Bê, Cống Ethnic Group — North Vietnam

Cong Ethnic Group Vietnam
Bê, in Her Traditional Clothes, Cống Ethnic Group

This whole shirt was sewn by hand. It is very old, about 60 or 70 years old; made by my moth­er-in-law. Dur­ing that time, even if peo­ple sold their pigs or chick­ens, they couldn’t buy it (most peo­ple didn’t want to part with it as fab­ric was rare). Hav­ing mon­ey did­n’t mean that you could buy it. When peo­ple die, they have to wear it.”

On Mar­riage and Com­mu­nal Living:

If you tie your hair like mine, means you are mar­ried. Girls who have not yet mar­ried, just tie their hair normally.

Mar­riage here is just one hus­band and one wife. Here the groom has to stay at the bride’s house for at least 1 year (after mar­riage), some peo­ple stay there for 3 or 5 years. After that, they will bring the wife to their house.”

Nor­mal­ly, daugh­ters will sleep in the cor­ner of the house. In the past, there were many peo­ple liv­ing in the same house, now they get mar­ried and have kids then move out. At that time (in the past), there were 20 peo­ple liv­ing togeth­er (in a large com­mu­nal house). Each fam­i­ly had their own bed­room divid­ed by a curtain.”

Bê, 62 years old
Cống Eth­nic Group
Lai Chau, Vietnam

detailed adornments, Cong Ethnic Group

All of this jew­el­ry is made from real sil­ver and is very old. This part is used for stor­ing betel.” (Bot­tom Right)

Cong Ethnic Group Vietnam Full traditional clothing

Bê, stands on the wrap-around porch of her tra­di­tion­al stilt-house, proud to wear the clothes of the Cống eth­nic group.

Cống Traditional Clothing


We spoke to the local cul­tur­al author­i­ty before we met Bê and she didn’t know of any tra­di­tion­al clothes that exist­ed still, so we were very for­tu­nate to find Bê with her orig­i­nal tra­di­tion­al clothes.

She told us: “For­eign Tourists came to the vil­lage, took pic­tures of the peo­ple and bought their old clothes. It is not easy to make clothes like the old style again. We want to make the shirt like it was in the past, but we don’t have a sam­ple. The old peo­ple did­n’t under­stand much, so they sold the clothes to pay for a debt.”

Tibeto-Burman Ethnic Groups


The Tibeto-Bur­man Eth­nic Groups are six dif­fer­ent eth­nic groups in the remote moun­tain­ous regions of North­ern Viet­nam, all con­nect­ed through a shared ances­try, lan­guage, and cul­ture. They migrat­ed to Viet­nam begin­ning in the 15th Cen­tu­ry. Their ancient nomadic lifestyle is reflect­ed in the var­i­ous pieces of dif­fer­ent col­ored cloth and adorn­ments of nuts, shells, and sil­ver coins on the front of their tra­di­tion­al clothes.

Bê is from one of these eth­nic groups, the Cống. She was gra­cious enough to show Trinh and I her very old tra­di­tion­al shirt and explain many details about her culture:

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