Dao Khau – a typical Dao group


Old Dao Khau women sew clothes (Photo: Bao Lai Chau)

The Dao Khau immigrated to the northern mountain province of Lai Chau. They settled mainly in Sìn Hồ, Tả Phìn, Phăng Sô Lin, Tả Ngáo, Làng Mô, and Huổi Luông communes. Tẩn Mí Vản of Tả Phìn commune explained to us the name Dao Khau."Our ancestors did not weave cloth. We bought cloth from the Làn Tẻn, Thai, and Lự people to sew clothes and embroider. We can only sew clothes so we are called the Sewing Dao."

Doctor Vi Văn An, Head of the Southeast Asian Study and Collection Office of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, says Dao Khau was the name the Thai people of Sìn Hồ gave the immigrants. Dao Khau was a branch of the Dao Đỏ (Red Dao). Mr. An said: "Local people explain the name by pointing out that Dao people sew all day. Ethnologists categorize them in the Red Dao group because the women’s clothes have a red seam around the neck. The Dao Khau don’t accept that they belong to the Red Dao group. They call themselves the Kiềm Miền or early immigrants."


Dao Khau is also called Long Shirt Dao

Sìn Hồ means having many springs. Living in the high mountains and having abundant water sources, the Dao Khau’s lifestyle and production differ from other Dao branches. The area has hoarfrost and mist in the dry season and flash floods in the rainy season. The Dao Khau houses are designed to accommodate the weather."Their houses are made of wood and bamboo with a grass roof. The house is low and has few windows. Now, many families build their houses of bricks with fiber cement roofing panels or tiles. There is another altar to worship the career progenitor in the houses of sorcerers or physicians."

The natural conditions of the Sin Ho Plateau directly impact production. Other Dao branches grow maize as the main food crop, but the Dao Khau grow wet rice. They also raise cows, buffalos, and goats. Some families raise hundreds of goats. 


The house has few windows to keep warm in the winter

Although the Dao Khau don’t weave, they grow cotton to make thread for sewing and embroidering. Their costumes are simply made and dyed mainly indigo blue. Dao Khau women wear a long dress with a belt and a triangle shaped turban.

The Dao people are becoming more integrated with other groups and adopting advanced techniques for farming and raising animals. But the Dao Khau women have maintained their tradition of sewing and embroidery.