Proper name: Tho
Population: 1,190,342 people
Local groups: Tho, Ngan, Phen, Thu Lao, and PaDi.
Language: Tay language belongs to the Tay-Thai language group (Tai-Kadai language family)
History: The Tay have been present in Vietnam for millennia, perhaps as early as 500BC.
Production activities: The Tay are farmers who have a long tradition or wet rice cultivation. They have a long history of intensive cultivation and irrigation methods like digging canals, laying water pipes, etc. They also maintain the custom of harvesting the rice and thrashing the grains out on wooden racks, which they call loong, while still in the fields, then carrying the threshed rice home in baskets. In addition to cultivating wet fields,the Tay also plant rice on terraced fields along with the other crops and fruit trees. Cattle and poultry raising are well-developed, but a free range style of animal husbandry is still popular. Household crafts are worthy of note. The most famous Tay craft is weaving brocaded designs of beautiful and original patterns which are highly prized. The local market is also an important economic activity.
Diet: In the past, in several places, the Tay ate mainly sticky rice, and almost every family used stew and steam pots for cooking. On festival occasions, they make many kinds of cakes, such as square rice cakes (banh chung), round rice cake (banh day), black rice sesame cake (banh gai), lime-water dumpling, fried rice cake, marble dumplings made of rice white rice flour with rock sugar fillings, patty make of mashed rice, etc. There are special cakes made from flour with an ant egg filling, and com, a young rice confection made from smoked sticky rice, roasted, and pounced.
Clothing: Tay traditional dress is made from homegrown cotton that is indigo dyed. There is usually not much embroidery or other decorations. Women wear skirts or trousers, with short shirts inside and long one worn on the outside. The Ngan group wears shorter shirts, the Phen group wears brown shirts, the Thu Lao group wears conical-shaped scarves on their heads, the Pa Di group wears hats that look like house roofs, and the Tho group tend to dress like the Thai in Mai Chau (Hoa Binh province).
Lifestyle: The Tay have settled in valleys in the Northeastern part of the country: Quang Ninh, Bac Giang, Lang Son, Cao Bang, Bac Can, Thai Nguyen, Ha Giang, Tuyen Quang, Lao Cai, Yen Bai. Their villages are characteristically large and crowded, and there are villages with hundreds of houses.
The Tay traditional house is built on stilts with a frame of rafters and 4, 5, 6, or 7 rows of columns. A house has from 2 to 4 roofs made from tiles, straw, or palm leaves. Wood or bamboo is used to make the walls.
Transportation: The Tay use shoulder poles and baskets to carry small, tidy bundles, or carry them over the shoulder in cloth bags. Larger bulkier items are carried by buffalo or with the help of other people. Rafts and floats may also be used to transport items by water.
Social organization: The Tay’s Quang regime is a form of social organization which resembles a feudal system that is aristocratic and hereditary. Within its rule region, the Quang owns all lands, forests, rivers, etc. Hence, it has the right to control everyone who lives on that land and to exploit these people through forced labor, imposing duties on commodities, and enforcing the payment of tributes and offerings. The Quang regime appeared very early and persisted until the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th century.
Marriage: Young Tay men and women are free to love and to date each other. However, the decision to become husband and wife depends on their parents and whether their fates match each other’s suitably. That’s why in the marriage proceedings, the groom’s family asks for the bride’s fortune to be read and then brings it home to compare it to the fortune of their son. After the wedding, the wife stays with her parents until she is pregnant. It is only before giving birth that the wife goes to her husband’s family to live.
Birth: While pregnant, and after giving birth, the mother and even the father have to avoid many different things in order for both mother and child to be healthy, for the child to grow up quickly, strongly, and to avoid evil spirits.
Three days after an infant is born, purification is performed while establishing the altar to honor the midwife. One month after the birth, there is a celebration and naming party for the infant.
Funerals: Tay funerals are lavishly and elaborately organized with many rituals in order to fulfill filial duty and to bring the spirit of the deceased to the world of the afterlife. Three years after burial, there is a ritual to end the mourning period and to bring the spirit to the ancestral altar. There is an annual day for worshiping.
New House: When building a new house, the owner has to choose a new house, the owner has to choose the land and the direction for the house, examine the age of the man who will head up the construction of the house, and select a good day for building. On the day they move to a new house, the head of a family must start a fire and keep it burning all night.
Beliefs: The Tay mainly worship ancestors. They also worship the House God, Kitchen God, and the Midwife.
Festivals: there are many Festivals and holidays which bear different meanings in a year. The Lunar New Year that starts a new year and the mid0July Festivals are the most lavishly organized. A spirit-calling festival for cows and water buffaloes happens on the 6th of June (according to the lunar calendar). Ceremonies held after seeding and for the new rice festival held before harvest are characteristic among farmers who practice wet rice cultivation.
Calendar: The Tay follow the lunar calendar.
Education: The Tay’s alphabet is pictographic, similar to the Viet’s alphabet at the beginning of the 20th century. It is used to write poems, stories, songs, prayers, etc. The Tay-Nung alphabet builds on the Latin alphabet and was invented in 1960. it remained in use until the mid 1980s and was used in elementary schools where there Tay and Nung people lived.
Artistic activities: The Tay have many folk song melodies such as luon, phong slu, phuoi pac, puoi ruoi, ven eng…Luon includes different tunes of luon coi, luon sluong, luon the, luon nang oi, which are alternating verses popular in many regions. The Tay sing luon at long tong Festivals, weddings, new house parties, or when there are guests in the village. Besides, festival dancing, in some local groups, there are also puppet performances using unique wooden puppets.
Entertainment: On the occasions of long tong festival, people in many places play con throwing, badminton, tug-of-war, dragon dancing, chess, etc. Children play spinning top and other games such as khang and chat or o an quan.