Customs, practices and folk laws
of "Lo Lo" Ethnic group
to the survey data officially announced in 1989 by the State,
the Lo Lo ethnic group's population stood at around 3,200, residing
in Cao Bang, Ha Giang and Lao Cai provinces, largely in the districts
of Bao Lac (Cao Bang), Dong Van and Meo Vac (Ha Giang), and Muong
Khuong (Lao Cai). Like some other ethnoses in northern Viet Nam,
the Lo Lo have had their origin in southern China regions such
as Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, who, according to historians
and ethnologists, had established the Nam Chien state by the end
of the first millennium.
The people of this ethnic minority group living in southern
have been named "Di", while those residing in Viet Nam
themselves Man Di, Man Chi or Mun Di (with Man meaning "people").
According to their particular costumes and culture, the Lo Lo
divided into two sub-groups: The "Lo Lo Den" residing
in the districts
of Lung Cu and Dong Van of Ha Giang and Bao Lac of Cao Bang province,
and the "Lo Lo Hoa" living in Meo Vac and Dong Van districts
The Lo Lo migrated to Viet Nam right by the end of the first
millennium, but largely in the 15th and 17th centuries. They have
lived mainly on farming and husbandry. From their early days,
Lo have known how to practice intensive rice farming on their
Though staying mixedly with people of other groups such as Mong,
Tay, the Lo Lo have established their own small hamlets where
residential houses have been built leaning against the mountain
with doors turning to valleys. They have high sense of protecting
forests and the greenery around their hamlets in order to ensure
sources of daily-life water. The Lo Lo have held that forests
gardens around their residence are places where deities reside;
they must be protected.
There are three types of houses built by the Lo Lo: the houses
stilts, the earthern houses and stilt-cum-earth houses. A
stilt-cum-earth house is built with two parts: the stilted part
the front and the earthern part is behind. The familiar architectural
style seen among the Lo Lo community is the one-compartment and
lean-to house. In a house, the "house ghost" altar is
erected close to
the middle compartment wattle. To the right of the altar is the
sleeping place being kept warm with the kitchen fire. To the left
the altar is the cooking range and storeroom where household utensils
and working tools are kept. For big families, this place is also
as a sleeping place. Worthy of note is that also erected in a
house is another altar, which is called "khoan ly" by
people of this
ethnos, for family members who die of accidents or die in their
To the Lo Lo, this is the most sacred place of a family where
family master is allowed to come and do the cleaning.
The Lo Lo costumes (especially the women's) are very particular
elaborately tailored. The difference between those worn by the
of the two Lo Lo subgroups - Lo Lo Den and Lo Lo Hoa - is so distinct,
from the decorative patterns on fabrics to the ways of tailoring,
one can easily tell women of one subgroup from those of the other.
Yet, that is not the case for men's costumes which have been designed
and made under the strong influence of the Tay and Mong minorities
Formerly, the Lo Lo society was characterized by strong class
disintegration. Each hamlet accommodates many descents and each
descent comprised only few households or even only one. And each
descent has several branches from three to five generations apart.
Such branches often live in the same hamlet, worship the same
ancestors and share a set of bronze drums. Each branch is headed
aged man called "thau chu" who has the task of taking
care of the
common affairs of the entire family branch, preserving its own
and practices, presiding over its own rituals, solving differences
disputes among branch members or between members of his branch
those of other branch(es). Members of a family branches have been
bound closely together not only by blood line but also by their
care and assistance in their daily life.
The Lo Lo people have advocated the patriarchy though matriarchal
traces could be seen here and there, particularly in the role
by the women's elder brothers in the family. Such men have had
power to ask for the wedding presents when their nieces get married.
When a woman dies, her young brother must be let to see her face
before the corpse is shrouded.
According to Lo Lo customary laws, when a man dies, his son-in-law
shall have to carry one end of the coffin and shall, together
brothers-in-law, have to throw the first earth balls into the
the deceased after the coffin is lowered thereinto. As a must
Lo Lo funeral, dancing is organized for three to five days to
the death to see their ancestors. In the funeral procession, the
must always be in the van carrying on his shoulder a fabric bag
containing a wooden skull wrapped in cloths which symbolizes the
of the deceased.
Monogamy and patrilocality have long been advocated and practiced
by the Lo lo. Formerly, according to Lo Lo customs and practices,
marital age used to be 13 - 14. Intra-ethnos marriages were strictly
observed while adulteries were brought to trial and severely punished
under the customary laws which, however, permitted the marriage
between a man and his sister-in-law when his elder brother died.
Marriages between daughters of brothers and sons of their sisters
very common. When a man got a newly born daughter, his sister
a square of fabric as the present to her newly born niece, which
understood as a form of plighting.
The Lo Lo family is typified as the small patriarchal family
which the patriarch (the father or the unmarried eldest brother
father has died) has the responsibility to take care of the entire
family, deciding working plans and expenditures for the whole
and representing his family in its relations with other families.
family patriarch is the only person in the family allowed to worship
the "house ghost". He is also the person who has, together
family line chief, called "thau chu", the final say
on big and
important affairs of the family after consulting with a number
The Lo Lo people have been accustomed to worshipping their
ancestors, including the near ancestors (forefathers of 3 to 5
generations), called "duy khe", and the distant ancestors
of 4,5 or more generations), called "po xi". Each family
has its own
altar for worshipping "duy khe". However, the worshipping
of "duy khe"
is often conducted at the house of "thau chu" (the family
chief) during the Lunar New Year Festivals and on the mid-seven
(the dead's day). Besides, rituals to worship "duy khe"
are also held
by people when someone in the family gets sick or accident.
Under the Lo Lo customary laws, when the parents in a family
only sons are entitled to inherit the family property while the
may enjoy the jewelry of their mother when she passes away or
a part of the family property as their dowries when getting married.
The private ownership of property by individuals and families
been respected. All acts of infringing upon other people's property
shall be charged with robbery and burglary and severely punished.
Perhaps, this may help to explain why such social vices have been
hardly seen among the Lo Lo community where the people's living
standards still remain low.
The Lo Lo customs, practices and customary laws bear distinct
cultural identities of this ethnic group whose new culture cannot
built without inheriting such cultural traditions, which have
established and passed from generation to generation now.--Viet
Law & Legal Forum.