ALL ABOUT VIETNAMESE MUSEUM OF ETHNOLOGY

Establishment
Vietnam
is a multi-ethnic country, which is composed of 54 ethnic groups.
Perceiving the importance of having an ethnographic museum to preserve
and present the cultural heritages of ethnic groups, the Government
decided to establish a museum of ethnology in Hanoi. The Proposal for
the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology was officially approved on December 14,
1987. Land was allocated for construction: in 1987, 2,500m2 and in
1988, 9,500m2. Then, in 1990, the Prime Minister decided to allocate
the entire 3,27 acres of land to the Museum.

During
construction (1987 to 1995), the Project Managing Board and the Museum
Department were a part of the Institute of Ethnology. On October 24,
1995, the Prime Minister made the decision on establishment of the
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, under National Centre for Social Sciences
and Humanities. On November 12, 1997, the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology
inaugurated its permanent exhibition and officially opened to the
public.

The Museum is located in a large open area on Nguyen
Van Huyen Street, Cau Giay District, about 8 km from the city centre.
This area used to be paddy field of the local people. During the
construction of the Museum, all of the infrastructure was built,
including the 700m road from Hoang Quoc Viet Street to the entrance of
the Museum. (In the near future, this road will reach the Daewoo Hotel,
which is situated between Cau Giay and Lieu Giai Streets)

The
Vietnamese Government first invested in the Museum in 1986 and
construction of the foundation began in late 1989. According to the
proposal, the total budget for construction was 27 billion of
Vietnamese dong (US$ 1.9 million), not including 4 billion dong (US$
285,000) for collecting and exhibiting the artifacts
The
exhibition building of the Museum was designed by the architect Ha Duc
Linh, a Tay minority, who works for the Living Houses and Public Works
Building Company, Ministry of Construction. The interior architecture
was done by Mrs. Veronique Dollfus, a French architect.

The
Museum is divided into two parts: an indoor and an outdoor exhibition.
The indoor part is composed of the exhibition building, office,
research centre, library, storage, technical lab and auditorium (thinh
phong). These offices cover 2,480m2, including 750 m2 for storage of
artefacts. The outdoor exhibition, which will be accomplished in the
first years of the 21st century, is to highlight different types of
houses in all parts of Vietnam. Pathways (dg mon`) link the indoor and
outdoor exhibitions with each other.

Since its inauguration on
the occasion of the 7th Summit of Francophony in Hanoi, give date the
Museum receives about 60,000 visitors annually.

Importance
The
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is a convergence of cultures and a
scientific ethnological center. It has actively contributed to the
conservation and development of the national culture, as well as the
cultural traditions and identities of the Vietnamese nationalities.
Being
part of the National Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities, the
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is involved in various undertakings. It
carries out scientific research on Vietnamese nationalities, collects,
classifies, assesses, preserves, restores, exhibits, introduces and
exploits the cultural and historical values of all the nationalities.
It also provides ethnological references and trains staff in the
specific fields of the ethnographic museum. The Museum also attaches
attention to the cultures of other countries in Southeast Asia, seeing
them as potential targets for exhibitions at the museum in the near
future.
Since its foundation, the Museum has preserved rich and
diverse (various) showpieces and documentary references. At present,
more than 15,000 objects, about 40,000 photographs and many
audio-visual tapes, of which many collections are of highly cultural
value, are exhibited and preserved by the Museum.
At present, the museum comprises two main quarters: the inside and outside display.

Overview Vietnamese groups
Most
of the space of the 2-storey building is reserved for long-term and
regular display of objects and documents about the cultural
characteristics and the out-look of the Vietnamese communities. The
showpieces are displayed according to geographical locations and
languages, into nine groups which closely link to one another.

