"Star Bib" From The Dao Hong Tu Group, Ha Giang Province, Viet Nam #398 Sold

$ 640.00

Asian Antique

398.Complete and intricately decorated "Star Bib": hand loomed cotton cloth, applique, and aluminum attachments, from a woman, Dao Hong Tu Group, Ha Giang Province, Far Northern Mountains, Viet Nam, Mid to late 20th century.

Women of the hill tribes of Southeast Asia wear their identity for all to see all day and every day. Every one of the garments they wear - pants or skirts, shirt, leggings, jacket, belt, turban, jewelry - is linked to their culture and their history. Although this is not always the case in communities close to urban centers, these examples are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Without exception, the garb of the mountain groups is very modest. Almost of the Dao women wear a long jacket, split in front and one the sides. The bottom of the back panel has the designs that signify the group to which the woman belongs. This can be just a few animal or it can be a complex panel, often with a border of a dozen or more concentric squares. In the front, the woman has a garment to cover the chest if the jacket is not fully closed. Some have a chemise (sometimes also translated as undershirt or bra). As usual, the shape, construction, and decoration is specifically designated (with slight flexibility) for every woman in the group. This bib was made by the Dao Hong Tu in Ha Giang province, approximately 500 km from Hanoi. These are worn daily by Dao Hong Tu women and always decorated with metal or silver panels in the rectangular and flower shapes.


Vietnam is a culturally diverse country that is the home to hundreds of local tribes. Over the last half century, anthropologists and the like have classified and reclassified these tribes into some 54 ethnic groups, each group possessing a distinct language and culture. The Kinh, who account for 87% of the country's population, live mainly in the Red River delta in the North, the coastal plains of the centre and the Mekong delta in the South. The remaining 13% of the population is made up of 53 minority groups, living mostly in the mountains stretching from the far north of the country to the Central Highlands in the south. Some of these groups (such as the Tay and the Thai have populations of over one million, although there are others such as the O Du and Ro Mam that number only in the hundreds. Each group expresses its own cultural identity through a range of communal activities, festivals and ceremonies.

Linguistically, each of the 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam may be further classified into one of five language families:

 Austro - Asiatic (Viet Muong groups and Mon Khmer)
 Austronesian (Malayo - Polynesian)
 Thai - Kadai (Thai group and Kadai group)
 Sino - Tibetan (Sinotic group and Tibetan - Burman)
 HMONG - Dao

All the ethnic groups in Vietnam share a common ethnographic history, originating from original groups living south of the Yangtze River. Segments of this early group dispersed southward and eastward to, what are now the islands now a part of Malaysia, Indonesia and Polynesia. Despite this migration, these groups have adopted their own characteristic cultures, different from any of the other Southeast Asian countries. Ethnic folklore is also varied: epics, tales and legends handed down as oral literature from generation to generation. The cultural traditions of the ethnic groups have enriched the overall common Vietnamese national heritage.


Starting around the 12th century, the Dao immigrated to Viet Nam from the provinces of Guang Dong, Guangxi and Fujian of China. Following many Vietnamese researchers, the Dao immigrated in Vietnam in about 15th century. However, much of the immigration happened after 1800, in the wake of a brutal campaign against them by the Han Chinese. The reason behind this campaign was the unwillingness of the Dao to abandon their culture and embrace the culture of the dominant Han Chinese. The Dao have other names, the most common being Zhou and Yao.

The Dao people have the ninth largest population of the 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam about 473,945 almost one million Dao, second in number only to China (which has around 5 million). The Dao people also live in Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. Over time, they spread over the northern mountains of Vietnam (Cao Bang, Bac Kan, Lang Son, Thai Nguyen, Ha Giang, Tuyen Quang, Lai Chau, Yen Bai, Lao Cai provinces) into some midland provinces (Phu Tho, Vinh Phuc, Vinh Phuc, Hoa Binh) and to some of the coastline of northern Vietnam. They live mainly by raising animals, agriculture and hunting animals.

In Vietnam, according to Mrs. Ban Thi Tu, a researcher, the Dao divide themselves into two branches:
1st branch:
1. Dao Dai Ban (In Vietnam, there are many different subgroups of the Dao (e.g. Dao Do)- -Red Dao
2. Dao Tieu Ban (Dao Tien)-Coin Dao
3. Dao Quan Chet - Tight Trouser Dao
2nd branch:
1. Dao Thanh Y
2. Dao Quan Trang-White - Trouser Dao
3. Dao Ao Dai (Man Den)

This categorization is based on linguistic differences as opposed to visual discrepancies. They all speak the Dao language, which belongs to the Hmong - Dao language family. However, the subgroups still have some differences in their dialects. They use adapted Chinese characters (called Nom Dao) for writing literature, ritual documents and other important texts.

The Dao cultural identity is expressed clearly through their annual festivals, primitive beliefs and ritual ceremonies. Almost all the village festivals and ceremonies serve to bring good fortune, particularly during the time of the rice harvest. The Dao also follow the tradition of ancestral worship.

The Dao have maintained their traditional religion, which is based in the main on Taoism but has also incorporated a number of other religions. They consider "Ban Vuong" to be their creator, (Ban Vuong is in fact a dog) and as such he is always worshipped together with their ancestors. This also accounts for some of the other anomalies found within this group, in particular their better treatment of animals, refusal to eat dog meat, and the strange paw prints and multi - colored dogs that still appear on their fabrics. (Source: 54 Traditions Gallery, MSR, 2012)

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