Old woman contributes to preserving cultural characteristics of Red Dao people

VietNamNet Bridge – Trieu Thi Sinh, a Red Dao woman in Cho Dong District, Ban Cuon 2 Town, Ngoc Phai Commune, Bac Kan Province, has been known as a veteran and talented tailor of her ethnic group’s traditional costumes.

Red Dao people, Bac Kan, traditional embroidery products, Dao costumes

Trieu Thi Sinh making a colourful embroidery product (Source: baotintuc.vn) 

Dao traditional embroidery products are decorated with many patterns in various shapes, such as square, rhombic antenna, triangle and serrated as well as shapes of mountains, people, gods and animals.

Sinh’s products feature around 300 patterns and shapes. Notably, the patterns are made based on her imagination, without any sample or drawing beforehand.

She said that when she was a child, she used to come near her mother when she started embroidering. Under instruction from her mother, she learnt basic steps from how to hold a needle, thread a needle and to mix colours for each pattern.

She embroidered whenever she had spare time. She started with easy lines first, including straight lines, serrated, rectangle, zigzag and then tried more complicated ones, such as flowers and trees. She found it difficult to deal with shapes of animals, people and gods.

When she was 14, she learnt how to make cloth and thread. She learnt to plant cotton, spin, dye and weave, then learnt how to tailor clothing.

According to Sinh, hand embroidery techniques require that every stich should be knitted together to make the product surface flat. Patterns should look true to life, particularly people and animals.

Having worked for 55 years in traditional embroidery, Sinh is one of a few tailors who can make a set of clothes worn by Tao shaman, who plays an important role in the locals’ spiritual life as he is considered as the bridge linking the living and the dead. The outfit is the most sophisticated handicraft product of Dao people’s embroidery, as it features more than 60 genies in different appearances.

With her skill, passion, patience, and creativity, she has made many sets of Dao costumes for her relatives. Her products have also been presented at festivals in her district and province.

She also wishes to hand down the traditional embroidering to her descendants so that they can preserve their group’s cultural value, but the work draws little enthusiasm from them.

Every Dao woman had to do all the needlework in the past, and it was a good way to preserve ancestors’ cultural identities, but youngsters today seem uninterested in the work, Sinh said.

“I have taught embroidery to hundreds of people, but few them are proficient in embroidering daily clothes, and fewer can make traditional costume for Dao brides,” she said, adding that none of them can do well in embroidering clothes used in rituals.

However, she did not feel discouraged. She continued to give instruction to young people with a hope that they can succeed in the profession.

Her work has silently contributed to preserving and upholding the traditional costumes of Dao people, a part of their soul and cultural identity.

Nhan Dan

Red Dao people, Bac Kan, traditional embroidery products, Dao costumes