Giay minorityGiay Minority

Where to visit: Giay minority people can be visited in Ta Van village on the way to Nam Cang.

History: The Giay immigrated from China 200 years ago and a strong Chinese influence is evident in their culture.

Language: The Giay people have only a spoken language, which belongs to the Tay – Thai group.

Dress: Similar to the Tay minority, the clothing of Giay women is simple. A five-panel blouse with splits at the sides and buttons down the right side is worn over dark indigo trousers. The colour of blouse worn indicates a woman’s age, with older women usually wearing darker shades. Hair is worn wrapped around the head and secured with red threads. Like other minority groups today, Giay people have adopted elements of Western clothing into their attire.

Social organisation: Prior to the revolution of August 1945, Giay society operated on a class based system. The upper class was composed of landowners who worked as administration officials. Soldiers and housekeepers were paid to take care of weddings and funerals. Their land was tended to by farmers, who were ordered to pay taxes as well as carrying out the hard labour.

Birth: For a pregnant Giay woman, there are many dangers that must be avoided according to superstition. Wood piles must be burned from the bottom first to avoid birth difficulties, and women are forbidden from attending funerals or visiting places of worship during pregnancy for fear that their spirit will be lost.

With the birth imminent, a pregnant woman makes offerings to the Mother spirit. When the baby is one month old, offerings are made to the ancestors, the child is named and his or her horoscope is established for future use including such times as selecting a marriage partner or certain funeral rituals.

Marriage: Giay marriage customs have their base in Chinese traditions. A ‘go-between’ plays an important role, by proposing marriage to a potential bride on the behalf of her suitor. As part of the proposal, the potential bride is presented with a necklace and bracelet by the groom’s family to show their intentions, similar to a symbol of engagement. The groom’s family must offer the family of the bride food and money for the wedding, with her close relatives also receiving gifts, of a chicken, a duck and a silver coin. After the wedding ceremony, the groom must carry his bride to her new house on his back, for Giay fear that if she walks, her spirit will find its way back to her parents.

Funeral: For Giay people, a well-organised funeral is crucial for the deceased, with the belief held that it will allow them to ascend peacefully to heaven to join their ancestors. If not properly organised, the dead will be forced to live in hell or become animals. A funeral ceremony in a rich family can last five to seven days, with extra rituals carried out such as  leading the spirit on a procession running along the river. Children must mourn their parents for one year after their death.

Beliefs: The Giay altar is located in the middle of the house. Three incense bowls are set from left to right to worship the Kitchen God, Heaven and Earth, and the family ancestors. In households where the master of the house is a son-in-law who wants to worship his own parents, a fourth incense bowl is set to the far left. If a family has no altar for the Mother spirit, they set a fifth incense bowl to the right. In some homes, a small altar is set up beside the main one to worship the mother and father-in-law.