The H'Mong in Ky Son, Nghe An Province 

The H'mong women's handicraft Project in Ky Son, Nghe An


The H'mong women's handicraft Project in Ky Son, Nghe An

Ky Son is a mountainous district in the central Vietnam province of Nghe An, bordering Laos. The ethnic minority population includes H'mong, Thai and Khomu people. In the past, people of this district were involved in cultivating opium for sale. The United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) aims to help local people find alternative sustainable livelihoods in Ky Son. UNDCP and Craft Link were collaborating together to help H'mong women earn income through production of handicrafts.

The H'mong of Pha Xac Village, Huoi Tu Commune
There are 125 families of White H'mong in Pha Xac village. Family stories tell of ancestors descending from China and clans migrating from Laos to Vietnam some 150 years ago. Primarily subsistence farmers, the H'mong in Pha Xac grow rice, corn and vegetables and raise livestock.
Traditional Clothing and Customs
H'mong women of Pha Xac wear traditional clothing for the New Year festival, marriages, funerals, markets days and other special occasions. Their traditional dress includes wide black trousers (hu tin) and a black tunic (lu slo) with an elaborately embroidered and appliqué collar. A girl is considered most attractive when she wraps an embroidered belt and several bright pink and green sashes around her hips. A large silver necklace (lu nhia) can provide additional adornment. Decorative embroidered purses, said to be opium purses and a turban (phu chong slua) are also worn on special occasions. The turban comprises more than ten meter of purple silk held in place by a striped ribbon (chang).
Traditionally, a bride's dowry is large. A bride brings to the groom's household 10 sets of clothes and the groom's family gives her clothes and an expensive necklace. The dowry must also include a white skirt, which she will be buried in for the ancestors to recognize her.
Households still make paper from bamboo to perform rituals for the death and to decorate the altar. According to custom, the H'mong must not be buried with materials that cannot degrade such as plastic or iron. The coffin must be made with simple bamboo nails. Nothing should hold back the death from joining their ancestors.
Distinctive Features of Clothing
Collar (pan tau)
The collar distinguishes one H'mong group from another and demonstrates a woman's skills with her hands. Using a small pair of scissors, a woman cuts an intricate design from a thin piece of cloth, then with tiny even stitches, applies the cut cloth to a second layer of material. She then adds embroidery. Appliqués and embroidery patterns vary, with motifs drawn from everyday life. Motifs may represent a peach blossom, snail, bird, chicken's footprint, yoke, and mortar for pounding rice, cross or a single plank bridge.
Belt (quo xe xia)
Traditionally, the belt is comprised of patterns such as alternating squares of pink and green silk with reverse white appliqué and/or embroidery. Circular patterns which are cut, appliquéd or embroidered are called cu, to represent a snail.
The belt is attached to a long rectangular black apron. Sometimes old French Indochinese coins are attached to the belts which swing when a girl dances.
Baby Caps (lu co mo or co mom bi)
Mothers take great care to embroider and appliqué decorative flaps for baby caps. A piece of cardamon is sewn into the cap to protect the baby's health. Coins and beads often decorate the caps.
Challenges and New Opportunities
The supply of ready-made cloth and clothing in the markets has changed the traditional H'mong dress in Pha Xac and led to the decline of its everyday use. To face this problem, Craft Link has carried out a new handicraft development project which uses traditional H'mong designs to create new products with appeal to new markets. This is helping to retain traditional skills, even among the younger generations as well as to strengthen the capacity and generate income for the local community

For more information about this project, please contact:

CRAFT LINK
51 Van Mieu, Hanoi, Vietnam
Phone: (84-24) 37336101 - Fax: (84-24) 38437926
Email:craftlink@fpt.vn - Website: www.craftlink.com.vn