Other name: Kinh
Language: The Viet have their own language and writing system. Vietnamese belongs to the Viet-Muong language group (of the Austroasiatic language family).
History: Since ancient times, the ancestors of the Viet had settled in Northern and central Vietnam. Throughout their history, the Viet have played an important of drawing together and uniting all the other Ethnic groups to build up and to protect the nation.
Production activities: Viet agricultural is based on wet rice cultivation, and was developed very early. Through many, many generations of working in the rice fields, the Viet’s ancestors summarized all the experience of what needed for a crop to be successful in just couple of profound words” First water, second fertilizer, third hard work, fourth good seeds.” The grand system of dikes and dams which the Viet have today served as eloquent proof of their forefather’s persistent spirit in conquering hardships to live and to produce. Raising pigs, poultry, birds, and fishing are also fairly developed among the especially precious animal to the farmer. The Viet are renown in producing a wide variety of handicrafts. More than few handicraft villages have [parted from the work of farming. Village markets, fairs, and district markets are very busy. Today, metropolitan areas and industrial sites are developing more and more as the nation industrialized and modernized.
Diet: “Rice, green tea” are said to form the basic everyday food and drink of the Viet people. Sticky rice is only used in Festivals occasions. Fish, vegetable or crab soups often appear as part of the daily meals. The Viet are especially fond of eating sauces made from shrimp, fish and crab, and pickles made from green onions, mustard greens, egg-plant, etc. Sweet soya sauce and other spices like chili, garlic, and ginger are popular. Alcohol is consumed at parties and festival occasions. In the past, eating betel nuts, and smoking tobacco by water pipes were popular, but were also part of Viet customs and rituals.
Clothing: In the olden days, a Viet man used to wear chan que trousers ( a kind of wide-legged pants that looked like a skirt), with a brown shirt (in the North) or a black shirt (in the South). Traditionally, the Viet did not wear shoes. On special occasions white trousers, a long black shirt, pleated ready-to-wear turban, and wooden sandals were worn. Viet women traditionally black skirts and brown blouses. In the North, they wore black scarves. On Festivals occasions, Viet women wore the traditional ao dai, which have remained popular today. In the winter, both men and women wore double layer cotton jackets.Dresses for different ages were distinguished not by style, but usually by different colors and sizes. The quality of textiles distinguished the Clothing of the wealthy from those who were less affluent. Only the wealthy wore jewelry. At the beginning of the century, Viet men in rural areas were seen to wear only loincloths.
Lifestyle: The Viet usually live in one story houses. Their houses were combinations of living quarters-yards-gardens-ponds. The main house used to have from three to five rooms with the middle one being the most important, where the ancestor’s altars were placed. Other areas were places where all family activities and relaxation took place. There were always little wings where the women slept and where foods and family possessions were kept. Kitchens were located nest to pigsties. In many Southern provinces, kitchens were built nest to the main living quarters. Yards, used for drying things, family activities, as well as for relaxing, are well suited to the region’s humid, tropical climate.
Transportation: The Viet transport their goods by road and water, using a variety of methods: - By road: carrying a basket or things on the shoulder using different kinds of carrying poles, such as ganh quang, ganh cap, don ganh, don soc and don can, etc.; carrying items using a stick or don khieng; carrying by a stretcher of mat sacks and sackcloth, pack-saddling goods using bicycles, pull carts, buffalo and ox carts. – By water: using boats, rafts, floats, canoes and ships. Each of these means has different shapes, sizes, materials and devices.
Social organization: The majority of the Viet live in villages. Several villages form a commute district. Many of these communes are actually part of one big village, and smaller villagers may just be split from the main village. There are different hamlets in a village, some are bigger than others. Before the Revolution system-fairly efficient self-ruled, the ruler’s group was called Phe Giap. They united the villagers to take care of all the village’s affairs from managing labors to matters of etiquette to worshiping village’s founders. Handcraft villages organized guilds for each profession. Within a village, the segregation between villagers and outsiders was outlined in its charter. A village’s traditions and customs were highly regarded and every one followed them conscientiously.
Family: Viet families are mostly small, with two generations living together in a patriarchal system. Nevertheless, women still play an important role in managing the family’s economy.
