The Ha Nhi People
called U Ni and Xa U Ni, there are about 12,500 Ha Nhi, in the
provinces of Lai Chau and Lao Cai. Ha Nhi language belongs to
the Tibeto-Burman Group, while their culture is based on ancestor
Building road leading to the villages of the Ha Nhi in Muong
They live on rice cultivation of burnt-over land or terraced
They are one of the groups who are highly skilled at building
fields on mountain slopes, digging canals and building small dams.
They use ploughs and harrows pulled by oxen and buffaloes to work
fields. The gardens are often close to their houses.
Animal husbandry is developed as well as the cloth weaving, and
basketry. Most of the Ha Nhi make their own clothes. Women's dress
varies depending on the region. The women in Lai Chau have colourful
and decorated dresses, while Lao Cai women wear only dark indigo.
Each Ha Nhi hamlet contains 60 households. The Ha Nhi consist
family lineages. Each lineage comprises many branches. Every year,
Tet (New Year's Day), the people of the same lineage get together
listen to an elderly man speaking about their ancestors. Some
can recall their ancestors up to 40 generations in the past. The
children often take the name of their father or of an animal as
middle names. The young men and women are free to choose their
partners. Each marriage goes through two stages. In the first
the young man and women become husband and wife. The bride comes
live with her husband's family and take the family name of the
according to custom of the Ha Nhi in Lai Chau province. The second
stage is organised when the couple get rich or have a child.
Funeral customs vary according to regions, but some common practices
are observed. When a person dies, the partition marking off the
bedroom of the deceased is dismantled, as well as the altar to
ancestors. The dead body is placed on a bed in the kitchen, and
auspicious hours and days must be chosen for burial. To determine
place of burial, an egg is tossed in the air and the grave dug
the egg hits the ground and breaks. There are no cemeteries. Around
the grave, stones are piled up to make a funeral house or a protective
The Ha Nhi possess many ancient tales and stories in long verses.
young men and women play their own dances according to rhythms
accompanied by musical instruments. The young couples used to
their love by playing leaf panpipe, lip organ and vertical flute.
young girls like to play am ba, met du, tuy huy or nat xi (various
kinds of traditional flutes) when night falls. The young boys
play la khu, a string zither. Besides, at the festivals, drums,
cymbals and castanets are performed. The Ha Nhi also have many
such as lullabies, duet songs, wedding songs, mourning songs and
reserved for new houses, receiving guests and welcoming Tet holidays.
Particularly, a wedding song of the Ha Nhi in Muong Te district
Chau province is composed by 400 verses.