They are:
1. General introduction;
2. The Viet (Kinh) – Vietnam’s majority group.
3. The Viet-Muong (Muong, Tho and Chut);
4.
The Thai-Kadai, including 8 groups of the Tay-Thai (Tay, Thai, Nung,
San Chay, Giay, Bo Y, Lao, and Lu) and 4 groups of the Kadai (La Chi,
Co Lao, Pu Peo, La Ha).
5. The H’mong-Dao (H’mong, Dao, Pa Then),
the Tibeto-Burmese (Lo Lo, Ha Nhi, La Hu, Phu La, Si La and Cong), and
the Sino-Tibetan (San Diu and Ngai);
6. The Mon-Khmers of the
North (Khmu, Khang, Mang, Odu and Sinh Mun) and of the Truong Son Range
and the Central Highlands (Ba-na, Brau, Bru-Van Kieu, Choro, Co, Co Ho,
Co Tu, Gie-trieng, Hre, Ma, Mnong, Ro Mam, Ta Oi, Se Dang and Stieng).
7. The Austronesians of the mountainous regions (Chu Ru, Ede, Gia Rai, Raglai);
8. The Cham, Khmer and Hoa.
9. Inter-changes among different groups, expressed through highland markets.

In
these 9 compartments, about 650 objects are displayed in 100 showcases,
large and small, with captions about the name, the place and producer
of the object. There are 33 panels with more than 50 articles and
nearly 300 photographs introducing the groups’ cultural
characteristics. In addition, there are showcases about some other
unique cultural identity or custom, such as non (palm-leaf conical hat)
making in Chuong Village, funeral rituals of the Muong,
buffalo-stabbing ceremony of the Ba-na, then (praying heaven for luck),
etc. which are illustrated (minh hoa) by video films.
Inside the
museum, there are short-term exhibitions. For instance, the "Cultural
Resemblance" (through the folk decorative art of the Tay-Thai and
Austronesians), opened on the occasion of the 6th ASEAN Summit held in
Hanoi in December 1998; the "Children’s Mid-Autumn Festival – In the
Past and At Present", opened at the Mid-Autumn Festival of 1999.
The
outside quarter of the display will be completed one section at a time.
Traditional architectures typical of each location nationwide are
imitated (mo phong) at the museum. They include the burial ground of
the Gia-rai, the houses built with po-mu timber of the H’mong, the
stilt-house of the Tay, the mixed stilt-and-ground house of the Dao,
the traditionally-shaped house of the Viet, the long stilt-house of the
matriarchal (mau he) E-de, the no-wall house of the Ha Nhi, the long
house of the Ba-na, etc. At each example, there are captions about the
material, tools and techniques with which the original ethnic builders
were invited by the museum to build the house. The ethnic builders also
participated in introducing information about their products and the
cultural traditions of their group. Each house looks like a
mini-museum. Through the interior decoration and illustrated
information, the visitors can understand the life of each ethnic group.

In both inside and outside quarters, the showpieces are displayed
and preserved in their original appearance. The explanations are in
Vietnamese, English and French, that is very convenient for visitors.
Among
diverse presentations to the public, folk art performances and
on-the-spot making of the traditional handicraft articles attract a
great number of visitors. In September, the performance "Singing Cheo
operetta" organized by the Viet people in Tan Hoi Village, Dan Phuong
District, Ha Tay Province, will open for a series of shows at the
Museum.
Besides exhibiting, the Museum compiled books, such as a
catalogue about the Museum published in 1997, Pictures of Vietnamese
Nationalities (1997), The Great Family of Vietnamese Nationalities
(1998), Ancient Designs of Dac Lac (1999), Research Projects by the
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, Volume 1 (1999), to name but a few.

