Preserve local knowledge of of Dong Van Karst Plateau for development17/04/2020

           Dong Van Karst Plateau Global Unesco Geopark (Dong Van Geopark) is characterized by keen rugger  rocky  mountain  ranges,  deep  and narrow ravines, soaring steep cliffs, mountain combs like pyramids, deep hollows, cave system and rock gardens, which creates incredible beauty, which is highly appreciated by scientists for the value of geological science that is owned by very few places in the world, with many manifestations of the geological heritage formed throughout a very dynamic evolutionary history of the earth for more than 500 million years. Up to now, as investigated, there have been about 150 manifestations of geological heritage with levels from local level to international level. The manifestations of geological heritage in the area of Dong Van Geopark are very rich in type, origin, age…, and this is also the cradle that generates, developes and stores other values such as biodiversity, archeology, history, culture – society, etc. so Dong Van Karst Plateau is an attractive destination for tourists and scientists, which is a favorable condition to promote the development.

       The natural conditions of Dong Van Geopark are famous for being a thirsty land but it is inhabited by 17 ethnic minorities such as Mong, Dao, Lo Lo, Co Lao, Pu Peo, Nung, Giay…, with traditional culture imbued with national identity. In order to adapt to the extremely harsh natural condition, 17-ethnic group community on Dong Van Geopark through real life has gradually created for themselves an extremely rich range of knowledge, showing living skills adaptive and harmonious with nature in labor and production as well as in the fields of cultural activities and social life, has contributed to enhance the unique cultural values of Dong Van Geopark. It can be affirmed that the core value of culture in Dong Van Geopark is the art of survival of the ethnic groups in extremely harsh living conditions.

         When researching, we heard stories of people living for a long time on Dong Van Karst Plateau telling about landscape, living space, mountains, stumps and caves that shielded, protected and closely attached with the cultural and survival space of upland ethnic groups, we call it indigenous knowledge. Indigenous knowledge are understandings of living environment of a residential community in a given place of residence, indigenous knowledge is one of the factors that help the community survive and develop, indigenous knowledge is summarized into experience and passed by tradition and popularized in the community, indigenous knowledge shows a high adaptability, harmony between human and nature. Although indigenous knowledge has not been officially studied , not yet through a complete testing process, but from real life, indigenous knowledge has been experienced and summarized, taught in a close, understandable, easy-to-implement way and is promoting the use value in labor and production, in the daily life of ethnic minority community of Dong Van geological park. Throughout the history, the ethnic minority community living on Dong Van Geopark has created an extremely rich and diverse treasure of indigenous knowledge. Through initial research, we synthesized some indigenous knowledge on Dong Van Karst Plateau related to the daily life of the people such as:

  • Way to recognize weather through the characteristics of nature.
  • Experience in doing traditional crafts.
  • Experience in building trinh tuong house, making stone fences.
  • Knowledge of folklore, festivals…
  • Identify the cultivable species of plants and time that under different weather and terrain conditions.
  • Experience in farming and animal husbandry.
  • Experience in curing diseases for cattle and poultry…

In the framework of this article, we introduce an overview of some typical cultural and life features of residents in Dong Van Geopark.

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A view of Dong Van Geopark

  1. Costume culture:

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       Costumes of ethnic groups in the Dong Van Karst Plateau are a signal to identify the ethinic groups, through their costumes, the cultural traditions, history, beliefs and affluence of each ethnic group are clearly reflected. Besides, patterns and motifs are the most important factors that make up the beauty of the outfits. The patterns on the fabric are very rustic and are derived from natural landscapes, pets, crops such as: horizontal boxes, borders, squares, rhombi, triangles, rounds, single helices, double helices, sawteeth… These patterns all have a common characteristic that is the bright color to create a sense of splendor for the outfits, making ethnic groups often stand out in every space whether on the upland fields or at fairs…

  1. Festival Culture:

Festival on Dong Van Karst Plateau has become an indispensable activity in the lives of ethnic groups. Each ethnic group has its own festival practice, typically Gau Tao Festival of Mong ethnic group; ancestor worshiping ceremony of Lo Lo people; “God of Forest” worshipping ceremony of Pu Peo ethnic group; Festival of “celebrating New Year” of Giay ethnic group, the Festivals are held every year with the purpose of praying for timely rains and favourable weathe, good crops, praying for mountainous village to have a year with adequate food and clothing and for residents to have good health, happiness… This is also an opportunity for people to meet, play and compete with talents such as love expressing folk songs or dances with pan-pipe… so that the ethnic groups prepare to enter a new year with the expectation of having a lot of good lucks.

