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You are here:      Home News Lady in red
Lady in red

Pa Then ethnic1The Pa Then, an ethnic minority people concentrated in northern Vietnam’s Ha Giang and Tuyen Quang provinces, are known for their skill at producing cloth an clothing, there are about 5 ,000 Pa Then people in Vietnam today, all of whom live in mountainous areas. Like many minority groups in Vietnam, the Pa Then is traditionally nomadic. Their lives revolve around nature and the seasons, as they survive by farming, Cotton is their crop.


Known for their skillful hand-weaving, sewing and embroidery, the Pa Then place a great deal of importance on their clothes, as revealed by a Pa Then legend. According to this tale, a Pa Then woman once married a dog and bore his child. Sadly, the baby died, and the woman was so bereft that she took to carrying a puppy wherever she went. When the puppy grew larger it tore the woman’s skirt, leaving a paw-shaped tear. Upon mending this rip, the woman realized that the mended area looked pretty and would serve as a reminder of her lost baby. From then on she began to sew motifs resembling dogs’ paws onto her clothes. Known as ta-leo, this pattern is typically embroidered onto the skirt hems of Pa Then women.

The Pa Thens’ traditional clothing is bright red. To make the red dye they chop the trunks of pa-xi-mung trees into pieces and boil them until the water turns red. Raw cloth is soaked into this water, and then dried in the sun. This process is repeated until the desired shade of red is achieved. Today, chemicals are sometimes added to the solutions to makes the red darker and colorfast.

Unlike many other ethnic groups, the Pa Then wears their everyday clothing at festivals. For this reason, rich and poor are indistinguishable. Even on her wedding day, a Pa Then girl will wear the clothes that she stitched for daily wear. The top is called the Ke-o-po and the skirt the Ket-tanh. Wedding guest might it hard to identify the bride and bridesmaids.

Pa Then women wear a distinctive turban, which contains two parts: an inner, indigo-dyed towel cloth, known as the Ke-so, measures about 0.3 meters by 5 meters and is folded widthwise five or six times and wound around the head. The outer scarf, known as su-chi, is about 1.5 meters long.

Pa Then girls are taught to weave and embroider from an early age. A little girl’s outfit resembles that of an adult but with simpler embroidery patterns. As a girl grows she is encouraged to express her creativity by embroidering new designs on her skirt, as well as learning traditional patterns. For this reason, the clothing of Pa Then women follows similar designs bit with individual flourishes.

The ket-tanh skirt is fashioned from pleated red cotton and features sophisticated embroidery patterns. Motifs include squares, lozenges, triangles, stars, combs, bridges, rooster legs, crabs, silkworms, calves, and dog’s paws.

The belt or to-he-to measures 1.5 to 2 meters in length and is black or white. Black ones are used every day and white ones during the lunar New Year or at festivals. Jewelry completes a Pa Then woman’s outfit and reveals her wealth. Woman’s from wealthy families may pile on a half dozen silver bracelets and necklaces, and sport some eye-catching gold teeth.

The Pa Thens’ clothes are very different from those worn by other Mong – Dao people. The Pa Then cut their clothing from large pieces of cloth and embroiders it with motifs set in horizontal rows. White, blue, yellow and black designs stand out against a bright red background, making these clothes instantly recognizable as belong to the Pa Then. Among the many a making outfits created by Vietnam’s 54 minority groups, those of the Pa Then are among the most striking.


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