Each nationality has its own traditions and customs, and the Reds are not an exception. Traditionally, with the onset of spring in the Reds, living in the mountainous area of Batshat (northwest of the center of Laokai), there comes a period of lively traditional holidays, which include mystical ancient rituals. These customs, which reflect respect for the ancestors and for Mother Nature, have existed for thousands of years. Few people know these customs, except for local shamans
In the north-west of Vietnam there is a proverb: “The Mongolian people follow the clouds, the Thai people are behind the water, and the nationality for the fire.” The meaning of this proverb is that Mong people often settle in the mountains, closer to the clouds, Thais usually live near water sources, and people have many rituals and customs associated with fire, such as initiation into men, dancing with fire …
Wedding without the groom
District Batshat (near the popular resort of Sapa) has long been known for tourists. This area is rich not only in poetic places, such as I-ti, Myongkhum, Zenshang, Chintyong .., but also the uniqueness of the culture of dozens of local nationalities, including the people of the Red Zao.
We have visited the Batshat area more than once. In the last trip we were lucky to get acquainted with the shaman Chao Zuon Liem from the municipality of Myongghum. He traveled to Chignyong Municipality (30 km from Myonghum) to hold a traditional wedding ceremony in the family of the Red Xia people in the village of Tungchin (Batshat district).
Following the shaman Chao Zuon Liem, by the evening we arrived in the village of Tungchin of the Chintyong commune. Today in the house of Chao Fu Shaya gathered a lot of people. The family is preparing for the wedding of a young man Chao Shan (24 years old) – the youngest son of Chao Fu Shaya. Tomorrow will be the wedding of Chao Shan with Tang Mei, a girl from the commune of the I-ti district of Batshat.
Sitting in the kitchen for a cup of tea, shaman Chao Zuon Liem said: “Our people of the Zao people believe that on the day of the wedding the bride, Tang Mei, coming to the groom’s house, will bring luck and well-being. Therefore, the wedding ceremony should be held solemnly and festive, to arrange a good reception. “
According to Shaman Chao Zuon Liem, the wedding ceremony includes numerous activities that take place in the families of the bride and groom for two or three days, but mainly in the groom’s family. Like many peoples, the traditional wedding of the Red Zao people includes a ritual transfer of the bride from the parents’ house to the groom’s house, the exchange of gifts, a feast, etc. However, the Red Zao ethnic group has interesting differences.
According to the ancient tradition of the Red Zao people, the bridegroom is not present at the bride’s ritual move, her bride is brought to the bride’s house by her family. After the meeting the bride is having a feast. At night the groom’s family arranges a traditional feast. During dinner, both families tell each other about themselves. When the father of the bride gives his fiance’s father the credentials, the marriage ceremony begins.
The moment of bringing the bride to the house for rituals is considered the most important. In the background of traditional music, the shaman performs special dances and mysterious rituals. On behalf of the gods and ancestors, the shaman instructs couples to live together forever and happily. All activities end only at dawn.
At the end of the ritual, the bride and groom wash their faces to the shaman and the parents of the two families. With the arrival of the first morning rays, the family of the bride’s parents leaves the groom’s house. The groom of Chao Shan, according to tradition, gives as a gift to the testi pig meat, rice and vodka.
Having finished the wedding ceremony, Shaman Chao Zuon Liem said to us: “If you would like to discover the other mystical customs of the people of the Red Zao, you should get acquainted with the ritual” Kapshak 12 lights “. This ritual (12 lights) will take place a week later in the commune of Tongshan. “
Mysterious customs of the Red National Company. Vietnam
Ancient mystical ritual
A week later we again came to the Batshat area to see with our own eyes how the ritual ceremony “Kapshak 12 lights” is taking place. The event was organized on the mountain pass Kikungho (height more than 1000 m above sea level) in the Tongshan commune. This place was chosen by the elderly shaman Chao You Quay, chief among the 18 shamans who took part in this event.
It happened a long time ago, in the year of the Earth Dog … In the whole area of Batshat there was a great flood, almost all people, except for the man and the woman, who were rescued by the big eagle, were killed. Later they got married, they had 12 children. From these children, there were 12 major genera of the Zao nationality that exist to this day. Therefore, in the rite of “Kapshak 12 lights”, the tradition of remembrance of the ancestors and veneration of Mother Nature is manifested (Ancient tradition of the Red Nation in Batshat)
According to Shaman Chao You Quay, “Kapshak” (or “Fongshak”) has long been associated with the spiritual life of various groups of Zao, including those living in the Batshat area. The meaning of this ancient ritual is that boys are initiated into men (or Tukay ritual). Only after such ritual, boys are considered adults, full members of the clan, and after death their names are added to the list of deceased ancestors (Ban Wonong).