  1. Folklore:

The ethnic groups in the Dong Van Karst Plateau have an extremely rich, diverse and fascinating folklore treasure that reflects the concepts of life, business experience, family sentiment, male and female love, labor love… including proverbs, idioms, poetries, fairy tales… with knowledge, psychology, affection of the whole community and each nation has its own literature treasure such as: Folk tales implicates elements of intertwined myth and reality to explain the formation of the earth, human and animals and plants, while reflecting the harshness of nature, human must fight with nature to survive, reflecting the hard working life and the affection and expressing great aspirations on a free and fair life. Folk tunes are the source of deep, condensed and very rich confession of content and form. Proverbs and riddles are an intellectual and unique treasure of ethnic groups in terms of production experience, seasonality, weather, cultivation, relations of human and human, through rustic comparisons, they brought their own characteristics; in addition, there is oral literature as forms of singing, dancing, musical instruments of ethnic groups…

  1. Market culture:

     Market culture is one of the unique features in the Dong Van Karst Plateau. Each ethnic group has a unique feature and brings that beauty to the fair. The market on Dong Van Karst Plateau is both a rendezvous and a place for cultural exchange of ethnic groups. The market is not only a place for exchanging and trading but also a place to show off the costumes of indigenous people; a place where intimate gestures are expressed in daily life; a place where many exciting games full of folklore are organized and also a place to share the humane love of boys and girls…

  1. Traditional handicraft:

       Traditional handicraft in Dong Van Geopark has been passed by tradition to various generations such as forging, weaving, knitting, embroidery… From the characteristics of the living environment, residents in the Geopark area have constantly created and improved to create products that directly serve the needs of daily life and to exchange and trade. The craft villages and products created by creative labor hands have made the Dong Van Geopark picture become more and more abundant and featured.

   6. Knowledge and technique of rock shelter farming land of residents in Dong Van Karst Plateau.

         For the past time, the technique of rock shelter farming land has been not only expanded in width but also increasingly gone into depth. In addition to laying out rocks to form upland fields, carrying soil in the baskets to pour onto farming site for planting corn and expanding cultivated land, the residents gradually gained unique catch-crop experiences. In addition to corn, at present, they grow vegetables, squash, bean and some other crops to increase the productivity and efficiency of the cultivated land, contributing to making the lives of the residents here become more and more stable and comfortable. The famine in the between-crop period used to be the most common thing but at the moment it could be said that it has almost no longer happened.

        Knowledge and technique of rock shelter farming land are folk knowledges, experiences and methods of faming learned from practice, through many generations and become the cultural heritage of Mong ethnic community in the Dong Van Karst Plateau area. Thanks to this knowledge, Hmong community together with other ethnic minorities overcame the shortage of arable land to grow corn and

        For the knowledge and technique of rock shelter farming land in Dong Van Karst Plateau, there are some ethnic minorities cultivating on rocky fields such as Dao, Lo Lo, Co Lao and Pu Peo… However, because the residence area of these ethnic groups is often concentrated in the valleys, their upland fields have a slope that is not steep with more fertile soil and few rock shelters. Therefore, the knowledge and technique of rock shelter farming land is mainly applied by Mong ethnic group.

           From the concept of farming upland field land, it can be understood that the knowledge and technique of rock shelter farming land are the experiences in farming on upland field at stone-mixed lands (actually in four districts of Dong Van Karst Plateau, rock shelter farming land is the type of upland field that is lined with rocks to prevent from erosion, washout and also rock shelters were formed by local residents from carrying soil on basket to pour). These are folk knowledges, used by Mong ethnic group in the process of cultivation on karst slopes to form rock upland fields and pass by tradition to various generations. In order to have production land and limit the soil from being washed away, they prize up erratic rocks on the fields to form rocky edges for block the soil; For rock shelters without soil, they carry soil in baskets to pour into. Thereby after a few years, a rocky upland field is formed. Thanks to the creation of the type of upland field for farming and the technique of growing maize on rocky upland fields, they began to live with settled agriculture and build up more and more settled villages. Every year, in order to ensure daily life, when it is about to start a new crop, in addition to remodeling the fields of the old season, the residents also enlarge new fields and carry soil in basket to pour into rock shelters, a few corn varieties are planted every year. Therefore, in the farming season, keen rugger rocky mountains are covered with a green color of corn upland fields. That is the effort of many generations of Mong people living on the karst plateau.

          For the past time, the technique of rock shelter farming land has been not only expanded in width but also increasingly gone into depth. In addition to laying out rocks to form upland fields, carrying soil in the baskets to pour onto farming site for planting corn and expanding cultivated land, the residents gradually gained unique catch-crop experiences. In addition to corn, at present, they grow vegetables, squash, bean and some other crops to increase the productivity and efficiency of the cultivated land, contributing to making the lives of the residents here become more and more stable and comfortable. The famine in the between-crop period used to be the most common thing but at the moment it could be said that it has almost no longer happened.