I.Giarai Arap group:
-Inhabit in Giarai, Kon Tum and the north of Daklak province, but mainly in Giarai.
-Population: around 240.000 people.
-Religion: believe in God
-Economy:
based mainly on planting in burnt-over land; tools 4 farming simple;
supporting economy activities: hunting, plucking and gathering,
fishing; men skillful at knitting dossers, baskets; women good at
weaving, sewing, making clothes for the whole family.
-Society:
gather in a village, live on house-on-stilts whose main door directs
toward the north, the head and the elder of the village manage mutual
activities; based on matriarchy: men play more important role outside
families but women have a higher position inside families.
-Culture (narrow meaning): fond of singing and dancing; good at play some traditional musical instruments; …
II.Some details on ancient Giarai tombs:
-Giarai
people hold the deceased in high esteem. As there is someone passing
away in family, they often make large and sotisphicated tombs to
worship. As time goes by, although there have been some changes in
Giarai tombs, the tombs are considered as a symbol for exemplary
architecture of the group. Their tombs are the biggest of those of
other ethnic groups in the area, about 45 meter square.
-The most
prominent decorations on the Giarai tomb are large wooden sculptures
carved from tree trunks using adzes, cutlasses and knives. Carvings of
sexually-explicit men and women and pregnant women symbolise fertility
and birth. Other carvings of seated children (often placed at the four
corners), animals, and everyday people are the ‘servants’ of the dead
in the afterlife. There are totally 27 carvings in the tomb.
-Broken
or inverted serving dishes, bottles, cups and trays, and wooden models
of tools are placed inside the tomb to provide the deceased with the
necessities they will need in the other world.
Cham House
One of the most characteristic tangible cultural heritages of the Cham
and also one of the most sensitive to change is their house. The Cham
build their houses on the ground and arrange them in orderly rows.
Their houses are surrounded by a garden with a wall or hedge. The doors
open to the south-west or between. The architectural style is similar
to that of the Viet with walls made of brick or a mixture of lime and
shells, and covered with tiles or thatch. Houses of more than one
storey are rare. In certain localities, houses on stilts are found but
the floor is only 30 cm above the ground. The rooms of Cham houses are
arranged according to a particular order: the sitting room, rooms for
the parents, children, and married women, the kitchen and ware- house
(including the granary), and the nuptial room for the youngest
daughter. This arrangement reflects the break-up of the matrilineal
extended family system among the Cham. The Cham living in Ninh Thuan
and Binh Thuan believe that they have to perform certain religious
rituals before the building of a new house, particularly praying for
the Land God and asking for his permission to cut down trees in the
forest. A ritual is also held to receive the trees when they are
transported to the village. A ground-breaking ceremony called phat moc
is also held. The precinct of the Cham traditional house is the
residence site of a Cham family. It is an assembly of several houses
with different functions and these houses relate closely with each
others. However, the house precincts of different classes (noble class,
dignitaries, middle and poor peasant class) in Cham society have a
clear difference on the area, the type of house

Viet House

These
two house houses of five bays are bought from Mrs. Hoi of the Le Duy
Line in Phuc Tho village, Tho Xuan district, Thanh Hoa province. The
Thanh Hoa plain is frequently hard hit by storms and hurricanes, so
local residents content themselves with one-storied house. While in
Phuc Tho village, these two houses faced south to enjoy fresh air. The
main house was built in 1906, in whose middle bay is stood the altar of
ancestors. Two lateral bays are where visitors are received, and family
members may have a rest. In the bedroom of the mistness of the house
are held some essential items. The house, with 6 rows of columns, is
made from chua khet (or lat khet) wood, a precious wood available on
upland Thanh Hoa. Its ornamental carvings remain almost intact. We can
see the Vietnamese yard that is used by carpenters to design
traditional bamboo or wood structures. In the third decade of the XX
century, 5 further bays were joined on the main house to serve
initially as a rice loft, and later as where tuition is given.


