Introduction / History The Hani of Vietnam are related to the Hani of China. Their exact origins are not known, but legends say their ancestors migrated south from a far away plain in northern China. Others think they originated in Tibet.
Vietnam is a country with a troubled history. Conquered by China during the Han dynasty, it was under foreign rule for 1,000 years. In the nineteenth century, Vietnam was again conquered, this time by French Indochina. After World War II, Communist-led guerrillas battled to gain Vietnam's independence. In 1954, the country was divided into Communist North Vietnam and non-Communist South Vietnam. For the next twenty years, both territories fought in the Vietnam War. After the war, the government tried unsuccessfully to lead the country to socialism. However, economic difficulties, foreign policy problems, and tensions with China created severe hardships. Today, its leaders are attempting to transition into a market economy.
What are their lives like? Most Hani live in simple plaster houses. Their small, crowded villages consist of 50 to 60 households. Most are rice farmers who skillfully build their terraces on mountain and hill slopes, using irrigation canals and dams. They use different kinds of pick axes, hoes, spades, water buffalo drawn plows, and tillers for farming. Fertilizers, especially cattle dung, are used for farming. Cattle production is also slowly developing among the Hani.
A few Hani still practice slash and burn agriculture. These farmers generally live in separate groups, each with a few families, far away from each other.
Most Hani families are patrilineal, meaning that the line of descent is through the father. The father or eldest brother is the head of the family and makes all the decisions. Two to four family branches make up a clan. The members of each clan have a patronymic (name that is derived from a common father or ancestor).
Young Hani men and women are allowed to choose their marriage partner, but with parental consent. Wedding rituals vary from district to district. However, it is customary for the husband to live in the wife's home for three to four years.
The Hani like handicrafts such as wickerwork, cotton weaving, and dyeing. Their folk arts and literature are also fairly well developed. Many stories of literary and historic value, as well as folk tales, have been passed down. A number of Hani poems are about marriage and other customs.
What are their beliefs? The Hani, like many other minority groups in Vietnam, practice ethnic religions. Most of their villages have temples where a multitude of gods are worshipped. These gods are associated with the earth, water, fire, and famous ancestors. It is also common for brothers in the same family to worship their dead parents at the eldest brother's house. On the lunar new year's eve, children are told about their deceased ancestors and their family branch.
Besides worshiping ancestors, the Hani also venerate the spirits of their parents-in-law. Each year in the second lunar month, they hold a grand offering service in the village. There they pray to the spirits for health, prosperity in farming, and success in cattle raising.
In rice-growing areas, the "Thunder god" and the "Wind Ghost" are worshipped. Many rituals and ceremonies are held to honor these gods during the farming season.
What are their needs? The rapid population growth in Vietnam has put a strain on the limited social services and food supplies. The government has instituted a family planning program in hopes of relieving the problem of overpopulation. They have also resettled several million people into the sparsely populated mountains and upland plateau regions.
They need Christian materials translated into the Hani language. Currently, very few of the Hani in Vietnam know Christ.
Prayer Points Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Vietnam and share Christ with the Hani.
Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Hani Christians.
Pray that Hani believers will be bold witnesses for Christ among their own people.
Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Hani so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
Pray that God will open the hearts of Vietnam's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Hani of Vietnam. * Pray for completion of Bible translation in this people group's primary language.