Knowledge and technique of rock shelter farming land are folk knowledges, experiences and methods of faming learned from practice, through many generations and become the cultural heritage of Mong ethnic community in the Dong Van Karst Plateau area. Thanks to this knowledge, Hmong community together with other ethnic minorities overcame the shortage of arable land to grow corn and subsidiary crops to ensure food for each family and provide to the market, contributing to ensuring food security in Dong Van Karst Plateau area, at the same time, contributing to limiting free migration, giving the community peace of mind to live on, living from generation to generation, preserving the frontier border land of the country.

Tren cao nguyen da Dong Van_Photo Hung Cuong (FILEminimizer)

Photo of rock shelter farming land of residents in Dong Van Karst Plateau

        Indigenous knowledge is a valuable heritage source that needs to be studied, evaluaed and testing in a complete way, indigenous knowledge is used to propagate, use, protect and manage natural resources, and heritage values towards sustainable development goal are implemented more effectively. On the other hand, the study to find out indigenous knowledge will help scientists carry out research and affirm the scientific value of existing indigenous knowledge in the community. To successfully build the Dong Van Karst Plateau Global Unesco Geopark, we already have and will need both types of “knowledge”: Use “scientific knowledge” to decode “indigenous knowledge” and vice versa, use “indigenous knowledge” to convey “scientific knowledge” to the community and to each tourist, thereby preserving and promoting the overall value of heritage types in the Dong Van Karst Plateau Global Unesco Geopark for development.

Nguyen Thanh Giang

Vice-Chairman of Management Board of

Dong Van Karst Plateau Globbal Unesco Geopark


Costume of Lo Lo women

  1. Festival Culture:

“God of Forest” worshipping ceremony

of Pu Peo ethnic group

Festival of “Celebrating New year” of Giay ethnic group

Festival on Dong Van Karst Plateau has become an indispensable activity in the lives of ethnic groups. Each ethnic group has its own festival practice, typically Gau Tao Festival of Mong ethnic group; ancestor worshiping ceremony of Lo Lo people; “God of Forest” worshipping ceremony of Pu Peo ethnic group; Festival of “celebrating New Year” of Giay ethnic group, the Festivals are held every year with the purpose of praying for timely rains and favourable weathe, good crops, praying for mountainous village to have a year with adequate food and clothing and for residents to have good health, happiness… This is also an opportunity for people to meet, play and compete with talents such as love expressing folk songs or dances with pan-pipe… so that the ethnic groups prepare to enter a new year with the expectation of having a lot of good lucks.

Market culture is one of the unique features in the Dong Van Karst Plateau. Each ethnic group has a unique feature and brings that beauty to the fair. The market on Dong Van Karst Plateau is both a rendezvous and a place for cultural exchange of ethnic groups. The market is not only a place for exchanging and trading but also a place to show off the costumes of indigenous people; a place where intimate gestures are expressed in daily life; a place where many exciting games full of folklore are organized and also a place to share the humane love of boys and girls…

Costume of Lo Lo women

  1. Festival Culture:

“God of Forest” worshipping ceremony

of Pu Peo ethnic group

Festival of “Celebrating New year” of Giay ethnic group

Festival on Dong Van Karst Plateau has become an indispensable activity in the lives of ethnic groups. Each ethnic group has its own festival practice, typically Gau Tao Festival of Mong ethnic group; ancestor worshiping ceremony of Lo Lo people; “God of Forest” worshipping ceremony of Pu Peo ethnic group; Festival of “celebrating New Year” of Giay ethnic group, the Festivals are held every year with the purpose of praying for timely rains and favourable weathe, good crops, praying for mountainous village to have a year with adequate food and clothing and for residents to have good health, happiness… This is also an opportunity for people to meet, play and compete with talents such as love expressing folk songs or dances with pan-pipe… so that the ethnic groups prepare to enter a new year with the expectation of having a lot of good lucks.

Market culture is one of the unique features in the Dong Van Karst Plateau. Each ethnic group has a unique feature and brings that beauty to the fair. The market on Dong Van Karst Plateau is both a rendezvous and a place for cultural exchange of ethnic groups. The market is not only a place for exchanging and trading but also a place to show off the costumes of indigenous people; a place where intimate gestures are expressed in daily life; a place where many exciting games full of folklore are organized and also a place to share the humane love of boys and girls…

Fair at Dong Van Karst Plateau


Some rites in Gau Tao Festival                           Ancestor worshipping ceremony of Lo Lo ethnic group