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Nung An people and their traditional cultural identities

Although many customs and cultural features of the ethnic groups have been more or less diminished due to the development of the market economy and intergration, Nung An people in Quang Uyen district still preserve many cultural identities.

Nung An people, living mainly in Phuc Sen, Doai Khon, Quoc Dan and Tu Do communes in Quang Uyen district, have a long-existing cultural tradition. Up to now, they still retain their traditional identity which is expressed in many aspects of material and spiritual cultural life as well as social relationships.

Regarding the traditional material culture of Nung An people, people will immediately think of the traditional costumes which are still carefully preserved. Like Tay and Nung people's, their costumes which are simply but carefully sewn from their do-it-yourself indigo fabric, are plain and straight. The most special thing is that today Nung An people - young and old, men or women - still often wear their traditional costumes in daily activities such as going to work, going to school, going to the market or during festivals. No matter where they go or in any position, when they return to the village, they usualy change into these traditional costumes before going out, visiting relatives and neighbours or working on the field to help their families.

Currently, Quang Uyen is the place where most of the Nung An traditional crafts in Cao Bang are preserved and developed. In the past, due to unfavorable natural conditions, mainly rocky terrain,

Since ancient times, due to unfavorable natural conditions with is mostly rocky terrain, the people's life is very difficult. Therefore, in addition to agricultural production, Nung An people also do handicrafts to meet their daily needs as well as to increase their income. Having the industrious and hard-working characteristic, the majority of Nung An people are skillful craftsmen. Coming to the Nung An village, you can easily see the image of women growing cotton, spinning, weaving, indigo dyeing while men are forging. In addition, there are many other handicrafts such as making paper and incense in Quoc Dan commune, making bricks in Tu Do commune. Doing traditional handicrafts not only helps to create jobs for villagers in the off-season days but also becomes the main source of income to improve the people's lives. Preserving and promoting traditional handicrafts is a special and unique feature of the Nung An people, which differs from other ethnic groups. Moreover, the existence and development of handicrafts here is not only economically significant but also meaningful for educating the hardworking tradition for later generations. Maintaining indigo weaving, first of all, is to solve the problem of Self-sustainability and more importantly to train the young to work hard. Therefore, Nung An girls, before getting married, must know how to weave and dye indigo or they will be considered lazy and knowing nothing to do for living. Similarly, Nung An's boys are considered incompetent and unworthy of being the head of the family if he doesn't not know how to do forging before going to ask a girl for being his wife.

Traditional costumes of Nung An people

In addition to the beauty of material culture, Nung An people also preserve and promote the beauty of spiritual culture in which the most outstanding is Heo Phươn (meaning calling friends in the local language), one of the traditional folk sing. Hèo Phuon, a reciprocal singing style between 2 men and women, is often sung in happy special occasions such as festivals, weddings, longevity celebrations, housewarming, seasonal prayers and Giao Duyen singings in festivals. While singing, each pair has 2 sentences with 10 words. When singing, two people in each male and female side, reciprocally sing two 10-word sentences with simile, deep, lyrical words.

The spiritual life of Nung An people is very rich and diverse. They have deep faith in gods and supernatural forces. Each village usually has an earth shrine placed at the top of the village. Worship ceremony is held on the special days which take place almost every month in a year such as lunar new year, Ancestors Day, mid-year festival, Ghost Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival etc.

Hương Giang (Translated by Nong Hai)