Ede long house

Longest of the Long Houses

A
long house (nha dai) in Buon Don District, Dak Lak Province belonging
to the Ede ethnic group is almost certainly the longest house in the
Central Highlands.
Whereas a normal long house is 30 meters in length and four meters wide, the nha dai in Buon Don measures 85 by six meters.
Now a museum, it was built in 2002 and boasts a thatched roof, and a floor made from more than a thousand three-meter planks.
The
curators of the museum and the many old and valuable objects preserved
and displayed inside are the Ede artisans Y Giong, 78, and H’Vinh, 77,
who have welcomed nearly 90,000 Vietnamese and foreign visitors in
their time.
Usually a nha dai serves as a community hall and is used for public meetings and group activities by the Ede people.
Typical Ede long house

The
long houses are not only a material embodiment of the matriarchy but
also the places where the cultural and spiritual values of the Ede
people are kept. The preservation of those houses in the villages of
the Ede people comes as an essential need as this also means the
preservation of a valuable cultural legacy in the Central Highlands.
Long,
long ago, Dak Lak was inhabited by the Ede Kpa locals. About 50 such
houses formed a commune along Ea Tam Spring under the management of
tribe chief Ama Thuot. In the early years of the 20th century, the
powerful commune became the heart of the vast Central Highlands, and
derived its name of Buon Ma Thuot from the chief. It is common practice
of the Ede people to have up to four generations living in a same large
house called the sang. These houses made of wood and bamboo and sitting
on stilts are long enough for dozens of people to live in. The dwellers
in the houses seldom build new houses to replace the old ones but,
instead, they would rather make the existing houses longer for living
space for new members. And this is why those houses are often called
the long houses by locals.
The matriarchal Ede families often
consist of three groups of people: female of maternal families, male of
maternal families and male not of maternal families. Women of the
oldest group would be the family heads. Upon their death, the power
comes to the hand of their last daughters. In case their last daughters
are too young to manage the families, their eldest sisters will
shoulder the responsibility and hand it back to their destined sisters
when they grow up.
The long houses are always divided into three
parts: verandas, visitors’ corners and bedrooms. There are two verandas
attached to each house: front (dring gah) and back (dring ok). The
dring gah is often large, used to sundry the families’ harvest, prepare
the rice for meals in the morning and rest in the afternoon. The dring
ok is often smaller and provides space for the bathroom and kitchen.
There are often two sets of stairs leading up to the dring gah while
there is only one to the dring ok reserved for family members only.
Dring gah is connected to the most important space, the visitors’
corner (called gah) that occupies from one-third to half of the total
space. This is the place to welcome visitors and for the common
activities of the large family. It is also where visitors can have a
look at valuable and holy objects of the Ede people like drums, gongs,
liquor jars, antlers, etc. Next to the visitors’ corners are bedrooms
(ok) for branch families along the aisle that leads to the back
veranda. The long houses are places where community activities are
often organized.
Village elder Amara Hrin, happy from both the story
on the long houses and the local liquor, stopped talking and reached
for the dinh nam, a musical instrument made from six bamboo pieces
connected to the shell of a dried gourd. The low-tone music continued
for a while before it attracted youngster Y son who joined his maternal
grandfather with a flute. Listening to the music, inhaling the smoke
from the barbecue and sipping local jar liquor together with locals,
visitors would find themselves in "Dam Di out for hunting," an epic
episode by Y Dup. Part of it says: "Dam Di’s house boasts stairs wide
enough for four people to walk side by side at the same time. At the
end of the stairs, a pair of glossy wooden breasts provides a support
for both down-going and up-going people. The stairs are so steep that
whether going up or down, the walkers touch their chests to the rungs
of the stairs. The floor of Dam Di’s house is made from long wooden
planks and covered with shiny bamboo. At the end of the floor there is
a drum that stands as high as the beams. A large heap of howdah is seen
at the end of the floor, under which packs of salt, dried fish and
smoked meat are hung. Shoulder-to-shoulder, people are busily preparing
foods and drinks. Shelves are filled with gongs. In front of the house,
long strings of the jaws of hunted deer and boar are hung…"
Only
with those words from the epic could a visitor understand that the long
houses are not only a material embodiment of the matriarchy but also
the places where the cultural and spiritual values of the Ede people
are kept. Through the political, economic and social upheavals as well
as the vigorous cultural exchanges among the residential communities,
the new generations of the Ede people have changed their way of life in
the direction of separating from their large families and the
matriarchy is fading away. As a result, the number of the long houses
is shrinking. However, the preservation of those houses in the villages
of the Ede people comes as an essential need as this also means the
preservation of a valuable cultural legacy in the Central Highlands.

