The Dao (pronounced Zao) are the 9th largest ethnic group in Vietnam with a population of just under 500,000. They belong to the Hmong Dao language group and are believed to have started migrating from China in the 13th century.
The women wear some of the most colourful and
diverse costumes of all ethnic groups but can be identified by their
black trousers richly embroidered with flower or small star patterns.
Their jackets can be red or black usually with embroidered borders. The
ensemble is topped by a black or red turban together with chunky silver
jewelry. In addition most Dao women shave off their eyebrows and
foreheads as this is traditionally regarded as a sign of beauty.
number of variations of the Red Dao can be found around the famous hill
station of Sapa. Common features are the embroidered trousers and
jacket, but the most stunning part of the ensemble is the scarlet
turban which can either be decorated with tassels or bells. Some Dao
only wear a red scarf.
The costume of the Red Dao
of Northern Ha Giang and northwestern Cao Bang is quite simple with a
plain black tunic and trousers, again bordered with embroidery.
However, in contrast to other Dao, they do not shave their hair;
instead it is parted with silver clips underneath a square bonnet.
Red Dao ladies are from the Southern Ha
Giang/northern Tuyen Quang branch. They are wearing the traditional
costume of plain black trousers together with a loose fitting black
jacket richly embroidered in red at the collar, the lower sleeves and
on the back. An embroidered red yem (bodice) is worn under the jacket
like a vest. The ensemble is worn together with a black apron
embroidered in red at the edges, a red belt and a colourful turban
covered by a red scarf.
Dao Ão dÃ i wear
quite simple costumes for Dao. The Ao Dai in their name is due to the
similarity of their tunic to the Ao Dai of the Viet Kinh. However, it
is usually hooked up at the front. A distinctive bonnet of black and
red material embroidered at the edges and decorated with coloured
tassels and small coins is also worn.
The Dao Tuyen
in the area near Muong Khuong wear plain black trousers and a long
black tunic, the lower part of which is lifted up and tucked into a
silver belt to reveal broad horizontal stripes on the other side. The
tunic is edged in red and decorated with coloured rings around the
cuffs. Around the neck are hung a long silver chain and a silver
necklace with long red (or pink), yellow and white tassels which hang
down as far as the waist. The ensemble is worn together with a black
scarf with a broad red stripe down one side, decorated with red, yellow
and white tassels and beads.
Red Dao of
southern Lao Cai and Yen Bai provinces wear a rather different costume
than those further north. This comprises plain black trousers and a
long black tunic with embroidered cuffs and lapels. The lapels are
edged in red and a row of red and yellow tassels hangs from the rear. a
small square of embroidery is also sewn onto the back of the tunic and
its rear lower flap is also richly embroidered. The outfit is worn with
a bright red belt and a plain black turban.
The Shaven-headed Dao
(Dao Dau Troc) of Lang Son and Thai Nguyen have a very elegant costume
distinguished by a wide band of embroidery on the collar worn over an
embroidered yem (breast binding bodice) decorated with much jewelry.
The head is completely shaven and covered by a distinctive bonnet.
These ladies are from the region surrounding Bac Son.
The Dao Khau
(Sewing Dao) women of Lai Chau province wear black trousers richly
embroidered with the signature flower, tree and star patterns seen on
many Dao costumes. They also wear a front hanging black apron with a
wide, plain blue band around its outside (also common to some H'mong),
together with a plain black turban.
(Dao Quan Trang) of Tuyen Quang, Yen Bai, Lao Cai and Ha Giang
province, now actually wear black trousers, but are distinguished by
their richly-embroidered white bodice (yem) worn under the jacket like
a vest. The hair is tied up in a bun and covered by a black scarf.
The Black Dao
women of Binh Lu district wear plain black trousers together with black
jackets decorated at the sleeves and collars with thin bands of
embroidery, coins and beads finished with a maroon ruff. The hair is
worn distinctively in a chignon and kept in place by a large silver
frame which sits on top of the head; it is then wrapped in thick black
cord and finally covered by a black scarf decorated with beads and
The Coin Dao (Dao
Tien) are mainly settled in a large area spreading from southern Ha
Giang and Cao Bang through Tuyen Quang and Bac Giang. These ladies were
spotted near Ba Be national park. The most characteristic feature of
their costume is their distinctive skirt which features a wide border
decorated with a bold silver-grey zigzag patterns.