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Discovering Muong villages in Hoa Binh

Thu, 23 Oct 2014 . Last updated Thu, 25 Jun 2015 08:53

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Hoa Binh is well known for not only beautiful scenery but also the unique cultural identity of Muong people. Although many traditional values have died out, but there are still a great of people who are keeping cultural values living forever.

Hoa Binh province is located about 80 kilometers northwest of Hanoi. The province was established in 1886 when it was known as Muong province. It was then official renamed Hoa Binh in 1891. Muong Bi in Tan Lac district is famous for having the most Muong ethnic minority people in Hoa Binh. The province is one of the oldest areas in Vietnam which is world-famous Hoa Binh in culture which dates back over 20 thousand years and the Muong people which is the large ethnic group in Hoa Binh considers this place as the  cradle of their traditional culture.

 I have been to Hoa Binh and I have seen the scenery here before. But when we went to Lung Van, we were in the clouds and this is a really stunning place with beautiful and peaceful scenery. Lung Van is referred to as the home of Muong Bi, one of the 4 major ancient cultural cradles of the Muong people in Hoa Binh. Currently, there are about 400 households living here and the majority of them are Muong people. At first glance, you can see the tranquility of Chieng village, one of 12 Muong villages in Lung Van mountainous community. Local people are very friendly and they are welcoming towards me as a foreigner in their village.

I have seen the beautiful simple life of the Muong people. They live side by side with nature and respect the environment surrounding. That is why Muong people often choose this land which is clustered along foothills, hillsides and near water source to establish villages. When the first I knew that shaman is still a part of Muong culture, I am really skeptic to that thing. I am not a religious person at all. I don’t believe in kind of magic or anything like that. So I did go to meet a shaman and hope that I would have a memorable experience. It is not been easy for me to meet the shaman who has long been considered the keepers culture of Muong people and preserves spirit of Muong villages.

Bui Van Lung has been working as a professional shaman for 30 years. All local customs and ceremonies for quiet his participation. Lung show me a small bag for the bones, animal teeth and different kind of stones which he believes the supernatural items. All of these things have been handed down from previous generation. In his collection, there are some animal teeth and bones which he himself found in the forests are up in the mountains.

Mr. Lung takes me to a Muong house when he is going to form a ritual called “le mat nha” which brings lucky for the house and people living in. Everybody in this family is doing something and I really don’t know what I can do to help the so I decided to go over and join in a group of men weaving something with bamboo sticks. Mr. Lung told me about that the reason they have bamboo plates because in the old days, Muong people had no plates and bowls and something like that so this is how they did it. These bamboo plates are used to be offering on and after the ceremony.

 The next my destination is Ai village which is located in a remote mountainous region of Hoa Binh. Ai villagers as well we other Muong people, they are well known for their hunting skills. Men and women, young and old have grown up with especial crossbow. The Muong is one of tribes living in high mountains, so they have no chance to use modern weapons. They themselves created Muong crossbow, a very special weapon. The crossbow is an indispensable part in the culture of this ethnic group. Muong crossbow is different too crossbows of other ethnic groups. The difference between Muong crossbow and Thai crossbow or other ethnic groups is the shape. The stock os the crossbows is often curved while it is straight in Muong crossbow. Muong crossbows were exceptional; they were amazingly powerful, amazingly accurate.

In addition, Muong people have own technique blackened teeth which is handed down from previous generation. Before I actually know about the whole process of making your teeth black, I did think to myself that must have been long process because you cannot change color of your teeth overnight. In old time, girls with black teeth were pretty so everybody blackened their teeth. But nowadays we don’t see girls with black teeth, just white teeth. In England or European countries, we have never chew betel with limestone and areca nut, I have just seen in Vietnam. It likes chewing Vietnamese gum.

 

Source: VTV4 – VTV.vn

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