Bana communal house
The
communal house is the most important building in a Bahnar village.
Traditionally, communal houses serve as meeting halls for the men in
the village and as places where rituals, celebrations, and preparation
for war or defense of the village take place. This house was built
after the model of the 20th century communal house of Kon Rbang village
(Vinh Quang commune, Kontum Town, Kontum Province). This model house in
Kon Rbang is the only one that maintains the traditional system of
building with poles and beams, which has existed for over 70 years in
the Central Highlands. In order to create a traditional communal house
untouched by modernization, museum researchers worked closely with
villagers and consulted old photographs to better understand the
traditional model. The form, size, and structure of the museum’s
communal house replicate those found in the village now, though the
house you see here has restored many of the traditional features that
have been lost in today’s village houses. The roof here is made of
straw rather than corrugated iron. The rafters are made of
circle-shaped pieces of wood rather than square ones. The floor is made
of bamboo rather than wooden planks. The stairs are rounded pieces of
wood rather than cement. The wood, bamboo, rattan, and straw used for
making the house were brought from the Central Highlands. The diameter
of the largest poles is 60cm. The length of the beams is 14–15 m. The
height of the roof is nearly 19m including the decorative frame, with
each of the principal roof beams about 13m long. The 90m2 floor is
elevated 3m above the ground and accessed by four sets of stairs. The
Vietnam Museum of Ethnology invited 29 Bahnar people from Kon Rbang to
construct the house on the museum grounds. The first poles were erected
on April 26, 2003. On June 4, 2003, the house was fully completed.
Visitors to the VME now have the rare opportunity of experiencing this
unique architectural style first-hand and appreciating the traditional
culture and craftsmanship of the Bahnar people. The construction of the
Bahnar communal house was made possible by the support of the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany through the
German Embassy.

Giarai Tomb
Some details on ancient Giarai tombs:
-Giarai
people hold the deceased in high esteem. As there is someone passing
away in family, they often make large and sotisphicated tombs to
worship. As time goes by, although there have been some changes in
Giarai tombs, the tombs are considered as a symbol for exemplary
architecture of the group. Their tombs are the biggest of those of
other ethnic groups in the area, about 45 meter square.
-The most
prominent decorations on the Giarai tomb are large wooden sculptures
carved from tree trunks using adzes, cutlasses and knives. Carvings of
sexually-explicit men and women and pregnant women symbolise fertility
and birth. Other carvings of seated children (often placed at the four
corners), animals, and everyday people are the ‘servants’ of the dead
in the afterlife. There are totally 27 carvings in the tomb.
-Broken
or inverted serving dishes, bottles, cups and trays, and wooden models
of tools are placed inside the tomb to provide the deceased with the
necessities they will need in the other world

Longest of the Long Houses

A
long house (nha dai) in Buon Don District, Dak Lak Province belonging
to the Ede ethnic group is almost certainly the longest house in the
Central Highlands.
Whereas a normal long house is 30 meters in length and four meters wide, the nha dai in Buon Don measures 85 by six meters.
Now a museum, it was built in 2002 and boasts a thatched roof, and a floor made from more than a thousand three-meter planks.
The
curators of the museum and the many old and valuable objects preserved
and displayed inside are the Ede artisans Y Giong, 78, and H’Vinh, 77,
who have welcomed nearly 90,000 Vietnamese and foreign visitors in
their time.
Usually a nha dai serves as a community hall and is used for public meetings and group activities by the Ede people.

