The Co Ethnic Group in Vietnam

The Co Ethnic Group in Vietnam

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

Proper name: Cor, Col.

Other names: Cua, Trau.

Population: 22,649 people (1999 census).

Language: The Co language belongs to the Mon-Khmer group (part of the Austroasiatic language family). Their language is close to languages spoken by other groups in the Tay Nguyen region, such as Hre, Sedang and Bahnar, etc. The Co's written language was invented before 1975, primarily based on Latin letters. Nowadays, however, this writing system is no longer popular.

History: The Co people are permanent residents in northwestern Quang Ngai province and southwestern Quang Nam province.

Production activities: Cultivation of swidden fields is the main method for earning a living, rice cultivated on swidden fields is the main crop. The earth is cleared of vegetation and digging sticks are used to make holes in the scorched earth to insert the seeds. Multi-crop farming and crop rotation are popular ways to maximize production on the scorched land. The Co are well-known for their betel and cinnamon crops. In particular, locally-grown cinnamon is plentiful and precious, becoming an important source of income that is derived from both the forest-grown and homegrown cinnamon. Cinnamon, which can only be harvested after 10 years, is an important asset of each family. Thanks to cinnamon, many local families have been able to buy desired goods such as gongs, jars and buffaloes, in the past, and, nowadays, motorbikes, cassettes, and clocks. They have also been able to build houses, fabricate wooden furniture, purchase clothes, and enjoy a more diversified diet. Barter of goods is also popular. The Co raise buffalo, pigs and chickens mainly for sacrifices in religious rituals. Textiles and blacksmithing are not well-developed. In contrast, basketry is well-developed and produces high-quality wares. Hunting and gathering are an important part in the daily life of the Co.

Diet: The daily diet includes ordinary rice, salt and chili, jungle vegetables* fish and meat. Formerly, people ate with their hands and drank uncoiled water and can wine consumed using straws or pipes. Nowadays, people have turned to boiled water, green tea and distilled spirits. Betel chewing only prevails among the elderly, while smoking is still popular.

Housing: The majority of Co is concentrated in the Tra Bong and Tra Mi areas of northwestern Quang Ngai and southwestern Quang Nam province. Their stilt houses are sprawling structures, with doors built below each of the gables. The interior is divided into three compartments, including a path in the middle, a sectioned compartment for the family's private activities, and another on the other side for public activities such as meetings, festivals, parties and games. In the past, in certain instances, the inhabitants of one village might live together in several longhouses, which might run hundreds of meters in length and were protected with surrounding fences and spikes. Recently, more and more Co families have built their own houses directly on the ground, following a style which resembles the houses of the Viet people. Some Co houses have also adopted tile roofs and brick walls.

Clothing: The Co mainly buys clothes from their Sedang and the Viet neighbors. According to tradition, men wear loin cloths, leaving the upper torso unclothed, and women wear skirts and blouses with short sleeves. In winter, they wrap themselves with blankets.

Long dresses and head-bands, imported from people living on the plains, are worn on ceremonial occasions, especially by more affluent elders. Nowadays, Viet clothing styles are most popular among the Go. Women's skirts are made from industrial cloth, and their ornaments have a more simple design. It is rare to find women wearing the colorful beaded strings around their necks, wrists and waists as was the fashion in the past.

Transportation: The Co make their own style of gui (the back-basket) for transporting goods and produce along the steeping terrain of mountains and streams. Almost everything is put into the gui and carried on people's back, attached with two shoulder-straps.

Social organization: Each village has a knowledgeable elder, respected and obeyed by all. Villagers live within a well-defined geographic area, and the location of the village is always within this territory. The villagers have close relationships established through marriages or through shared blood lines. Although each family has its own business and land plot, a sense of communal sharing is very strong. There has been an increasing gap between the rich and the poor, but the exploitation of servitude has not appeared.


Travel tip shared by Lanh Nguyen