The Co Lao People
The Co Lao have a population of about 1,500, living in Dong Van
and Hoang Su Phi districts (Ha Giang province). They are sometimes
called the Ke Lao. The Co Lao language belongs to the Kadai group.
In Dong Van, the Co Lao cultivate terraced fields
and grow maize in mountain hollows. In Hoang Su Phi they grow
rice in submerged fields or hilly soil. Basketry and woodwork
are popular handicrafts, they produce bamboo mats, lattices, large
winnowing baskets, panniers, tables, chairs and horse saddles.
Co Lao males wear trousers like many other peoples
in the northern border area. Co Lao women wear trousers and a
five-panel dress reaching below the knees, buttoning under the
left armpit, and decorated with bands of cloth of different colours
attached to the chest.
Each village has about 15-20 households. Their
houses are built level with the ground, commonly with three bays
and two lean-tos. Each house is a inhabited by small family comprising
parents and children; married sons rarely live with their parents.
Each Co Lao group has a definite number of family
lineages. The patrilineal pattern is adopted. Co Lao women observe
strict abstinence to facilitate delivery and have healthy babies.
In Dong Van, people incinerate the placentas of new-born babies
then put them into rock holes in the forest so that they are not
trampled upon by [dantoc3.jpg] dogs or pigs. After three days
and nights for sons and 2 days and 3 nights for daughters, the
babies are baptised by their parents. The first child receives
the name given by its maternal grandmother. The dead person is
buried with a fasting rite. At burial, rocks are placed in circles
around the tomb. Each circle corresponds to 10 years of age of
the deceased. The rock circles are then covered with earth.
Ancestors of 3-4 generations are allowed to be
worshipped at home. The spirit of the earth is venerated by each
family and the whole village. The spirit of the terraced fields
is represented by an unusual stone placed in the highest rock
hole. Ceremonies and festivals are held on the 3rd of the 3rd lunar month, the 5th of the 5th month, the 15th of the 7th month and the
9th of the 9th month. The New Year Festival
is the biggest.