The Red Tai of Vietnam
The Tai had emigrated south from China due to unending pressure by the Chinese. In 1884, the French colonized Vietnam, and in 1948, organized an independent Tai Federation. Unfortunately, Communist rebels emerged, leading to the demise of the federation. North Vietnam became a Communist Republic in 1954. After a prolonged civil war, Communism was pushed into South Vietnam by 1975.
The Red Tai are closely related to the White and Black Tai, who were named for the color of their women's traditional clothing. Their tonal language, Tai Daeng, belongs to a larger ethno-linguistic grouping of people known as the Tai, which also include the Laotians, the Shan, and some other groups.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Red Tai society is very structured; it is organized on the basis of age, occupation, and wealth. For example, rural farmers are ranked below craftsmen, merchants, and city government officials. The priests form their own separate class.
The basic unit of Red Tai society is the family and is basically patriarchal, or maile dominated. The immediate family usually live together, and there is mutual respect for one another at all levels. They live, eat, and farm together with the women working alongside their husbands. Newly married couples often live with the girl's family until they are able to establish their own separate home.
Wet rice farming dominates the Red Tai economy. Rice is grown both as a dietary staple and for cash sales. The Red Tai are noted for sharing the work equally. Both men and women plow, fish, cook, tend to the children, clean the house, and wash the clothes.
When Vietnam made the transition to socialism, all levels of Tai society were affected. Groups of independent farmers were organized into "community farms" that share equally in production. In addition, small-scale industrialization led to the entry of Tai peasant farmers into the Vietnamese working class. Socialism also brought in more medical schools and better hospitals. This has helped to stop the spread of small pox, cholera, tuberculosis, and malaria, which were rampant in times past.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors for help and guidance) is also a common practice among the Red Tai. "Guardian spirits" and "locality spirits" are revered. If the people wish to avoid being cursed and receive blessing, the spirits must be appeased.
Some of the Red Tai have mingled Buddhist teachings—particularly Theravada Buddhism—with their pagan beliefs.
What Are Their Needs?
See also the following Red Tai Group:
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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