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  Ethnography

Cham people weave more colours into Vietnam’s

The Cham is one of the 54 ethic groups in Vietnam, comprising about 133,000 people who live mainly in the central and southern regions of Vietnam. The Cham has many clans: Cham-Ba La Mon (Brahmanism), Cham-Hroi (Cham-Ba Ni) and Cham-Islam. Besides the indigenous religion, the Cham also follow Islam and Brahmanism. They live in separate villages but preserve and practice their diverse range of customs and rituals.

At present, the Cham remain deeply influenced by a matriarchal system of social organisation. They mainly live on farming and traditional handicrafts, such as pottery making and weaving. Cham pottery includes utensils like pots, pans and small jars, which are not only famous for their quality and usefulness but also for their unique production method. Moreover, Cham people are also well known for brocade weaving. Almost all Cham girls must know how to weave cloth when they reach the age for marriage. Their killfulness, meticulousness and resourcefulness are valued through woven products such as shawls, handkerchiefs and cloth. There are many different styles and models of products, which meet the various demands for costumes and the dress code of the Cham people.

Together with famous traditional handicrafts, the Cham created a valuable and unique culture with shrines, towers, artistic architectural works and sculptural works of stone and bricks. The Cham are always proud of their ancient towers built with bricks, which are combined skillfully with decorated pieces of sandstone. The brick towers, which were built without any mortar, still exist after thousands of years despite the tests of time. The Cham towers represent a unique architectural art with a variety of lively patterns and images created for different purposes related to religion, literature, art and the lives of the Cham people.

The Cham dance is also very attractive and unique. The ancient and typical dances like doa pu (carrying a water jar on head), fan dance, ball dance, baranung-drum dance and rowing dance are usually performed in rituals and festivals.

For the Cham, festivals are valuable spiritual cultural activities. Hence, although they have many festivals, the Ka Te festival is the largest one each year. It is usually held in mid lunar September to commemorate heroes of the nation and their ancestors.

When mentioning the Cham festivals, it is impossible not to talk about the Ramawan, the most typical festival in terms of rituals of Islamic Cham. In addition, there is the Thap Ba Festival commemorating Goddess Nagar (the Mother of Land) who is believed to have reclaimed the land and taught the Cham how to farm and live a good life. There is also a festival for health which is usually held in every household, family clan and hamlet to thank heaven and the gods for giving health and peace to the people.

The Cham’s cultural festivals help Vietnamese people and international friends understand the value of the Cham’s unique culture, which makes great contributions to the diversity and richness of the Vietnamese multi-ethnic culture.

VOV - (02/11/2004)


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