Similar to the H'Mong tribes, the Red Dzao have also migrated from China several centuries ago, and have now settled in North Vietnam. The Red Dzao of Ta Phin Village, near Sapa are easily recognisable by their beautiful embroidered costumes and red head turbans or scarves. Like many hill tribes in Asia, the women move into the husband's family after her marriage, in many cases to a life of servitude. Similar to the H'Mong hill tribes, the Red Dzao women are responsbile for making the clothes for the family. The striking element of the Red Dzao's costume is the quality of the embroidery and needlework.
The woman wears a black cotton jacket cut short in front and a tail at the back.The front of the woman's jacket has 2 long strips that are wrapped around the waist and tied at the back. The stunning embroidery work can be seen on the tail of the jacket, the 2 tips of the wrap-around belt, and a small rectangular patch on the back. The addition of the tail on the jacket signifies they are children of the Gods. They use many symbols in their embroidery work with references to fertility, family union, happiness, nature, among others. The woman's trousers are decorated with the same dexterity of needlework. So perfect is the quality of embroidery, that one has to actually witness the work in progress to believe it is handmade needlework (see the short video clip at the end of this blog).
This is the typical woman's costume seen from the back where the intricate work of the jacket's tail can be seen.
The children wear hats with geometric symbols to ward off evil.
Ladies busy at work. Most Red Dzao women from Ta Phin have shaved their eyebrows and the frontal part of their heads. The reason for this tradition was difficult to unearth but with some insistance, I managed to get a version of the story. One day, a father-in-law of a young newly wed woman found a strand of hair in his soup. Since all meals and all housework were the responsibilities of the newly 'acquired' bride, the fury of the old man fell on her. Since then, he forced his daughter-in-law to shave her head and her eyebrows.... so goes one of the stories. In some other Red Dzao tribes, women have to shave their heads completely. Such a heartbreaking story of hardship and loss of freedom...
This is a traditional house near Ta Phin Village where slabs of elephant tree were used as roof tiles. Such beautifully coloured green moss growing on them! I think the picture doesn't do justice to the natural beauty!
Enjoy this short clip on how the Red Dzao women apply embroidery from the backside of the fabric. She is using gold coloured threads in this video, after having finished embroidering in black threads (black on black!). I first thought they were weaved in a loom, since they were so perfectly aligned and tensioned. But the video will prove the work is by hand and needle.