The Viet have numerous family names, and some of the most popular one are Nguyen, Tran, Le, Pham, Vu…, which can be seen everywhere. Each family clan has its own worshiping house. There are many of shoots in a family clan, and there are many branches in an offshoot. Each of these branches includes grandparents, parents, sisters, and brothers. Relations from the father’s side are well-kept from generation to generation. Relatives are close and loving to each other.
Marriage: Loyalty in love is of utmost importance to the Viet. Under feudal rules, parents chose wives and husbands for their children. Nowadays, young men and women are free to choose their life partners. These are the traditional steps which a young Viet couples goes through to become husband and wife:
- Proposing: The groom’s family asks a matchmaker to go to the future bride’s family to propose the marriage.
- Engagement: The groom’s family buys offerings and gifts to bring the bride’s house for official talks with her parents and relatives.
- Wedding: The ancestors are worshipped, gifted are presented to families, relatives and friends of both sides, and the groom comes to take the bride to his home.
- Revisiting: The newly-wed couple revisits the bride’s family. It is only upon completion of all of the above elaborated rituals, and the legal registration, that the young couple then becomes husband and wife.
Funerals: Viet funerals are very solemn, highly ritualized, and include all these steps: shrouding, putting the body in the coffin, saying farewell, lowering the coffin into a grave, food offerings, weekly ritual sacrifices, one hundred days’ ritual, exhumation, etc…Every “Pure Light” day, every Chinese New Year, and every death anniversary, each family visits their loved ones at the grave. The Viet regard exhumation as a very sacred ritual.
New House: There is a popular sentence: “marry a kind wife, build your house facing south.” House that faces the South will be warm in the winter, cool in the summer. When building a new house, besides choosing the right direction, the owner’s age has to be examined to pick out a good date to start construction. Once construction is completed, a good date needs to be selected again to bringing ancestors to the new house, and to celebrate the new house.
Beliefs: The worshipping of ancestors is the most important practice of the Viet. They usually place the ancestral altar in the grandest place in the house. Rituals are held for every festival occasion, every full moon, and the first day of the lunar month etc. The custom of worshipping the House God and Kitchen God are popular as well. More than a few families worship Buddha and the God of Wealth at home. In every village, there are temples for the founder; pagodas for Buddha, places to worship Confucius, etc…There are sections of the population in both rural and urban areas whom are Catholics, Christian, Caodist, etc…
Festivals: The Chinese or lunar New Year is the biggest holiday of the year, followed by many spring Festivals. There are other festival occasions, though, such as the first full moon of a year, day of “Pure Light”, double Five Festival (on 5th day of the 5th Lunar month), Autumn Festival, etc. Each of these has its own meanings and ceremonial rituals.
Calendar: For a long time, the lunar calendar has been used in the Viet’s lives, customs, and religions. They use it to count age, count death anniversaries, count planning days for crops, count bag and good days for big occasions such as building a house, wedding, funeral, etc. Nevertheless, the Western calendar is the official one, which is used more regularly nowadays.
Education: The Viet have moved from using Chinese and Vietnamese characters to the writing system used today. In the old kingdom of Thang Long (present-day Hanoi), the Ly dynasty had built the Temple of Literature, considered the first national university of Vietnam, to train intellectuals.
Literature and arts: There are rich varieties of folktales and literature such as fairy-tales, folk songs, pop songs, proverb, etc, which reflect the people’s lives. They contribute profoundly to preserving the national character. Written literature had also reaped successes under the Ly and Tran Dynasties. The 15th century gave birth to talented writers such as Nguyen Trai, Nguyen Binh Khiem, House Xuan Huong, etc…Other arts like fine arts, music, and theatre are highly developed and professional.
Entertainment: The Viet have games for different ages, genders, seasons, individuals and groups. There are games that require refined enjoyment such as releasing birds, flying kites, playing chess. There are sporty and communal games like tug-of-war, swings, wrestling, and boat racing. Many games bear the nation’s history and characters such as rice cooking competitions. Children’s games are countless, and differ in each region. Spring Festivals are where traditional games are most prominent.