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Thursday,  01/20/2022

Thong Nhat: Preserving the cultural values of San Chi ethnic costumes

– Thong Nhat commune located in Loc Binh district is one of the most populous community of San Chi ethnic people in Lang Son province with 1,600 people accounting for about 22.8% of the commune’s population. In the history of settling here, the San Chi people always have been responsible for preserving their national identity. One of the unique cultural features is their traditional costumes.

Although the San Chi’s costumes are not as colourful and sophisticated as the traditional costumes of the Dao, the H’mong, they are somewhat rustic, beautiful and unique – a pure and simple beauty. The main color is indigo black and made by hard-working, skillful San Chi woman.

Ms. Hoang Thi Giap, a San Chi costumes maker in Han Sai village, Thong Nhat commune, said: In our ethnic group, all women must know how to sew their own traditional costumes. When getting married, San Chi woman must bring beautifully well-made clothes to their husband’s family as a dowry. Therefore, at the age of 7 to 8 years old, San Chi girls are taught how to use needles and thread by their mothers and grandmothers. The costumes of the San Chi people are quite simple in terms of colors and patterns but focused on forms. As they are completely handmade, it takes us 3 to 5 days to make a full set of clothes.

San Chi ethnic people in Thong Nhat commune wearing traditional costume

San Chi women’s pants are cut in the style of wide leg, crotch, and ankle length ones. The shirt comes in pairs, including the inner shirt, which is a short blouse with 4 pieces; The outer shirt is an indigo tunic sewn from 5peices with a knee length, waistline, like that of Tay women but without a belt. When wearing traditional costumes, they must tie their hair and wear a square scarf outside. The scarf is sewn with black, indigo fabric, embroidered at 4 corners. They often wear white (pine) bags braided with yarn. Jewelry includes bracelets, necklaces, and earrings made of silver.

San Chi ethnic men’s costumes are also very rustic but still exude a healthy beauty. Men’s shirt is a four-piece short blouse, two sides of the shirt are attached to a row of 5 buttons. The shirt has two small pockets on both sides of the front flap. Men’s ankle-length pant with wide waistband made from a piece of white cloth sewn to the body of the pants. The crotch and pants are wide to support their climbing hills.

Today, due to the influence of modern social life, traditional costumes are gradually absent from the daily life of the San Chi. Only middle-aged people wear traditional clothes.  Young people often use ready-made clothes bought from markets. The number of people who know how to cut and sew clothes is decreasing. The preservation and promotion of the value of traditional costumes therefore face many difficulties.

Having determined that the preservation of traditional cultural identity, including the preservation of traditional costumes, must start from the young generation. In recent years, the local government, and people in Thong Nhat commune have paid attention and focused on restoring the beauty of traditional national costumes. Mr. La Van Duong, Chairman of Thong Nhat Commune People’s Committee said: The local government and public organizations often encourage people in the commune to wear traditional costumes during Tet, weddings, and festivals… Schools in the commune have organized many educational activities, for example, encouraging  students to wear traditional costumes to school on Mondays and Fridays, and on holidays and school important events, organize visits to elderly people’s houses to learn how to cut and sew national costumes.

Over the time, all levels and branches have been active in preserving and promoting the cultural values of the San Chi ethnic costume so the costumes would not be disappeared in the process of integration and development of society. Specifically, carrying out the project “Preserving and promoting the traditional costumes of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities in the current period” of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (CST), in 2020, the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism. The province has conducted an inventory of traditional costumes throughout the province, including the San Chi people’s costumes. The government of Thong Nhat commune actively collaborated with relevant functional sectors to collect statistics and assess the current situation of the San Chi people’s costumes in the commune, and at the same time proposed solutions to preserve and promote the national costumes. Through wearing costumes in daily life and in special events (wedding, festivals, holidays, and new year celebration), people of Thong Nhat commune are preserving and promoting the beauty of their cultural identity.

DUONG THUY LINH