The Nhang of Vietnam
The 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?
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 the 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?
Today, Vietnam is one of the few remaining Communist nations. The Nhang do not yet have the Bible, the Jesus film, or any Christian broadcasts in their language. There is a tremendous need for evangelistic materials, Christian laborers, and intercessors to stand in the gap for these precious people.Prayer Points
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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