BEAUTIFUL: A brocade weaving product is on the way to completing by a Mông woman in Mù Cang Chải District, the northern mountainous province of Yên Bái. VNA/VNS Photo Việt Dũng
Authorities and residents in northern Việt Nam have vowed to preserve the cultural traditions of the ethnic Mông people.
Yên Bái Province's People's Committee has granted a certificate to recognise brocade weaving in Dề Thàng Village, Chế Cu Nha Commune, Mù Cang Chải District, as a traditional handicraft that needs to be preserved for the province’s culture and tourism promotion.
Lương Thị Xuyến, vice chairwoman of Mù Cang Chải’s People's Committee, said in its tourism development plan, the district had planned to use brocade weaving with other tourism products to attract visitors.
“To preserve the local cultural identity, the district wants local ethnic people and officials to wear their traditional dress during festivals and national celebrations and holidays, particularly Tết (Lunar New Year festival). Students are also encouraged to wear traditional dress one day a week to increase their awareness of the preservation of traditions,” said Xuyến.
ROARING TRADE: Mù Cang Chải attracts visitors not only thanks to its terraced fields but also the delicate brocade patterns of Mông people. VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Hà
The official said the district had urged the education authority to organise more extracurricular activities for schools in the area with the theme of preserving local cultural values including wearing their ethnic dress and performing traditional music.
“Authorities should also strengthen trade promotion via advertising, product introduction on the district's home page and on social networks to develop this traditional occupation,” Xuyến said.
Mù Cang Chải is a particularly challenged upland district of Yên Bái with a large number of ethnic minorities, of which 91 per cent are Mông.
Mông people in the district have many unique traditional customs and practices, of which brocade weaving is an attractive cultural characteristic.
Their brocade weaving in Dề Thàng Village is currently performed by a group of Mông women, most of whom are members of the women’s union.
SKILLED: Mông people in the district possess many unique traditional customs and practices, of which brocade weaving is one of the attractive cultural characteristics. VNA/VNS Photo Việt Dũng
Lý Thị Ninh, the group's leader and a member of the union, said she was in charge of receiving orders and distributing materials for other members to weave at home.
“The women work very hard at any time even during their spare time and are ready to accept customers’ demands. They take advantage of any time, anywhere in their free time to work,” Ninh said.
The woman revealed brocade weaving had long been part of the Mông’s daily life and was passed on from generation to generation making it a unique culture of Mông women.
She said it took several steps to finish a brocade product.
“The process requires meticulous and subtle skills which are only in the hands of Mông women such as growing flax plants to make thread for spinning, dyeing, weaving and embroidering."
Every year, from March to April, villagers start planting flax and harvest from July to August.
After harvesting, they dry the flax bark under the sun and then make it into fibres. The flax fibres are ground in a mortar until they become soft then rolled up and softly washed. After that, people boil the fibres until they become soft and white, then dry again under the sun. They (the women) use the reel to separate the flax fibres before fixing them to the loom for weaving.
After weaving has finished, the women will use local copper brushes to draw. When the drawing is completed, the fabric will be dyed in beeswax and then dipped into boiling water to make the beeswax flow and blue patterns will emerge. Women then will start embroidery on the patterns.
The patterns on a brocade piece are mainly about Mông culture such as different geometric figures and flowers. Patterns on handmade costumes are mainly geometric.
NOW HERE'S ONE I DID EARLIER: Mông women admiring their products before sale. VNA/VNS Photo Việt Dũng
The weaving process requires a lot of hard work, skill and patience.
Brocade products are decorated with different motifs in main colours such as white, red, yellow, green and purple.
It would take a weaver five months to a year to complete an ethnic brocade costume.
Nowadays, the preservation of brocade weaving not only contributes to preserving ethnic cultural values but also creates jobs and raises incomes for the local women.
Each set of clothes can sell for between VNĐ7 million (US$300) and VNĐ10 million on average, bringing in VNĐ5-6 million for each product. Those who take advantage of their free time and work regularly can make VNĐ2-3 million a month.
Previously, brocade products of Mù Cang Chải’s Mông people weren't sold well, but today skirts, shirts, scarves and other products like accessories for smartphones or school bags have become popular goods for domestic and foreign tourists.
Ninh said to preserve local weaving, she and her group had trained young people in the district.
The group was working with schools to open training courses for students to practise weaving and embroidery.
Last year, nearly 50 students finished the courses and could do some kinds of embroideries.
Ninh said she hoped that local authorities would also promote the idea by working with more schools to open weaving and embroidery classes.
She said she and her members would be happy to teach them.
WORKING HARD: Mông women can weave at any time. VNA/VNS Photo Việt Dũng
According to Khang A Hú, vice chairman of Chế Cu Nha Commune’s People's Committee, the commune has a 99 per cent Mông population and all the women can weave and embroider.
“In recent years, the commune has also helped people continue preserving and promoting the ethnic cultural identity, especially brocade weaving. The commune also encourages households to participate in the craft to contribute to the development of family economy,” Hú said. VNS