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Tay and Nung markets form diverse and colourful local culture

Lang Son lies on the border of Vietnam and China. For centuries, during periods of peace and prosperity in the two countries, Lang Son has been the junction of two cultures and economies.

The province is full of historical and cultural sites, some ancient, others dating from 20th century conflicts along the border. Chi Lang Pass, Nhi Thanh and Tam Thanh Caves, To Thi Mountain, the Mac Dynasty Citadel, and Mau Son Resort are all famous sites that inspire writers and poets.

Eighty percent of the inhabitants of Lang Son are neither Kinh (ethnic Viet majority) nor Chinese. They are Tay and Nung people, ethnic minorities who share certain similarities in language, culture and customs. The Tay are the largest ethnic minority in Vietnam, but in Lang Son, the Nung form the more numerous group.

While the Nung are relatively recent arrivals in Vietnam, about 200 years ago, the Tay have lived in the region since the distant past, even in prehistory. According to legends, Tay people are the descendants of King Thuc Phan, who founded the Au Lac Kingdom (257-207BC). Thuc Phan built his captial in Co Loa, 17 km from Hanoi. Many names of the parts of Co Loa Citadel come from the Tay language.

The Tay invented their own script using Chinese characters. Over the centuries, numerous Tay scholars have gained a good command of Chinese as well as their native language. Tay people have played important roles in Vietnam’s history and revolutionary movements. These include the 11th century chieftain Giap Thua Quy, the 19th century rebel leader Cai Kinh, and the 20th century activist Hoang Van Thu.

Before the 1945 revolution, Dr Nguyen Van Huyen, a Viet researcher married to a Tay woman, Vi Kim Ngoc,collected more than 10,000 poems written in Tay script. In November 1946, President Ho Chi Minh appointed Dr Huyen Minister of Education.

Tay and Nung culture, as well as that of other ethnic groups, is visible in a particularly delightful way at Lang Son’s markets. At Ky Lua and Dong Dang Markets, people from different groups gather and perform sli and luon folk music. Both of these markets open once every five days following the lunar calendar. Along with other ethnic groups, Tay and Nung markets form a diverse and colourful local culture.

VOV - (01/08/2005)

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