Gau Tao, a festival in the clouds

Gau tao is a traditional new year’s festival of the Mong in the cloudy mountain commune of San Sa Ho, Sapa, Lao Cai province. The festival, held in the first lunar month, is a big ceremony in Hoang Lien Son mountain region to pray for peace and prosperity. 

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The festival originated from an old custom of the Mong in Sapa. When a couple couldn’t have a child after years of marriage, the husband climbed up a hill, making offerings to the god of the mountain and begging for his support to have a child. After the couple gave birth to a child, they invited relatives and villagers to a big ceremony to thank the god for his support. This ceremony was held again by the family every three or five years. The ceremony gradually became a community festival held annually to pray for peace, prosperity, and good luck for the whole village.

Mong people in Hoang Lien Son at the Gau Tao festival. Photo: Trong Chinh


Gau Tao is held on a terraced field after the harvest in San Sa Ho commune. Photo: Tran Hieu

The’s ritual offerings include a horn, which will be blown to invite the gods of the mountain and forest to the festival,
and a bunch of rice, which symbolizes the hopes for a year of prosperity. Photo: Tat Son


Childen love the festival very much. Photo: Viet Cuong

. Mong children perform an umbrella dance at the Gau Tao festival. Photo: Trong Chinh

Traditional art performances at the festival. Photo: Trang Linh


Mong children play the game of walking on a bamboo branch. Photo: Tran Hieu



Children’s game: Climbing a bamboo pole. Photo: Thong Thien

The festival includes many outdoor activities, including crossbow shooting, top playing, stick dancing, wrestling and gau plenh (love song) singing. At night, young people join responsive singing to show love for their girlfriends or boyfriends.

By the Golden Moment Photography Club