Typical Ede long house

The
long houses are not only a material embodiment of the matriarchy but
also the places where the cultural and spiritual values of the Ede
people are kept. The preservation of those houses in the villages of
the Ede people comes as an essential need as this also means the
preservation of a valuable cultural legacy in the Central Highlands.
Long,
long ago, Dak Lak was inhabited by the Ede Kpa locals. About 50 such
houses formed a commune along Ea Tam Spring under the management of
tribe chief Ama Thuot. In the early years of the 20th century, the
powerful commune became the heart of the vast Central Highlands, and
derived its name of Buon Ma Thuot from the chief. It is common practice
of the Ede people to have up to four generations living in a same large
house called the sang. These houses made of wood and bamboo
and sitting on stilts are long enough for dozens of people to live in.
The dwellers in the houses seldom build new houses to replace the old
ones but, instead, they would rather make the existing houses longer
for living space for new members. And this is why those houses are
often called the long houses by locals.

The
matriarchal Ede families often consist of three groups of people:
female of maternal families, male of maternal families and male not of
maternal families. Women of the oldest group would be the family heads.
Upon their death, the power comes to the hand of their last daughters.
In case their last daughters are too young to manage the families,
their eldest sisters will shoulder the responsibility and hand it back
to their destined sisters when they grow up.

The
long houses are always divided into three parts: verandas, visitors’
corners and bedrooms. There are two verandas attached to each house:
front (dring gah) and back (dring ok). The dring gah is often large, used to sundry the families’ harvest, prepare the rice for meals in the morning and rest in the afternoon. The dring ok is often smaller and provides space for the bathroom and kitchen. There are often two sets of stairs leading up to the dring gah while there is only one to the dring ok reserved for family members only. Dring gah is connected to the most important space, the visitors’ corner (called gah)
that occupies from one-third to half of the total space. This is the
place to welcome visitors and for the common activities of the large
family. It is also where visitors can have a look at valuable and holy
objects of the Ede people like drums, gongs, liquor jars, antlers, etc.
Next to the visitors’ corners are bedrooms (ok) for branch
families along the aisle that leads to the back veranda. The long
houses are places where community activities are often organized.

Village
elder Amara Hrin, happy from both the story on the long houses and the
local liquor, stopped talking and reached for the dinh nam, a
musical instrument made from six bamboo pieces connected to the shell
of a dried gourd. The low-tone music continued for a while before it
attracted youngster Y son who joined his maternal grandfather with a
flute. Listening to the music, inhaling the smoke from the barbecue and
sipping local jar liquor together with locals, visitors would find
themselves in "Dam Di out for hunting," an epic episode by Y Dup. Part
of it says: "Dam Di’s house boasts stairs wide enough for four
people to walk side by side at the same time. At the end of the stairs,
a pair of glossy wooden breasts provides a support for both down-going
and up-going people. The stairs are so steep that whether going up or
down, the walkers touch their chests to the rungs of the stairs. The
floor of Dam Di’s house is made from long wooden planks and covered
with shiny bamboo. At the end of the floor there is a drum that stands
as high as the beams. A large heap of howdah is seen at the end of the
floor, under which packs of salt, dried fish and smoked meat are hung.
Shoulder-to-shoulder, people are busily preparing foods and drinks.
Shelves are filled with gongs. In front of the house, long strings of
the jaws of hunted deer and boar are hung…"

Only
with those words from the epic could a visitor understand that the long
houses are not only a material embodiment of the matriarchy but also
the places where the cultural and spiritual values of the Ede people
are kept. Through the political, economic and social upheavals as well
as the vigorous cultural exchanges among the residential communities,
the new generations of the Ede people have changed their way of life in
the direction of separating from their large families and the
matriarchy is fading away. As a result, the number of the long houses
is shrinking. However, the preservation of those houses in the villages
of the Ede people comes as an essential need as this also means the
preservation of a valuable cultural legacy in the Central Highlands.

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