Dao Embroidery Tien Yen, Quang Ninh

Dong Dinh village

According to a Dao legend told by Dang Hanh and Ban Dai Tho about the migration of Dao people to Vietnam, the ancestors of Dao people originated in Guangzhou (in the South of China). The legend of “Crossing the sea to Vietnam” and the legend of “The Great Deluge with the Gourd” are still passed down through generations. Dao people call themselves Kìm Miền which means foresters of forest dwellers
The Dao Thanh Y is also named Dao Tuyen, Ban Y or Dao Cham. Women’s dress of Dao Thanh Y comprises: a craft, hat, tunic, halter, waistband and short trousers.

Scarf: a square while cloth with colored embroidered motifs. Eight-pointed stars (phắng nhầy) are embroidered in the centre. The outside edges are embroidered with words of Han script such as “sinh (live), bảo (preciousness), mệnh (fate), trường (longevity)” or phrases such as “Happy as the Eastern Sea, as old as the Southern Mountain”. Han scripts appear only on scarves. The script indicates that the young woman is Dao Thanh Y. Other motifs include: a dragon (tà củng) and a crab (chứm nhẩy). In two opposite corners of the scarf are tassels with beads.

Jacket: meters of cotton cloth are dyed black or deep purplish-blue with indigo in order to make the jacket. The lining of the collar is white, and is embroidered with red and green threads in a swastika pattern. The right front flap of the jackets is shorter than the left front flap. Both of these front flaps are shorter than the back flaps. When dressing, a woman crosses the left over the right, and then wraps a belt around her waist.
Halter: a halter is worn under the jacket. The halter is square and patterned with yellow, red and black eight-pointed stars.

Trousers: Dao’s women trousers (khóa) are short. According to a legend, long ago Dao Thanh Y ethnic people wore long trousers like those of other ethnic groups. However, once when a woman tilled the field on a mountain slope, her trouser leg was caught and she died immediately after that. Since then Dao Thanh Y women vowed that they would never dress in long trousers again.

Shaman’s dress: The costume of Dao Thanh Y men currently looks like that of Kinh people. The ritual specialist has to wear his traditional dress when he conducts a religious ceremony. This is a red tunic with two front parts hanging straight from the shoulders. Each part is embroidered with a dragon. The front parts are embroidered more elaborately than the back parts with designs of water animals such as tortoise, small fish, shark, etc. The ritual specialist also wraps a long scarf (lù pè) around his shoulders. The scarf is embroidered with many motifs such as a bird (nọ), people hand in hand (cùng phền) and a flower (phăng noom).

In Dao Thanh Y woman’s dress, particularly the scraf and hat, there are many elements related to the sun and stars. According to a fable about the Sun and Moon told by an elder, once upon a time, there were 12 suns and 12 moons. At that time, it was very hot in the daytime; every activity had to occur at night. Once, the hot suns burned and killed a family’s son. The father was so angry; he stood by the seashore and shot an arrow. He shot 11 suns and he let the last sun exist to shine for all beings. 11 moons also died after that because they were the 11 dead suns. That is why there’s only one moon. Because of her anger, the mother cut the suns into small bits, and innumerable bits were scattered about the sky turning into the stars we see today. From then on, all humankind and all beings started working in the daytime and relaxing at night.

Khe Ve village:

Dao Thanh Phan ethnic people are called by other names such as Man Thanh Phan, Man Son Dau (referring to the custom of painting their heads by beeswax or pig’s fat), or Man Theu (referring to their finely embroidered clothes) or Man Tro (because they embroidered their blankets and winter clothes and they sleep by their wood stove to keep warm in the winter). They are also named Coc Mun, O Gang or Lo Gang, or sometimes Dao Dai Ban and Dao Doi Van.

A Dao Thanh Phan woman shave their heads from about age 15 to wear a tall headdress. The headdress is made of 40 to 55 rectangular layers of red scarves. A woman uses four bamboo rods to hold together the corners the layers. After putting these layers on her head, a woman covers them with a triangular white scarf or by a flowered cloth to keep the inside layers in place.

Shirt: The shirt is open and decorated with bold stripes and embroidery motifs such as the swastika and small bird. These designs are embroidered in coloured threads: white, red, blue, and yellow. Appliquéd striped run around the edges and sleeves of the shirt as well.

Belt (xay xỉn hạng): the most popular kind is one with a flower pattern and is tied below the hips. On holidays or festivals, women use extra red or white belts.

Trousers (Hẩu): Trousers are tailored with dark cloth. The trousers legs are comprised or two parts: The upper part is plain dark blue while the lower one is decoratively embroidered. Motifs include a rake (pà), birds (nọ cắp) and dog paw prints (tù nhiu).

Most Dao Thanh Phan women wear this traditional dress. Married women must wear it everyday. When working their fields or going to the market, the women try to spare some time to do embroidery for their own clothes or for those of other members of their family. Girls, the age of 13 or 15 years old, are taught to embroider by their mothers or sisters. When they grow older, they can make clothes for themselves or for other members of their family

For more information about this project, please contact:
51 Van Mieu, Hanoi, Vietnam
Phone: (84-24) 37336101 - Fax: (84-24) 38437926
Email: craftlink@fpt.vn - Website: www.craftlink.com.vn