The Mnong Ethnic Group in Vietnam

The Mnong Ethnic Group in Vietnam

Lables: Ethnic Groups, Mnong ethnic group, Mon-Khmer Group

Proper name: Mnong.

Local groups: Mnong Gar, Mnong Nong, Mnong Chil, Mnong Kuenh, Mnong Rlam, Mnong Preh, Mnong Prang, Mnong Dip, Mnong Bhiet, Mnong Sito, Mnong Bu Dang, Mnong Bu Nor, Mnong Bu Deh.

Population: 67,340 people (1999 census).

Language: The Mnong language belongs to the Mon-Khmer language group (Austroasiatic language family).

History: The Mnong have long inhabited in the middle of the western highlands of the country.

Production activities: The Mnong plant rice on terraces with a technique called "dao canh hoa chung", which means cutting down all the trees on a piece of land, burning them then making holes in the earth to plant seeds. When harvesting, the Mnong pluck the rice out by hands. Furthermore, they plant water rice on marshes using a technique called "dao canh thuy nau", which means letting water buffaloes step on the field before planting seeds. They do not transplant the young rice plants like in the delta. What needs attention here is the role of the hoe in the Mnong traditional agriculture. Beside agricultural products, hunting and gathering fruit still play important roles in Mnong daily life.

In making family handicraft products, the most popular one is plaiting house furniture from rattan, bamboo, and leaves. The second one is growing cotton and weaving done by women. Moreover, in each village, there is usually someone who knows how to make pottery by hand. The products are baked outside. There are all size of pots, bowls, and jars. Blacksmithing is not very developed among the Mnong. The Mnong of the Buon Don area are especially good at hunting and training wild elephants. Even today, this profession is still well kept, though the number of elephants has significantly declined.

Eating: The Mnong eat rice cooked in earthen pots. A long time ago, they ate sticky rice cooked in bamboo tubes. Their lunch while working their terraced fields is usually a sour rice soup carried in dry pumpkin gourd container. Meals generally include salt mixed with chili pepper, wild vegetable soup, bird and animal meats, and fish. Raising cattle and poultry are not popular. Vegetables are planted on the field to supplement the foods they earn from hunting and fruit picking. The popular drink is rice wine.

Clothing: In the past, in hot weather, men used to wear loin cloths and no shirts; women wore wrapped skirt, and also no shirt. In winter, they wore a throw, which was the popular dress in Truong Son, Western Highlands. Today, the Mnong's dress has been influenced by the Viet people. The custom of "filing the teeth and stretching the ear lobes", which was very popular in Mnong traditional society in the past, can nowadays only be seen among the older generation.

Housing: Today, the Mnong live concentrated within their own local groups, mainly in districts of Lac, Mdrac, Dac Nong, Dac Mil, Krong Pach, Ea Sup, Buon Don in Dac Lac province. Some also live in southwest Lam Dong and Song Be districts. The Mnong stretch westward to the east of Cambodia, along the border between the two countries. They live either in stilt houses or single-story houses, depending on region or local group. The single-story house - without an upper floor-has a straw roof that reaches almost to the ground. The earthen floor is where daily activities take place. This type of house is typical within the groups of Mnong Gar, Mnong Preh,Mnong Prang. Hmong stilt houses are not too high, with the floor only about 0.70 to 1 meter from the ground. This type of house is popular among a number of Mnong groups: Mnong Kuenh, Mnong Chil, Mnong Bhiet. Only the Mnong Rlam in Lac Lake build very high stilt houses, similar to those of the Ede people. Both types of houses have straw roofs and bamboo and wooden frames. All the parts of the house are lashed together by rattan fiber cord.

Transportation: The Mnong mainly use a carrying basket with two handles on the shoulder to transport their goods. In addition, the Mnong's use of elephants for transporting is very special. Wooden boats are used for travel and transport on rivers and lakes.

Social organization: The Mnong village is called bon or buon. In a bon, all the families have blood, marriage, or neighborhood relations. There are about 10 families in small villages, a couple of dozen families in large villages. Blood tie is counted by the maternal side. Remnants of the Mnong's matriarchal society are still evident today. Nevertheless, this type of social structure has declined among many local groups. In Mnong traditional society, the head of each village was called Rnuf or Kroanh bon, his assistants were called Rnoi or Rnop. When there was a fight, then a military leader called Ne tam lam lo was appointed. Mnong society conform to customary law. Customary law is transmitted orally, sung, from generation to generation and functions as guidelines to guide people's behavior in life.

Marriage: Mnong women take the lead in marriage. However, both sides organize the wedding. After the wedding, the young couple stays with the wife's family. With many local groups, the couple takes turns staying with both sides. Children bear their mother's family name. There are three ceremonies in the marriage custom. They are Sar ur, Tam op, and Tam nsong, which are equivalent to pre-engagement, engagement, and wedding ceremonies. Monogamy is the essential thing in a marriage. The Mnong have very heavy punishment for those who commit incest or adultery.

Funerals: When someone dies, the whole village stops working to prepare for the funeral. The corpse will be kept at home for two days, if he/she dies because of illness or of old age. The Mnong are afraid of, and refuse having funerals for, a sudden death causes from an accident (drowning, falling from a tree, snakebite, eaten by a tiger, or dying because of war or fighting). For those who die prematurely, their corpses are not allowed to be brought into their houses. Burying is the only step in such a funeral, and there also isn't the exhumation custom. Such individuals are to be buried immediately and quietly. The deceased's shared possessions are brought to the next world, the world of their ancestors called Phan.

New House: When a new house is completely built, there is usually a big open house party that includes sacrificed pigs. After the meal, comes the drinking feast, which happens when the gongs are playing.Festivals: The water buffalo sacrifice ceremony is the most important traditional festival. Every year, after the harvesting season, each village holds a New Rice Festival to give thanks to Heaven, Earth, and to the Rice's God. Here, water buffaloes are sacrificed to pray for the next successful crop.

Calendar: The Mnong agricultural calendar follows the lunar calendar, and coincides in function to the fixed steps of swidden cultivation practices. There are also twelve months in a year; each month has about 29 to 30 days.

Education: In the past in Mnong traditional society, they did not have a writing system; the Mnong only had oral literature. Knowledge was passed directly from older generations to younger ones by recitations committed to memory. Only within this decade have the Mnong been taught to write, although this is not very popular and has many obstacles.

Artistic activities: Mnong folktale treasures, especially epic and phap ca, are highly valued, with new forms and developments being introduced. There are plenty of Mnong proverbs and folksongs. Musical instruments include gongs, several kinds of clarions, an 8-stringed instrument, and flutes. Dried calabashes are popular as sound boxes for many bamboo instruments. Research has identified a set of stone instruments from ancient times in the area where the Mnong have lived.

Entertainment: Children like to play kite, spinning top, and blind man's bluff. They also love to run and jump.

 

Travel tip shared by Lanh Nguyen
vietnamheritagetravel.com

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