Dao script is an ideographic script, which is very difficult to learn. It takes a person at least 2 to 3 years of continuous learning to be able to read and write.

Classes on the ancient Nom-Dao script are often organized in the evenings so that learners can attend after finishing their work during daytime. Duong Trung Luu, a young man of the Dao, is proud to be able to read and write Nom-Dao script.

"I find it very useful to master this language because I can understand more about Dao rituals like the maturity celebrating ceremony, dancing festivals, and how to choose good days for ground-breaking ceremony, weddings, as all is written in ancient Nom-Dao books. Not many people of my age are able to read and write this language. I did my best to learn as it helps me a lot in daily life while contributing to preserving our ethnic group’s culture," Luu said. 

The Dao people have long been proud of their brocade weaving with its unique patterns. Dao women in Minh An often gather at the local cultural house during their free time to share their brocade weaving skills and impressive embroidery patterns with each other. Trieu Thi Duyen of Minh An commune, Van chan district, is famous for her excellent embroidery skills.

"It’s my duty to pass down all my embroidery skills to the younger generations to keep our beautiful traditions alive. Being Dao person, I should preserve and promote my group’s traditions. I often wear traditional costumes while participating in the local festivals and activities," Duyen said. 

Folk songs are an essential part of daily practice of Dao ethnic people. Several artisans in Minh An commune have organized classes to teach younger Dao people ancient Dao songs and dances like the bell dance, sword dance, and catching turtle dance. Trieu Thi Dong can sing and compose new lyrics to many ancient Dao tunes.

Dong noted, "I’ve always loved singing since I was a little girl. When my parents taught me ancient Dao songs, I found them all depict our daily activities. Ancient Dao songs are not only used in rituals and ceremonies but also at festivals. I’ve done my best to teach younger Dao people to sing our ancient songs."

Duong Duc To, head of the Minh An commune’s Elderly People Association, is in charge of preserving and promoting Dao ethnic traditions in the commune.

To said, "In past few years, we have paid attention to preserving and promoting our beautiful traditions and customs. We’ve opened several classes where our artisans can teach younger Dao people more about our age-old traditions. Some learners have been able to read and write Dao ancient script. We have not had any official classes to teach singing and dancing but local people in hamlets are learning together in small groups."

More young Dao people are showing interest in learning and preserving their traditional culture. Late last year, an official class on Dao ethnic culture opened in Minh An commune, contributing to better preserving Dao ethnic culture.