The Thai are the biggest ethnic group in Son La province. They make up 54% of the province’s population. Son La has been working to preserve and promote Thai culture in Vietnam’s northwestern region.
Thai women weave and embroider at a community tourist site. (photo: VOV)
In many Thai hamlets, new brick houses with a modern design have been built in place of the traditional stilt houses.
Thai women are rarely seen weaving and embroidering in front of their houses these days.
Lo Luu Ly in Dia hamlet said the Thai no longer require young girls to spend years learning to weave and make their own clothes before they get married. Now they can buy ready-to-wear clothes at the market.
“In the past, if a Thai family had lots of handmade clothes, blankets, and mattresses, the girls in that family were praised for being hard-working. For our generation it’s no longer evidence of dexterity and hard work,” Ly said.
In the past, a Thai wedding was filled with the sweet sound of Khap singing and the Pi clarinet. Now Thai boys and girls wearing traditional black skirts and Pieu headscarves dance to modern music. They no longer hold hands and form a circle for the Xoe dance.
Lo Binh Minh, a member of Son La province’s Arts and Literature Association, said, “We are at risk of losing the Thai cultural identity. We worry about it.”
The Ban Flower Festival in Son La City in 2019. (Photo: VOV)
Luong Hoai Thanh, Director of the Institute for Northwestern Ethnic Culture Study at Vietnam’s Northwestern University, said, “Young Thai people have abandoned farming and moved to other localities to work for companies. They don’t spend time doing traditional crafts such as embroidery and brocade weaving. That’s one reason they’re losing their traditional culture.”
Son La province and the Institute for Northwestern Ethic Culture Study held a seminar where researchers, lecturers, and folklore artisans discussed ethnic culture preservation.
Doctor Nguyen Thi Thanh Hoa of the Vietnam National Institute of Culture and Arts Studies said, “A new viewpoint is that culture creates not just spiritual values but also economic values. We promote cultural values to attract tourists and boost people’s incomes. These are the goals of cultural preservation.”
Son La city hosts an annual Ban Flower Festival and Community Art Performance. It has encouraged government employees and students to wear traditional clothing at offices and schools.
Thai Cultural Clubs have been established at the commune level to popularize Xoe dance and other folk genres. Son La city wants every hamlet to have an art troupe to perform traditional Thai dances.
Tran Long-Thu Hang