The Day Ethnic People in Ma Le Ha Giang
The Day ethnic people in Ma Le Ha Giang, Ma Le Hamlet is situated near Lung Cu Mountain in Dong Van District, Ha Giang Province. Although it is small, it contains many interesting things.
Ma Le Hamlet has only about 20 houses but it contains most of the typical cultural features of the Day ethnic group. Day ethnic people live close to and in friendship with people of other ethnic groups, such as the Mong, Lo Lo Chai, Pu Peo… but they still retain their own characteristics.
Day ethnic women in Ma Le Hamlet wear a long dress, green or black, which is buttoned from the neck to the underarm, and its flaps stretch to the shins, similar to the long dress of the Kinh people. The waist is tied by a belt made of black cloth, which holds bamboo strings and a knife while working.
Day women roll her hair into a ring covered by a colourful kerchief, which is matched with a delicately embroidered pair of shoes. It takes a woman a couple of months to adorn her shoes with beautiful embroidered patterns.
The common patterns usually symbolise marital happiness, such as couples of butterflies or lovers, two peach flowers... Day women often wear a silver bracelet, a key chain and a necklace and they use very few jewellery pieces made of metal.
The Day have a special technique for building a house. In the past when forests are abundant they used wood to build houses-on-stilts with foundations and pillars made of stones. The pillars are carved with beautiful patterns.
Now in Ma Le Hamlet in Ha Giang province still remain two houses-on-stilts made of wood, which are 100 years old and owned by the families of Hoang Van Huong and Hoang Van Nanh. These houses are frequented by culturists and foreign tourists who come for purposes of visit and research.
Day people have a specific technique of grafting stone and carving wood and stone, which is shown in products with decorative designs of daisy flowers, multi-coloured lanterns, windows made of bamboo splints and stone pillars carved with lotus flower patterns.
Over the past nearly 100 years, due to the decrease in forest areas, Day ethnic people build their houses with dirt.
There are two ways of building earthen houses: People stuff pasty earth into the frames of walls or mix pasty earth with straws to make bricks and then build the house. This material is simple but durable in the sunny and windy weather on Dong Van Plateau Ha Giang.
Both kinds of houses have similar interiors, including the middle compartment serving as a worshipping place and a sitting room for male guests, a compartment on one side serving as a kitchen and a sitting room for female guests and a compartment on the other side serving as a bed room.
The roof of the house usually has garrets both inside and outside the house for storing rice, and guests are not allowed to enter this area. Around the house, there are stables for raising cattle and storing agricultural product-processing tools.
During New Year Holidays, Day ethnic people stick red amulets containing prayers for luck written in Chinese characters everywhere including the cattle stable. Then they prepare for making black square cakes.
This kind of cake resists mould because the sticky rice used to make the cake has been soaked in ash water. The stuffing of the cake is green beans mixed with natural aromatic spices that create the specific flavour of the cake.
Day people also have a specific technique of making smoked pork. They stuff salted pork mince into the pig’s intestines and put them on the smoking-shelf until they are dry. Guests are often treated with this dish together with wine made from a special ferment.
Day ethnic people in Ma Le Hamlet still use Oriental medicines bequeathed by their ancestors. Healer Lo Dinh Thieu possesses hundreds of remedies, which have been handed down orally but not written in books. He is busy all day long with patients who come from many parts of the country.
(Source: Vietnam Pictorial)