The Thai have a population of more than 1,000,000 living in the provinces of Lai Chau, Son La, Hoa Binh and Nghe An. The Thai have other names such as Tay, Tay Dam, Tay Khao, Tay Muoi, Tay Thanh, Hang Tong and Pu Thay. The Thai language belongs to the Tay-Thai Group.
The Thai are experienced in consolidating edges, digging canals and building frames to carry gutters to convey water to the fields. Wet rice is their staple food, especially sticky rice. The Thai also cultivate rice, secondary crops and other trees on burnt-over land. Each family breeds cattle and poultry, makes wattle bamboo articles, weaves cloths and some families have developed ceramics.
Thai brocade is very well-known with unique, colourful and durable motifs.
In recent decades, Thai men have adopted the Kinh's style of dress, while Thai women retain their traditional clothes including short vests, long black skirts, scarves and ornaments. The Thai live in houses on stilts. A Thai village, called a ban, comprises on average 40-50 houses built side by side. Among the Black Thai, the roof is shaped like a tortoise's shell with decoration called khau cut at each end of the ridge.
After the wedding, the husband comes to live with his wife's family for several years. When the couple have a child, they come to live in the husband's house.
The Thai's concept of death is that they will continue their life in the other world. Thus they organise funerals like a farewell party to see off the dead persons to the upper world.
The Thai group comprises many family lineages. Each lineage retains its own tabooes, for example the Lo never eats the Tang Lo bird and the Quang abstains from killing tigers. The Thai people worship their ancestors, heaven, earth, ban, and muong (several ban form a muong). Every year they also hold rituals to pray for good crops, starting with a ritual to greet the first thunder of the year.
The Thai possess a valuable legacy of myths, legends, ancient tales, stories in verse and folksongs. Well-known epics include the Xong chu xon xao (Farewell to his lover) and the Khu Lu Nang Ua (Lu and Ua). The Thai developed writing early, so have kept on tissue paper and leaves many vetiges of ancient literature, customs and practices and folkloric genres. The Thai like to sing, particularly reciting khap with the accompaniment of stringed instruments and dance. Their folk dances such as Xoe and Sap (bamboo dance) are performed on stages both at home and abroad. Han Khuong and Con throwing are also of the Thai's unique cultural character.
The People - (23/09/2003)