In 2001, Vietnam based UNESCO office and Craft Link organization worked with each other to implement the project of developing crafts for Hmong women in Y Linh Ho Village, one among 3 villages in San Sa Ho commune. The Hmong in Y Linh Ho live main on growing rice on the high steep terrain of the Northern Vietnam. The weather is fierce here in Sa Pa with the terribly cold weather, so the local can grow only 1 rice crop and one corn crop per year.
H'mong in Y Linh Ho earn their lives by agricultural.
They earn more for their living by picking up cardamom from the forests which is used mainly in medicine. However, in order to serve the daily life, all the family members need to work hard in the fields and raise animals including pork and chicken. Although there is a small school in Y Linh Ho Village, most of the adults in the village are illiteracy. Regarding medical issue, people suffered from sick or diseases can come to the local clinics.
In preparation for her wedding, a Hmong girl in Y Linh Ho shall make at least 2 set of new clothes in which one is to wear and one is to spend. Her mother is the person to weave the cloth for the daughter or she can also buy them from an old woman in the village to make her clothes. The work of planting flax takes much efforts and time, so only the old women or people with lots of spare time grow this kind of tree for weaving cloth.
H'mong traditional costumes.
At Tet (New Year Holiday), all the family members must have a new set of clothes. For women, the traditional costumes include a flax coat called Shao cho with the colorful collars; a cotton long shirt called Shao ti in combination with a short trousers. Men also wear Shao cho and short Shao ti together with long trousers. Each family often plant flax on their own for weaving flax cloth. The cloth is then dyed in indigo blue color to make the clothes
This is a traditional festival of the Hmong after the New Year Holiday where people gather to play games and have some dancing and singing performances. Coming to the festival, the young girls can wear a dress with batik decoration patterns. At present, Hmong businessmen from other remoted villages coming to Y Linh Ho to sell these costumes. Young girls then spend these dresses to wear when they pass away as all the Hmong women wear this kind of clothes when they come to meet their ancestor on the heaven. The shamans in Y Linh Ho shall come to celebrate the mourning for the people passing away.
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Let's join in the Gau Tao Festival of H'mong.
When passing away, the men and women in Y Linh Ho Village are dressed up with a special shirt with its sleeves decorated with beeswax patterns called Shao co. some people in the village wear this kind of clothe every day. Only some old women in the village know how to make these shirts. The thing to carry baby on their back is also decorated with beeswax patterns. The old women use the special pens made of bamboo with the bronze points to write. They touch the pens on hot beeswax before writing the decorating patterns on the cotton fabric. The patterns often include the feet of pig, the pig trough, the feet of chicken, the eyes of birds, the khau li (a frame used in flax weaving) or squash flower. Currently, no one in Y Linh Ho get to know the way of making this special pen. The whole family often use a mutual pen bought from another village which is quite far from them.
Beeswax making technique of H'mong in Y Linh Ho.
With financial support from UNESCO and technical support from Craft Link, the traditional skills and techniques of beeswax writing and embroidering of the Hmong women in Y Linh Ho village have been restored to produce many crafts facilitating the locals by raising their income.
Sophisticated designs from beeswax of Hmong.
You will be surprised by the skillful hands of H'mong women.
One of the skills that all Hmong females need to study is to decorate the flax coat collars (shao cho) in a sophisticated and careful way. These collars are decorated with many patterns created by cotton and silk. In the past, these collars are often more beautiful with many different decorations. With the subsidies from UNESCO, Craft Link organization has encouraged the women to restore the job of decorating collars by using many new materials with various colors. Females of all ages at Y Linh Ho are practicing to re-produce nice products which they can sell as a small product or can be used to make the complete products like bag or pillow cases.
Craft Link has conducted several professional training courses for groups of producers in different sectors including dying cloth in indigo blue, sewing, finishing products by hands, popular education, basic accountant skills, and marketing skills for management board. The purposes of this program are to help Hmong women in Y Linh Ho Village to raise their income by the traditional crafts as well as create opportunity to economic development.