The shaman explained to us that “Kapshak” is of three levels: 3 lights, 7 lights and 12 lights. “Kapshak 3 lights” is held within the family circle for a family member, he is very popular. “Kapshak 7 lights” is a ritual of a level of one kind, it is intended only for men. This level is also not very rare. And “Kapshak 12 lights” – the highest level, the scale of several genera, it occurs very rarely (almost 100 years). This ritual is quite complicated, it involves at least 100 people, including women.
Chao You Quay said that today will be a ritual “Kapshak 12 lights” for 47 pairs of 4 genera: Chao, Li, Tang and Bang. This ritual is sacred, therefore for its carrying out it is necessary to participate not less than 12 authoritative shamans. In addition, all participants of the event must strictly observe the fast during the month before and after the Kapshak rituals. “Kapshak 12 lights were fired in the Batshat area only two times during the last 100 years. Very few people knew about him, “Shaman Chao You Quay said, who took part in the previous rite (he said in 1994). Here we also met with a couple of Li Lao Shan, who came from the Chungchai commune of the Sapa district. Li Lao Shan said: “Despite the long way, my wife and I got here to participate in the ritual, so that after death we met with our ancestors, were recognized as descendants of Ban Vyong and were able to marry again in heaven.”
Having started the ceremony, all participants call shamans a master-teacher, and they consider themselves to be their pupils. During the ceremony, the master instructs the disciples how to perform the ancient dances, to conduct the ancient esoteric rituals of this nationality. At night, the masters will bring the disciples into the forest to convey teachings, to tell them how to be a real person, to live right, to strive for good, solidarity and mutual assistance.
To receive initiation into men at the level of “12 lights”, male students must run through the fire, pass through hot bricks and knives, jump from a three-meter tower to the ground. Thus, they demonstrate their courage, courage, commitment to traditions in the future life.
After the ceremony the disciples give the masters as gifts a red cloth and flowers made of silver. Now shamans for them have become “spiritual fathers” who dedicated them to adult men, gave a name for addressing their ancestors and Gods.
In addition to us, a special event was attended by the French expert on the culture of Maharuks Alan, who has studied the culture of the nationality for many years. He said that he was not only interested in the unique ritual, but also in the traditional costumes of women. In women’s outfits, silver ornaments are especially prominent. According to Maharuks Alan, most of the silver jewelry for women was made in the commune of Myonghum, in the village of Sheo Poe Ho.
Silver ornaments for the sacred rite
After the end of the Kapshak ritual, we again returned to Myonghum. On Sunday morning in the market of Myongghum we met with master Tan Kin Hyen. He came to the market to receive orders for the manufacture of silver jewelry and give finished silver products to customers.
Following Master Tan Kin Hien, we went to the village of Sheo Poe Ho to learn more about the traditional craft of making silver jewelry.
U Tan Kin Hien has a small silver processing workshop located in the corner of the house. There are all the tools for making silver jewelry, such as a fan, stove, cutters, screwdrivers, knives, ruler. The raw material for making jewelry is pure silver balls, which Tan Kin Hien buys in a bank in the city of Laocai. In addition, he also uses silver ingots and plates.
Master Tan Kin Hien and his wife are engaged in the manufacture of silver products for almost 20 years. In spring they are always very busy, as this is the season of weddings and other holidays. Customers make a large number of orders. Tan Kin Hien said that the silverware in the costume of the women of the Red Zao people is not only an ornament, but also an indicator of the well-being of the husband’s family. By tradition, the groom’s family takes care of all the expenses for the silver jewelry of the bride. The price of a set of silver items usually amounts to 40-50 million VND (about US $ 2,500), sometimes the kit price reaches even 100 million VND ($ 5,000). Women of the Red Zao people always enjoy wearing a traditional costume with silver ornaments with the participation in all community activities, especially in sacred rituals.
Today, despite the fact that many jewelry products are manufactured using modern technologies, the women of the Zao tradition still prefer traditional silver jewelry made by the golden hands of masters, like Tan Keene Hien.