San Chay Ethnic People’s Crop-Praying Festival

The crop-praying festival is a community and religious activity  which features the distinctive culture of the San Chay ethnic people . Recently, the San Chay people  in Dong Xien Village, Yen Lac Commune, Phu Luong District, Thai Nguyen Province reproduced their largest festival at the Culture-Tourism Village of Vietnamese Ethnic Groups in Dong Mo, Son Tay, Hanoi.


The San Chay people, also known as Hon Ban, Cao Lan, San Chi and Man Cao Lan, mainly resides in the provinces of Thai Nguyen, Bac Can and Bac Giang and other provinces in Northeast Vietnam.

Some days before the festival, the San Chay people prepare a tray of offerings, including pork, chicken, eggs, fruit, flowers and traditional cakes. One of the indispensable objects for the worshiping rite are paintings of ancient patterns which are placed around the tray of offerings. There are about 30 paintings of different shapes and patterns used in the spiritual rite.

A San chay woman prepares paintings with ancient patterns for the crop praying ceremony.

Offerings for the rite.

The sorcerer performs the rite.

Worshiping objects used in the rite consist of a wooden board …

…and cups of wine and coins for yin and yang at the end of the worshiping rite.

The Tac Xinh dance starts the festival.

Men perform the last movements of the Tac Xinh dance.

The Tac Xinh dance is performed with the background sounds from simple musical instruments.

The Tac Xinh dance reproduces movements in production and labour.

San Chay women in their traditional costumes.

After a round of earthen drum beats, the village’s sorcerer starts conducting the rite, praying for good weather, health, peace, prosperity and a bumper crop in the background of regular, low drum beats. When the drum is beaten repeatedly, the sorcerer tosses yin –yang coins to ask for the acceptance of genies.

After the worshiping rite, many festival activities are held, including Tac xinh dance for young people which replicates movements in labour and production with a background of simple bamboo and earthen musical instruments. During the festival, one is impressed by sounds from the earthen drum with a surface diameter of 20cm. To make the drum, it is necessary to dig about 50cm deep in the ground with the bottom diameter two times bigger than the surface and use tree bark to cover the hole and taut string on the ground. They use a small branch to cross the surface of the drum to the string. To create sounds for the offering rite and for the Tac xinh dance, the string is struck to create sounds.

Together with the Tac xinh dance, the San Chay people also sing songs and go around to express their solidarity. The festival ends with a party where they exchange best wishes in a new crop season.

By Viet Cuong