Lables: Cong ethnic group, Ethnic Groups, Tibeto-Burman Group
Proper names: Xam Khoong, Phuy A.
Population: 1,261 people (1999 census).
Language: Cong language, as well as languages spoken by the Lahu, Phula and Sila, belong to the Tibeto-Burmese group (of the Sino-Tibetan language family), and is close to Burmese language. Thai language is also used in daily conversation.
History: The Cong traveled directly to Vietnam from Laos.
Production activities: The Cong mainly cultivate widen fields by hand, preparing their fields using slash-and- burn method. Recently, however, they have started to use oxen or a buffalo to draw ploughs, though in the past hand-held hoes were used to work the land. Gathering still plays a major role in Cong life. The Cong do not weave cloth, but they do grow cotton which they trade for textiles made by other groups. They are skilled in making rattan mats, ornamented with red dyes, and bamboo-woven containers such as gui (back carriers), baskets, cases, etc. Because the Cong settled down along the Da River, they have grown accustomed to using boats to travel along the river.
Diet: The Cong eat sticky and ordinary rice.
Clothing: Cong attire is similar to that of the Thai people. Some Cong families still keep their traditional costumes made with fabrics imported from Laos.
Housing: The Cong live in houses built on stilts. Each house comprises three or four bays with only one entrance and one window in the central bay. A defining characteristic of the Cong house is a kind of “flap seat” that no longer serves a particular function by is located along the interior wall on the facade side of the house.
Transportation: The Cong use boats to travel along the Da river. They use back baskets supported by a head strap to transport goods and produce and when they go to work in the fields.
Social organization: The Cong tend to live in medium- and large-sized villages. A high sense of communality exists among them. Women hold a prominent position in the family. There have not been signs of the gap between the rich and the poor among the Cong. In former times, the Cong were governed by Thai village officials. Although the Cong have a small population, they have 13 different family lineages. The majority of these bear Thai names such as Lo, Quang and Kha, etc. Traces of totemism are obvious in Cong taboos and rituals that worship animals and birds. Each Cong lineage has a leader, who is in charge of hosting spiritual activities.
Marriage: Monogamy is strictly observed. Polygamy and divorce are not allowed in a traditional family, a practice observed since ancient times.
Matrilocal residence is very strictly observed, lasting in the past from 8 to 12 years. In Cong tradition, the marriage offerings are made when the ceremony is held-often in the evening-for the installation of the groom into the family of his wife include a pack of salt, a box of tea, flax rope for weaving casting-nets or a bamboo container of can (pipe) wine, etc. These are offered when the bride’s family asks permission for the groom to stay with her family. The morning following this ceremony, the boy brings a blanket, pillows and a knife with him to the girl’s house and stays there. It is at this time that the girl starts wearing her hair knotted in a chignon on the top of her head, which shows that she is a married woman. The groom’s stay with his wife’s family ends once the couple already has some children. Then the wife brings her dowry to her husband’s family. If the husband stays in the same village, he has to carry his wife on his back until he reaches his home. On wedding day, the couple will not wear new clothes because, according to traditions, water mixed with ashes Will be sprinkled on them.
Birth: Cong women deliver in the seated position. They have to follow many taboos before and after delivery. The Cong are well-known for their knowledge of herbal medicines that care for pregnant women.
Funerals: When a family member passes away, a ritual specialist is called to conduct services designed to take the deceased’s soul to the ancestors. The date of the burial is carefully observed. Before the burial, an offering of rice is made in ritual ceremonies and traditional dances are performed in the evening, A simple grave house is built. Twelve days after the burial, an altar is set up in the family home. The deceased’s sons indicate mourning for their parent with clean-shaven heads, while the daughters have their sideburns cut. They wear white headbands until the next festival of new rice.
Beliefs: Cong ancestors belonging to the second or third generation are worshiped on the occasion of Tet, the lunar New Year. The father hosts the worshiping services of his wife’s parents. If the father dies, his wife will take his place. When the sons move away to live independently, each will set up his own altar at his new home. Ancestral offerings are often a bowl of uncooked rice, water in a bamboo container, and chicken. In the ceremony before the ancestral altar, the man- with the chicken in his hands-prays in front of the altar, kills the chicken on the spot, applies the blood on the perineum leaves, folds them, and attaches them on the wall together with some chicken feathers.
In the third month of the lunar year, ceremonies are organized just before the sowing of rice seedlings. Gates are set up on all paths leading to the village, with notices of taboos and no-entry for strangers.
Each family of the village also organizes their own worshiping services after they finish sowing the seeds. The ceremony takes place at night in the hut constructed in the family’s fields. Fish and crabs are offered. The head of the family implores the animals not to destroy the crops. He then plants several Chinese shallots and prays that the rice will grow as well as the shallots.
Education: Cong customs and traditions are passed from generation to generation.
Artistic activities: The Cong often sing and dance on ceremonial occasions, especially weddings. Songs that are especially enjoyed are those that alternate between the families of the bride and the groom who gather at the foot of the staircase to welcome the couple. In addition, there is a marvelous dance performance by the bridegroom’s sisters at the beginning of the wedding ceremony. They dance and hold aloft traditional gifts, including imitations of chickens and squirrels, which are presented to them by their brother.
Games: Children like to play games such as run and chase, khang, etc., and to play with bamboo toys.