Introduction / History Vietnam, located on the eastern border of Southeast Asia, is home to many distinct people groups. Yet, the overwhelming percentage of the population consists of ethnic Vietnamese. Historical upheavals have forced the major people groups to intermingle with others, to split up, and to live in scattered locations. Their cultures, languages, and lifestyles were all affected, resulting in a somewhat blurred national character.
The Giay (or Nhang) immigrated into North Vietnam from China about 200 years ago. They have close cultural relations with the Nung and other Thai groups. Unfortunately, the rapid population growth in Vietnam has strained the limited social services and food supplies. In an attempt to relieve these problems, the government set up a "family planning program." They also resettled several million people into new economic areas. In 1993, the government asked the UN for aid in the resettling of ethnic Vietnamese refugees arriving from Cambodia.
What are their lives like? The Nhang are primarily farmers and cattle producers. Generally, they live in houses built on stilts. Most also have a second home located on farm clearings where older people mind the crops, cattle, and poultry. Handicrafts are poorly developed, aside from the weaving of bamboo household items.
Traditionally, Nhang women dressed elaborately, wearing fanned out skirts covering their knees. Today, they wear typical Vietnamese style clothing, which includes carrying embroidered cloth bags. Their hair is rolled around their heads, then tied with pink threads that are usually left dangling down their backs.
Each year the Nhang celebrate their anticipated harvest in a festival called roong pooc. Every family owns land to plant rice, maize, sweet potatoes, cassava, gourds, and vegetables. They use buffaloes for plowing, horses as beasts of burden, and poultry for meat and sacrificial offerings.
Communal, or shared land, is prominent in the Nhang society. Each village has a piece of forbidden forest called ma doong xia ("sacred forest"). A ceremony is held twice a year at the biggest tree, called "the forest chief," honoring the village spirits. Bamboo structures at the village entrance hold offerings of pig, buffalo ears, or chicken legs.
Nhang society is patrilineal (inheritances are passed down through the males) and patriarchal (male-dominated). Families tend to be small. According to Nhang tradition, a woman has three people to whom she must submit: her father before marriage, her husband, then her son after her husband's death. Formerly, girls were sold into marriage and rites were complex. Today, young people are free to choose their own marriage partners.
Education in Vietnam is free and state-controlled. The leading institution of higher learning is Hanoi University.
What are their beliefs? The Nhang, like most other minority groups in Vietnam, practice ethnic religions. They worship a multitude of gods that are associated with the earth, water, fire, and famous ancestors. They also worship various spirits. Most villages have local temples for worship. Folk literature and art are also of importance in religious life.
The Nhang view the world as having three stages: the middle stage, which is life on earth; the stage of heaven, which is to be magnificent and glorious; and the stage underneath, which is believed to be cramped and shameful.
What are their needs? Over 44 years of war have severely damaged Vietnam's economy; recovery has been slow. In most areas, there is a lack of adequate health care facilities.
Today, Vietnam is one of the few remaining Communist nations. There is a tremendous need for evangelistic materials, Christian laborers, and intercessors to stand in the gap for these precious people.
Prayer Points Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Vietnam and share Christ with the Nhang.
Ask God to give the few Nhang believers opportunities to share the Gospel with their own people.
Pray that God will open the hearts of Vietnam's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Nhang toward Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
Ask God to raise up teams of intercessors who will stand in the gap for these precious people.
Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Nhang of Vietnam. * Pray for completion of Bible translation in this people group's primary language.