Vietnam is the homeland of many ethnic
groups. According to legend, all are descendants of Lac Long Quan
and Au Co, hatching out of a hundred eggs, half of them following
their mother to the mountain, the other half accompanying their
father to the sea. They joined hands to build the nation from
"Three mountains, four seas and the land mass", with endless
forests and mountains, delta plains stretching as far as the eyes
can see and the Eastern Sea rippling its waves all the four
seasons. It is a land stretching from the high peak of Lung Cu
(north) to the hamlet of Rach Tau (south) and from the Truong Son
Range (west) to the Truong Sa archipelago (east).
Living together in one country from time immemorial, all the
ethnic groups develop a tradition of patriotism and unite and
assist mutually in the conquest of nature and in social struggle,
throughout the historic process of national construction, defense
The history of the conquest of nature is really an epic,
manifesting the creative innovation, vitality, determination to
surmount all obstacles, adaptability to natural conditions of each
ethnic group to produce, subsist and develop. People of various
ethnic groups have found out different patterns to cope with
nature, appropriate to specific natural geographical conditions.
In the lowland and mid-land regions, people work the rice fields
to grow wet rice and build village culture on the back-ground of
communal houses, wells, banyan trees and green bamboo groves. The
delta plain, agriculture, villages and hamlets constitute a source
of inspiration for the making of multi-panel robes, rose-colored
bodices and hats with fringed chin strap, for the composition of
folk songs, love duets and folk verses familiar with specific
In the mountain areas, people grow wet rice in valleys, develop
terraced fields for dry crops, especially corn, and begin to plant
perennial trees such as anise and cinnamon, in replacement of
natural forests. They live in houses built on stills, wear
trousers or jupes and indigo vests with design motifs imitating
wild flowers and beasts. It is their habit to drink can (bamboo
pipes) wine from jars.
In the northern uplands and the Central Highlands, people clear
and burn jungle patches as a method of farming in the pre-industry
age. With a sub-tropical climate, cultivation is chiefly carried
out in summer and autumn. For acclimatization and the raising of
land utility rate, the highlanders from time immemorial have
developed multi-cropping to generate further income and prevent
soil erosion. With their dexterity and sense of aesthetics, the
young women have made skirts and vests with beautiful and colorful
decorations and in a style convenient to farming work in terraced
fields and to travel on hill slopes and mountain gorges. The
generous forests and mountains and backward farming methods give
rise to mythical rituals with propitious conditions for their
development. Almost all regions in the Central Highlands hold
buffalo-stabbing ceremonies in honor of Giang (Heaven) to pray for
health, for the good of livestock breeding and for bumper crops.
These regions harbour innumerable legendary stories and gallant
chronicles, the value of which is comparable to those of China and
India but their collection and study are still inadequate. These
ethnic minorities are the creators of stone xylophones, T'rung and
Krongput musical instruments, sets of gongs and group dances, rich
of community colours.
Along the coastline from north to south, people live on fishing.
In the morning fishing boats sail out to the open sea and in the
evening return to the shore. The life here is bustling with
activity as is in farming areas at harvest time.
Everywhere, man lives in harmony with nature and nature does not
betray human efforts.
Lying in the Indochinese peninsula, the gateway to main-land and
offshore Southeast Asia, Vietnam is the location of cultural
intercourse in this region, with three major language families,
i.e. Austro-Asian Language Family, Austronesian Language Family
and Sino-Tibetan Language Family. The Vietnamese speak the
languages of eight different groups. Of which the Viet-Muong Group
includes four ethnic groups: the Chut, Kinh, Muong and Tho, the
Tay-Thai Group includes eight ethnic groups: the Bo Y, Giay, Lao,
Lu, Nung, San Chay, Tay and Thai, the Mon-Khmer Group includes 21
ethnic groups such as the Ba Na, Brau, Bru-Van Kieu, Chl Ro, Co,
Co Ho, Co Tu, Gie Trieng, Hre, Khang, Khmer, Kho Mu, Ma, Mang,
M'Nong, O Du, Ro Mam, Ta Oi, Xinh Mun, Xo Dang and Xtieng, the
Mong-Dao Group includes the Dao, Mong and Pa Then, the Kadai Group
includes the Co Lao, La Chi, La Ha and Pu Peo, the
Malayo-Polynesian Group includes the Cham, Chu-ru, Ede, Gia-rai
and Ra-glai, the Han Group includes the Hoa, Ngai and San Diu, the
Tibeto-Burman Group includes the Cong, Ha Nhi, La Hu, Lo Lo, Phu
La and Si La. The majority Viet, who account for 88 per cent of
the country�s population, live mainly in the delta of the Red
River, the coastal plains of the centre and the Mekong delta.
Fifty three other ethnic groups totaling 5.5 million people live
mostly in mountain areas stretching from north to south and
covering two-thirds of the country.
Although they speak different languages, the ethnic groups live
close to one another and so one group can know the language of
others through everyday relations, and although they are involved
in cultural exchange, they keep retaining the identity of their
own culture. The diversity of the retaining the identity of their
own culture. The diversity of the cultures of ethnic groups does
not take them off the track of the common development of the
nation, just as the peculiarity is in tune with the generality in
the dual category of philosophy.
The Ho Chi Minh Era which started with the triumph of the 1945
August Revolution has brought about a great change in the life of
the national community. The consistent policy put forth by the
Party and State on nationalities boils down to equality, unity,
mutual assistance and alliance in the building of the country for
the prosperity of the people, for the might of the country, and
for a just and a civilized society imbued with national identity.
The promulgation of this correct and innovative policy in the
socio-economic field has yielded successes, very big, very new and
very modern. The infrastructure, especially land communication,
water resource and telecommunication, has reached the districts
and gradually the villages and hamlets at a pace depending on the
specific conditions of each region. As masters of the country, the
ethnic groups are talking part in State organs of authority at an
increasing rate. The Party and the State pay concern to the
training of scientific and technical workers. The number of cadres
of ethnic groups possessing university or higher degree is on the
increase. The treasure of traditional culture and art of various
ethnic groups has been collected, preserved, studied and promoted.
As a result of the successful promulgation of the Party policy on
ethnic groups, people of various ethnic groups who have been
working together in the cause of national construction and defence
are strengthening their solidarity still further for the sake of
national development. The achievements as mentioned above
constitute the solid foundation for the consolidation of the block
of great national union, for the improvement of the people's level
of education and their living standards and for the advancement of
all ethnic groups.
Implementing Directive N0 83-CD of the Government Council on the
identification of ethnic groups throughout the country, the
Committee of Social Sciences and the Central Committee of
Nationalities of Vietnam submitted a report to the Prime Minister
on December 22, 1978. The General Department of Statistics with
the agreement of these Committees then issued Decision N121-TCTK/PPCD
on March 2, 1979 on the "Nomenclature of Vietnamese ethnic groups"
which was to assist in the conduct of the 1979 general census and
other statistical and research work.
In this nomenclature, ethnic groups are determined on the basis of
three criteria: language, material life and culture, and ethnic
consciousness. As at December 1978, they numbered 54, listed both
in the order of the alphabet and the population size as follows.
This nomenclature does not include foreign residents.
List of ethnic groups in Vietnam
(In the order of population size)