Language: The Pathen language belongs to the Hmong - Dao language groups.
History: As the legend has it, the Pathen from Than Lo in China came to Vietnam 200 - 300 years ago, crossing the sea with the Dao people.
Production activities: In the past, the Pathen mainly lived by cultivating swidden fields, using the digging stick to make holes for seedlings planted into the cleared, burnt fields. Crops include rice, corn, and various kinds of vegetables, such as beans, khoai so, khoai mon. Agricultural tools include the axe, knife and hoe. With crop production being largely dependent on weather conditions, the Pathen periodically must go into the forest and dig cu nau (a root crop yielding brown dye) and yam to supplement their diet when they have bad crops. The gathering of forest fruits still plays an important role in their economic life. Weaving cloth was developed a long time ago, and the Pathen's woven textiles are much appreciated by surrounding groups. Pathen men used to do basketry and carpentry. The Pathen raise farm animals, such as cows, buffaloes, goats, pigs and poultry, also used for religious activities. Buffaloes are also used as draught animals.
Diet: The Pathen mainly eat rice for their two main meals each day. They enjoy eating boiled or fried dishes.
Clothing: The clothing of Pathen women still keeps its special features. Their traditional clothing includes a long skirt and shirt which are very colorful and include decorative trims that are similar to thosg on clothing worn by the Dao people.
Housing: The Pathen mainly reside in Tuyen Quang and Ha Giang provinces. Depending on the area, the Pathen used to live either in houses on stilts or in semi-stilt houses. Houses could also be built directly on the ground. In many places, houses with pillars are built, which tend to make the' structures look stronger and more beautiful.
Transportation: Back-carrying is the principal means for the Pathen to transport goods.
Social organization: Good relations with neighbors play an essential role in community life. The Pathen live in harmony with each other and often take care of and help each other. They give mutual assistance during the harvest- time and when the farm work requires more labor. They have many family lineages living together in one village, in which there is usually one big family lineage. The Pathen have eight original family lineages and some other lineages originating from the Dao people (Ban, Trieu). Each family lineage is divided into smaller branches with their own legends.
Marriage: Monogamy is observed among the Pathen. Marriage is forbidden within the same lineage. It is rare that a husband marries a second wife or seeks a divorce. According to traditional customs, the husband should come to live with his wife's family for a certain period of time (at least 12 years) after the marriage; if the family of the wife has no sons, then the groom who has married into the family is supposed to live there forever. Then their children will bear the family name of the mother.
Funerals: When someone dies the people in the house will fire a rifle three times to announce the death to the community; then they begin to shroud the dead. The married daughter will prepare offerings for the funeral. The offering is often a pig weighing about 25kg; less wealthy families might offer just seven cocks. The coffin is made from a holowed-out tree trunk. The coffin is normally filled with fried rice and covered by the ban paper before it is burnt.
Festivals: The Pathen celebrate the traditional Tet lunar new year holidays like other ethnic minorities in the Northeast area.
Beliefs : The Pathen believe in the existence of a spirit world in which everything has a soul. Pathen ghosts are of two types those that are auspicious and those that bring disaster and misfortune. The auspicious spirits live in the sky with other spirits, people's ancestors, spirits of the soil.... The spirits that bring misfortune and disaster include the ghosts of rivers and streams and ill spirits of those who died unnatural death, all of whom are believed to destroy human crops and kill cattle.
The Pathen worship their ancestors at home. The altar is made using an inverted U shaped wooden plate on which is placed an incense bowl and a bowl of water. Some beliefs are related to agriculture, like worshipping before planting seeds, and the new rice ritual. The legend of the rice plant credits three animals - the dog, cat and pig - with stealing rice seeds from heaven and bringing them to humans. Because of that, man must, feed these animals before they worship the rice spirit. When there is a prolonged drought, the Pathen pray for the rain. Their ceremonial rituals relate to breeding and hunting practices which are also important to the Pathen's life.
Calendar: The Pathen use the lunar calendar in their agricultural cycle and in daily life.
Education: Many Pathen people can read and write Nom, Tay and Nung characters.
Entertainment: The Pathen preserve a rich folk culture tradition that includes singing, flute playing, and folk performances.
Travel tip shared by Lanh Nguyen